Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Our Glass Houses

Emma Donoghue's Room examines just a few short weeks in a 5-year-old boy's life. On Jack's 5th birthday, he wakes up in the Room that is all that he is ever known. His mother was kidnapped 7 years earlier, and Jack has only known this Room since the day he was born.

There is a gripping escape, and the second half of the book follows Jack and his Ma's struggles to adapt to the Outside world. Ma loses it when her entire life is being questioned in a TV interview.

The Outside world is eager to judge, demonize, and idolize the heroes and villains that are mere human beings. As much as Jack's Ma is considering a heroine, she is still questioned and judged for every decision she has made from the discovery that she was pregnant with Jack through his five years of life.

What mother among us could survive that kind of scrutiny?

When my daughters were younger, just the stress of worrying how they might behave once Outside, in the grocery store, was exhausting. Would my toddler have a fit? When they were too big to sit in the cart, would they stay with me? Would I be judged harshly if one of them ended up in tears?

My girls are, for the most part, happy and well-behaved children. But they have their moments, and I absolutely hate it when these moments are in public. I am sure that everyone around is judging me as a bad mom.

When I see a mother struggling with a crying child in the grocery store, I want to give her a hug. I want her to know that it's okay, that I'm not judging her. That I'm willing to give this family the benefit of the doubt that they just might be having a bad day.

Having put my daughters in therapy at relatively young ages, I have had to answer some hard questions about their lives, about my X, about our routines and my discipline techniques. I remember once feeling so small because a therapist commented on us moving around so much. What I heard was, "you're not providing a stable home for your children." And that almost broke me. I cried in the car, I cried at work, I cried at night after my children were asleep. My brain kept repeating, "I'm failing them, I'm failing them, I'm failing them."

But there are also so many beautiful moments that no one else sees. All of us belting out a favorite song in the car, moments where we crack each other up, moments where we hold hands for no other reason than to feel connected to one another. And catching my daughters sharing beloved moments as sisters is one of my favorite things of all.

I felt incredibly ill-equipped to take on this task of motherhood. It got that much harder when I took on the role of single parenting.

But last night, as we were talking about why X didn't have shared custody, why I made the decisions I did, Sylvia told me, "I guess it ended up being a good thing, because my life is kind of awesome."

I can breathe now. I can feel that we're going to get through this. I wept; I couldn't help it. All those years of feeling inadequate, all those years of feeling stressed and completely overwhelmed, and not nearly qualified. All of the questions I've had to answer, and those answers that I gave and then questioned, and all of the time-outs and squeezing just another ounce of patience for these beings that I love so that one moment of hearing my daughter call her life awesome, it was all so worth it.

I may have been the only one to hear it, and she might say something with too much attitude to me tonight in public, and I will still wonder what other people think of our family. But deep down, I will know that we are going to be just fine.

Read more posts on Room at the book club site, From Left to Write.

While I was given the book to read for free, I have not been compensated for this post.The link to the book is connected to my Amazon Associates account, and any purchase made from it will generate a small referral fee for me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Preamble to Putting it Together

I'm still processing, still operating on a minute by hour basis. I start the day with plans of what I'll get accomplished, but get caught up in trying to respond to the most immediate needs and requests. I think, just deal with this now, and then I won't have to worry about it. The "do it now" policy. But sometimes, the requests come in faster than I can deal with them and I find myself at the end of the day realizing I never got to my to-do list.

But I'm not beating myself over it. Being in this processing frame of mind means I'm taking all these things in, and figuring out how to change my routines, my operating procedures for the long term to maximize results. I am hoping that by really thinking about these things, then when I do start making changes, they will be easier to implement and stick with them.

Along with this process, it seems every day that the world is getting smaller. On this last week of performances, a cast member remembered that we'd worked together back when I was in high school! And a friend saw that I was FB friends with one of her friends. More and more, these different worlds of mine are finding their cohesive balance. And that gives me hope that I really can balance all of this.

Instead of thinking of all these things as different, as things that need to be juggled, I'm finding the connections within them.

I know, this is all a bit vague, but I'm hoping that this post will soon be followed up with more concrete answers!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

More on education

Specifically, homework tips for teachers from this parent over at Parentella.

So much for blogging more - time is not on my side these days!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Education: We Are All part of the Problem

I've been thinking about Race to Nowhere for days now. I certainly picked up some useful tips on how to better parent my children throughout the remainder of their scholastic career, but now I'm ready to rant.

I'm surprised that before seeing this movie, I never thought about the fact that test-taking companies (those that administer the state standardized tests, the AP tests, the SATs, etc.) are making billions of dollars. In the last 20 years, the tutoring industry has also become a billion dollar business. There are business owners literally banking on the fact that our students will not be able to perform at what is considered an acceptable level without outside help.

Before getting any deeper into the weeds, I want to address the question of whether or not education should be considered a right or a privilege. If parents can be penalized criminally if our children miss more than 3 days in a school year, then that argument is moot. Our citizens are actually required to be educated.

Moving beyond that into the argument of whether or not such requirement is an unfunded mandate; well, as things are these days, it is mostly an unfunded mandate.

However, the more important argument should be, at what cost?

Having an educated citizenry can only benefit our country. When we look at what makes us proud to be an American, we look first at our people and what we've accomplished. We look at landing on the moon first as one of our greatest achievements. That simply could not have happened without well-educated, creative thinkers able to see what could be possible.

We start to go off the rails when we assume that everyone needs to be good at everything. We lose credibility when we state unequivocally that everyone should go to college. There will always be a need for a working class. We rely heavily on service industries. That's fine. I have no issue with that. I believe that some people work to live, and some live to work, and that in the end, we mostly balance it all out.

However, when we criminalize parents for taking their children on vacation, something is very, very wrong. Many districts are beginning to do just that. In our district (and in others that I know of), children that have missed more than 3 days of school in the entire year are reported to a truancy officer, where both the children and the parents are held liable. 3 days out of 180 is simply absurd! And let's not forget that we've already de-valued education by adding furlough days. So, the families are held to a higher standard than our government?

It's criminal not because the state is quick to punish parents, but because of the money that the school loses for each absent pupil per day.

Unfortunately, there are other special interests that capitalize upon the education machine. Yes, I'm talking about teacher's unions, and a few educational associations that do not always have our students' best interests at heart. And of course, there are some parents groups and administrators that seem more interested in exercising power than quality education. In many ways, public education has already been privatized.

No one is free from fault, and no one person, sector, organization, or business is entirely to blame, either.

I recognize that I'm part of the problem, too. Sometimes, I allow the grading game to get the best of me. Sometimes, I've been guilty of putting too much emphasis on Riley's abilities in Math and Science, rather than on her qualities as a kind, thoughtful person. I have allowed my displeasure to make Sylvia feel bad about herself instead of recognizing a bad test score as a challenge to be overcome. I have fought some battles for them that probably should have been fought by them.

And to be fair, everyone involved most likely has just as good intentions as I do. I'm sure the test taking companies feel they are providing a valuable service and contributing in a meaningful way to the educational process. Teachers want to make a difference. But we all get paralyzed by our fears.

I fear that I will be perceived as an apathetic, or worse, bad parent. Teachers fear for their jobs. Administrators fear that District mandates will impede their process. And so on and so forth. I don't think very many good decisions are made based in fear.

So we need to move past those fears, recognize our own faults, and go back to our idealism a little bit. We need to believe that we can make a difference. We need to maintain a healthy perspective on the ultimate goals, and the ultimate prizes at stake. We all need to do better, and we need to do it now.

Image: Race to Nowhere

Monday, September 20, 2010

Single, but not alone

This post is in celebration of National Unmarried and Singles Week.

After taking Bella DePaulo's Are You Single at Heart, I realized that I probably am.

Now let me just throw in the disclaimer: this isn't to disparage marriage or coupling, but to contribute to the voices that are saying, I'd rather end up single.

It was hard to admit this at first because it seemed to go so against the grain of what we're supposed to want. It has helped that I have found a community of others that feel the same way.

As I've mentioned, Bella DePaulo is not just "among" those, but my personal hero. Her articles both at Psychology Today and now on her personal blog are great resources, particularly when single parents are being demonized in the political arena! I am grateful for her ability to use her passions to create rational arguments. It's a gift I don't have, and knowing she has my back is of great comfort to me.

I can't remember how I first "met" Rachel Buddeberg, but I'm grateful that our paths continue to intertwine. As Bella has identified her, she is rising in the ranks in her role as a single-minded change agent, and I'm giddy to say I knew her when!

Alternatives to Marriage Project
is an amazing organization, doing great things for the unmarried and singles. It's a simple mission, really. Do not penalize those who have decided not to join the "institution" of marriage. They are working to create equal opportunities for those of us who might need a loved one that isn't a spouse to care for us in the hospital, to keep federal funds from being bribes for marriage, and like Bella, standing up when someone calls us a "national disaster."

Footloose Femails is an email group of happily unmarried women. We celebrate one another's accomplishments, support one another in times of need, share laughter, talk about home-buying, single women in the news, and vent off some steam in the face of singlism. Basically, an awesome group of amazing, accomplished women from all around the world of which I'm proud to be a part.

As you can see, I am far from alone. But I'm proud to be happily single!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up: Information Overload

There is so much I want to say, but I can't focus my thoughts just yet.

I saw Race to Nowhere, and I strongly recommend this movie for anyone who cares about education. There was a Q & A after the screening with filmmaker, Vicki Abeles, who is committed to engaging in an education revolution. I'll definitely be writing more about it, both here and at Parentella.

I had my first Leadership class, and it was quite the eye-opener for me. I said recently that I didn't feel right about talking about how much I've accomplished, and realized it's because I'm ready to do more. I don't mean this moment; I still have a lot of things going on, but this year will be about formulating a plan for myself.

Sylvia's show has been going great! This Friday night, her fellow dancers from the Club came and Sylvia was absolutely gleeful! They loved the show, and were so proud of her for being a part of it. Some friends from my work also came, and had a good time as well. It was an exciting night.

I'm still in the midst of processing most of what happened last week. I thought I would be bursting to write this weekend, but mainly, I've just been exhausted. I'm really hoping that this coming week is a tad quieter to allow for some time of reflection.

Oh, one more thing!! This week is National Unmarried and Singles Week! Single Women Rule is hosting a blog crawl. The first post comes from Nicky Grist, Executive Director of Alternatives to Marriage Project. Why is there a National Unmarried and Singles Week? Bella DePaulo and Rachel Buddenburg explain at The Huffington Post.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back to School thoughts; nearly 5 weeks in

I had Back to School Night at Sylvia's school last night, and woo hoo, it didn't suck!

It seems they put all the best teachers in 8th grade. And it's no wonder her Algebra teacher is so good; she was the Math Chair for 4 years and is now the Faculty Chair. She helped write a textbook, she helped write the CA State Standards, AND she's blond, pretty and looks about 19! If she wasn't such a great teacher, I might just have to hate her.

Sylvia's Science teacher used to work for NASA so yeah, she knows what she's talking about. The English teacher gives them time to journal every day, which I think is awesome, and her book report projects are open-ended; the kids have free reign to express it in any way they wish. Sylvia's already decided she's going to do a skit.

Riley had a crazy Math assignment last week: she had to figure out how to spend a million dollars. We could've spent it on real estate alone, but Riley was very practical about what she wanted.  A 3-bedroom was big enough, three flat screens were enough, an $85 bike was enough. We were stuck with over $300,000 left for far too long! I finally talked her into a more expensive house, and we "spent" the rest on furnishings, appliances, some clothes, an $18,000 timeshare, and we gave $40k to charity. It was pretty fun, actually! I wanted to factor in taxes, closing costs, and invest some, but the point of the assignment was to use the prices we found on the internet to do the math so Riley was decidedly literal.

What I love about Riley's 5th grade teacher is that homework is encouraged by peer pressure. As it is, they only have homework (besides reading) on Mondays and Wednesdays, and if everyone turns in their homework for both days, then the following week, they get to walk to the park across the street for lunch and play games. Riley was totally motivated to get that assignment done, even if it meant staying up late, because she didn't want to be the one keeping the class from this special privilege. It has cut down on my nagging dramatically!

While I don't want to get too ahead of myself, this school year may not produce as many ranting posts as the past couple of years!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I want to blog again

I've been perpetually tired, but having a hard time going to sleep. I've decided it's because I'm not writing enough. So I'm determined to get my blogging mojo back!!

Sylvia's opening weekend of her show went so great! We're all having tons of fun, even if it does mean we have way less "free" time.

Here she is (with her sis) in all her Oompa Loompa glory.

As my loyal readers know, I'm a huge fan of The West Wing. So you can imagine how excited I was to see Toby Ziegler (aka Richard Schiff) live and in person! He actually said hello to me! So I told him I watch West Wing every day of my life. And he suggested I get out more. We had a good laugh. And it makes me smile every time I think about it.

Thanks to everyone for the kuddos. I purposely did not get into how much I've grown and changed because, frankly, I get nauseated even trying to write that anymore. I mean, yes, I know, I've accomplished a lot, and I'm doing a good job, but I feel like I've written all of that before. But I felt warm all over, reading your comments! Thanks for that.

I was really hoping this week would be quieter, what with no rehearsals and all, but sure enough, I was supposed to go to Open House at the Club  (which I blew off), and I have Back to School Night at Sylvia's school this week. I'm beginning to realize that any efforts to slow down our schedule at this point are an exercise in futility. It is what it is.

I told Sylvia that I'm a little concerned about re-entry issues. I think, for people like us, it's easier for us to juggle a lot of things in the air, but the more free time we have, the more our productivity wanes. She did her homework without any fuss, so I hope that I was worrying about nothing.

Still, I will not add any more titles for the remainder of the school year. Between the PTA, the Booster Club, the Leadership class, the Club committee, as well as parenting, working, blogging here and at Parentella, I think I've reached my cap on commitments!

Granted, this is a pretty lame post, but hopefully, I'll have something of substance to say soon!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Yahoo! Mother Board: Balancing school lunches

The Yahoo! Mother Board has asked us to talk about how we get our kids to eat healthy school lunches. Once again, I say that it's all about balance. And once again, I also say that our family is a work in progress.

Because of time and financial constraints, I haven't been to Whole Foods in a while. I'm back to picking up regular peanut butter and enriched wheat bread at our local grocery store. We are far from perfect, and I'm okay with that.

I make the girls' lunches four times a week and they eat from the cafeteria once a week. That's as much for my convenience as anything, since I usually don't feel like making them lunches for the next day on the nights when I have a PTA meeting. I could (and should) investigate more what's happening in their school's cafeteria, but for now, I'll leave that to Jamie Oliver.

The girls' lunches generally consist of a sandwich, a piece of fruit or cereal fruit bar, carrots or veggie chips, and string cheese/trail mix/gingersnaps from the organic aisle. Not the best, not the worst. Again, I'm okay with that.

I'm raising girls, and while healthy eating is important, I also need to be aware of not focusing too much on weight issues. My girls are not in any danger of becoming obese; they dance regularly which is just as much exercise as a soccer game, they run around regularly (sometimes too much, if you ask me), they love to swim, jump and hike. Their physical fitness is not a concern.

Having said that, I want to be sure that they are happy with their bodies. I don't want to say no to ice cream because it's fattening, I say no because it's not healthy. And I don't always want to say no. We don't actually have any ice cream in the house right now, but I do sometimes throw in a piece of candy or goldfish crackers in their lunch. And I sometimes say yes to requests to buy Oreos or donuts. They know I'm not going to buy them every trip, they know I'm going to limit their intake, but I figure, I don't want them "dealing" sandwiches for cookies at lunchtime either, so I can't say no all the time.

I was horrified last year when Riley told me that one child has her mother bring her McDonald's at lunch about 3 times a week. That is excessive. That is not convenient to drive to a McDonald's and drop it off at lunch time, it's not wallet friendly, and it's certainly not teaching a child any sort of self-discipline. That's not balanced.

But I also don't think it's balanced to try and withhold everything processed from our children. The more control we parents try and hang onto, the more out of control our children will feel. To me, what's most important in parenting is remembering that the goal is to raise adults that love themselves enough to make the right decisions.

Sylvia suffered from picky eater syndrome for a long time, and I think it was a control issue more than anything else. She does not have free reign; she has to ask me for anything she wants for a snack when we're at home. I let her have what she wants sometimes, and sometimes I don't. And I hope that this is what she remembers when she's an adult and making these decisions for herself; making mistakes is a part of life, but recognizing them and correcting your own behavior is what really matters.

Read other posts on school lunches at the Yahoo! Mother Board

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My 3rd Blogiversary

3 years later...

Granted, lately, real life has rudely interfered with my blogging!

Sylvia opened in Willy Wonka last night. We really enjoyed the show, and she had a blast.

Getting there felt like it ate up the last week, but that's okay. In addition to hell week, I had a PTA meeting, the interviews for my Leadership program, and a packed schedule at work. This weekend, I'm just trying to find my strength again. And hopefully some blogging mojo.

So I've been blogging for three years now. Here are some of the things that have changed, and some that have remained the same.

When I first started blogging, I was living in my old LA childhood again. By incredible circumstances, when we were looking to move in that area for Sylvia to go to KIPP, the exact same condo that I'd grown up in was for rent. I loved the chance to go back home again. It gave me an opportunity to integrate who I'd been in high school to who I am now. While we may not live there anymore, those opportunities still present themselves, thanks to Facebook and all the reconnections I've made there.

Sylvia was going to KIPP and thriving academically. That was our dream educational year. I still miss it, I still miss what she gained from there, but now she has grown not just as a student, but as a person. Oh, we still have our battles, and I think we will for a long time, but I see so much in her that wasn't there 3 years ago. She is still sensitive, but strong enough to stand up for what she wants and needs, in all meanings of those words. Most importantly, she has grown to accept her father for who he is. She's not mad at him (or me), she loves him, but doesn't need him. I wanted to believe that she would get there, but I wasn't so sure for so long.

Last year, I didn't know if she'd ever be able to accept that some peers were just not going to be the friends she wanted them to be. She has learned that if she wants people to accept her for who she is, she has to accept them for who they are. While it's still early in the year and hasn't been completely drama-free, the tone has changed. She's getting through it a little bit easier.

She's also done an amazing job of staying on top of things at school while still rehearsing every night from 6-10 this week. She hasn't fought with me once about getting her homework done, nor does she really need my help. And even though she's going to bed later, she's getting up easier. She's changing so much, and all of them are signs of overall growth.

Riley called me her best friend 3 years ago, and still does. She was the new girl at school (again) three years ago, and this year, she'll be graduating with classmates she's had since third grade. She's still her own person, all while continuing to be there for others. She has found her strengths academically, and knows her weaknesses, too.

What I'm most relieved to see is she doesn't retreat into what I called her turtle shell as often as she used to. She used to suddenly get quiet and it would take forever to get her to open up about what was bothering her. Now, she openly reaches out and says how she feels. She loves to make people smile. Just this morning, we were snuggling, and she reached out to make sure Sylvia was included. She never wants anyone to feel left out. Because of her many experiences with being the new kid, she has been the first to welcome any new kid, or any kid that isn't part of the crowd now. Her friends are devoted to her because they know she is there for them. She learns from her mistakes, and if anything, I have to make sure she's not too hard on herself for making them in the first place. Of course, she's not perfect, but she remains a problem-solver and peace-maker; two qualities that are just part of who she is and always will be.

There have been times in the past three years where I wasn't sure we would make it through. I haven't felt that way in a really long time. I know that this blog and the community I've found here is a big part of the reason. Thank you for being here, supporting every step of the way so far. I hope to be here for a long time to come.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Two Cents on Mommy Blogging/Branding

*This post has been sitting in my Drafts folder since May about 3/4 finished. Now seems as good a time as any to finally finish it. 

I had the pleasure of having some one-on-one, face-to-face conversations about this subject, most recently with Jessica Gottlieb and YvonneinLA about the oh-so-controversial issue of whether or not Mommy and her blog are getting paid what they're worth.

This is an issue that has been lingering in my mind since I started contributing to LA Moms, and all of a sudden, offers for reviews, events and link swaps are commonplace subjects in my email.

Now, before I get too ahead of myself here, I don't want anyone thinking I actually believe that I'm a top blogger on anyone's list. That's not why I started it, that's not why I continue to do it.

It actually started because of a mom community site that I belonged to where I found that I wanted to write essay-long answers to questions. I wanted to express my experience.

For me, the experience has been far greater than I ever could have imagined, and I have this great community of friends across the blogosphere!

It never occurred to me that by doing so, I would become a marketer's ally. Yet I have taken advantage of those opportunities, too. I have gotten facials and seen ice shows and of course, the Yahoo! Mother Board summit.

The question I always ask myself is this: is it worthwhile for me and my family?

Worthwhile doesn't always have to mean money to me. Worthwhile can mean opportunities that we would not otherwise have; the chance to interview Tony and Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth, for example. Seeing Riley on Dinosaur Train. But I turn down a lot of requests because my girls have aged out of the products.

I turn down (or ignore) at least half of the requests I receive. I ignored the request for fabulous Father's Day gifts, since it was clear to me she had never read a post. I reply to some, stating that I disagree with a company's practices and therefore, will not participate. I reply to some, regrettably that I have to say no because I either perceive a conflict of interest, or a scheduling conflict. It's actually getting to the point where I almost dread opening them because chances are it will be something I have to turn down.

And I know for my part as a reader of blogs, I tend to ignore a lot of the reviews. Not because I don't value that person's opinion, but because the products being reviewed simply aren't of use to me or my family.

So when you see a review post for me, there's a reason that it was worth my time and/or effort for me and my family. I cannot guarantee that the product or service will be of use to you. I will absolutely come to the product/event with an optimistic view, but I won't be afraid to say what disappointed me about it. I will write with the readers in mind to a point, but I can only talk expertly about my family's experience.

As most of you know, I'm pretty busy these days so it will take something really intriguing to get me to say yes to even review something, let alone schedule in an event, but if I do, I am doing so because I believe the time and effort will be worth it.

That's about as close as I can get to a branding guideline.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

We're all growing

Riley broke up with her boyfriend earlier this week. He was a little sad, but she explained that she agreed with those who think that she's too young for a boyfriend just yet, and that it's nothing to do with him. (Cracks me up that she's already using "it's not you, it's me.")

And how friggin' cute is she in these outfits?!?

Grocery shopping with them this weekend, I realized just how much more expensive this is going to get, the older they get. On this trip alone, they wanted a new hairbrush, shaving products, hair gel, and other gender-specific items. OMG. This is really happening. Sylvia is almost my height now.

Sylvia passed the first round for the scholarship so we're crossing our fingers that she survives the 2nd round now. I checked her grades, and right now she has a B in Algebra (which is kind of phenomenal), and an A+ in Social Studies. She seems to be off to a really good start. She's loving doing the show and is counting the days until Opening Night. 

I haven't even had my first official Leadership class yet, and I'm already learning so much. I took a test where I found my strengths are in what they refer to as Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking, which was somewhat surprising because I thought my strengths would be in Execution. So far, though, what I've really taken to heart is that good leaders aren't great at everything. Knowing where my strengths are, and where they're not, is the first step. I'm really looking forward to reading more this weekend, and our first real class!

Last night we had Back to School Night at Riley's school. Well, first I had to drop off Sylvia at rehearsal, then I had to drop Riley off at my parents' house (since they would prefer kids not come to BTS), and then drive to Back to School Night, stop in at the Book Fair, then listen to the meeting, go back to pick up Riley, pick up Sylvia, and finally, we got to go home.

I like Riley's teacher, Mrs. A. The Curriculum Director told me that she has the highest test scores of anyone in the District! She doesn't believe in Spelling, which I totally get. She has the Gifted students in her class, too, and frequently gives the entire class Gifted homework, and seems to expect a lot from them, all the while making learning fun. They have a snake in the class, and she feeds him a "sleeping" rat with the class watching. The only thing I didn't like is she does those "project" book reports; the dioramas, cereal box, book-in-a-bag reports that I loathe. The Curriculum Director said she'd probably be open to having Riley write a real book report instead, but we'll see.

Work is still busy, but not as crazy busy as last week. I am, as always, trying to find that ever-elusive balance!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

From Left to Write Book Club Post: Cowboy & Wills

Holloway's portrayal of motherhood in Cowboy & Wills is both unique and universal. The story unfolds just after Holloway has received the diagnosis that her son Wills is on the autism spectrum, and follows their journey from that first guilty walk into a pet store to buy hermit crabs through their years with their beloved dog, Cowboy.

While I know I can't speak for all mothers, I can say that for me, I completely relate to that feeling of "how did we get here? And what am I going to do about it?" And without beating the martyr drum, we just get through it because there is no other choice. We will overcome whatever obstacle our child faces. And sometimes, we have to get out of the way and let them do it on their own.

Thankfully, Holloway had people in her life to remind her when to step back, and let Wills push through it. That's something I've really had to work on.

I don't consider myself a Helicopter Parent by any means, but I do wonder if sometimes, I don't give my girls the room they need to grow. Sometimes, I've been guilty of overindulging them to make up for the absence of a stable father in their lives. Sometimes, I've been guilty of putting myself deeper in credit card debt because I don't want them to go without, even though we're a single-income family. Most particularly, because of all the stigma associated with single moms raising "criminals," I've felt the pressure to ensure that my daughters are more than mere statistics. I want to prove that it's not about defying the odds, but that one involved, nurturing, and responsible parent can be enough. Especially when there's no other choice.

Holloway speaks openly about some reactions she receives when it comes to Wills' autism, and how it makes her feel: from guilty to angry to exhausted, the energy we waste worrying about how we're perceived would be funny if it weren't so tragic. Parents are told in a thousand different ways and everywhere we turn how we're doing it wrong.

We're either too involved, or not involved enough. We spoil them too much, or we don't give them enough. We're too strict or too free-range. The list goes on and on. And most of us are fighting for, yes, you guessed it, balance. Every day, we're faced with a million little decisions, and, just as Holloway struggles in nearly every page, we're constantly questioning what kind of impact each of those decisions will have on our children for the rest of their lives. If I say "yes," am I too soft? If I don't help with that school project, will she get a bad grade? If I tell her how to handle her friendship problem, will it work? Will she stop talking to me about it if it doesn't work? We treat every decision like it's life or death. And sometimes, it very nearly is.

I think all parents are just a little bit crazy. And the more obstacles in front of us, the crazier we get trying so desperately to be perfect; to get it right.

The beauty of Holloway's story is those moments of pleasant surprise. As much as we try to understand the impact of everything we say and do, I am just as taken aback as Holloway is when I have a moment with my children that says, they get it. They have been listening! They have been learning!

Every now and then, I'll overhear the girls in their room, and one of them is telling the other, "Mommy said!" They say "anyway" properly, instead of the popular but meaningless "anyways." My favorite text ever from Sylvia was the one that read, "Don't say I told u so, but u were right. As always."

I wouldn't go so far as to say we need to stop fretting. (And really, like that would stop us!) I think our fretting, even worrying what other people think keeps us honest. We are constantly having to re-examine how we're doing; if we've stepped too far in the direction of overbearing or if we really need to free our schedules and just snuggle with our child for a while. I've heard the saying that we shouldn't do anything we wouldn't want printed on the cover of the New York Times. (Especially us bloggers.) Still, I hope that through our journey, we can keep our sense of humor about ourselves, as Holloway so endearingly has. And while I still don't believe that love can conquer everything, a mother's love together with our village, can come closest of all.

Read more posts on Cowboy & Wills at the book club site, From Left to Write.  

While I was given the book to read for free, I have not been compensated for this post.The link to the book is connected to my Amazon Associates account, and any purchase made from it will generate a small referral fee for me.