We have some pretty spectacular moms out there.
Here they share stories of the proud moment when they realized they did something right. Some made big, tough choices; others made small, everyday ones. Either way, they were decisions they hoped would help their son or daughter grow into more capable and confident humans.
Some admitted they didn't know if it was the right thing at the time. But even wracked by self-doubt, they summoned the courage to act and to accept they might fail. More often than not, things turned out better than anticipated. For Mother's Day, we share readers' stories to celebrate these women's achievements, which stand as a tribute to the important job of parenting.
The power of admitting I'm wrong
It's hard to admit to your children that you made mistakes, especially when it comes to the "D" word.
Several years after divorcing, I brought up the subject with my youngest son. The divorce happened when the boys were 10 and 12 -- not the best time to hit the kids with life-altering changes. And, at times, my behavior was not stellar.
On this particular day, my now-high school-age son, Adam, was washing his clothes. I was cooking in the kitchen nearby, and the flow of conversation was the best it had been in awhile. I told Adam that I had not handled the divorce as well as I could have, knew I made mistakes, and knew I shouldn't have exposed him and his brother to my moments of weakness. He looked me right in the eye and said, "It's OK, Mom. Life is about going forward, not backward. I love you, and we're good."
Yes, we are, and yes, life goes on.
-- Anne Worley, San Jose
Letting daughter choose -- to not see Miley Cyrus on a school night
One Saturday about two months ago, my 17-year-old daughter, Sydney, needed a chair for her room and asked if I'd go with her to Ikea. We found some chairs in the maze of this store. When we sat down to try some out, Syd checked her text messages and saw this: "Hey, we've got tix for the Miley Cyrus concert in Oakland. Are you in?" She looked up at me and asked, "Should I go?" I said, "You should totally go. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!" She said, "But Mom, it's on a Monday school night, and I'd have to miss my SAT prep study." I asked, "Are you serious? You want to go to an SAT study class over a Miley concert?"
In a matter of seconds, she made her choice to not go -- which is the choice I hoped she would make. As a mom, you hope you raise your kids to make the right choice. Sometimes, handing them back the power, you get what you want!
-- Edie Sellman, El Sobrante
Don't worry what others think
After being my grandson's legal guardian for many years, I adopted him when he was 10. I was 62. From the day of the adoption, Matt referred to me as his mom, and I introduced him as my son. But when he was a high school freshman, he was injured doing sports. At the hospital, he went in to see the doctor, and I followed a few minutes behind. The nurse stopped me and asked who I was. I said, "I'm his mom." She replied, "Oh, you are too old to be his mom."
Of course, I was shocked and could hardly contain my tears. My son was angry and wanted to confront her, but I told him we just needed to let it go. I am ashamed to say this, but after that day and for too long after, I would introduce him as my grandson that I adopted. Years later, we talk about what happened, I have apologized many times, but I will always regret that I allowed a stranger's comment to take away just a bit of the happiness that being his mother brings.
-- Jacqueline Carabello, Discovery Bay
Sharing a moment before tragedy
Back in 1980, all my teenagers loved music but my oldest, Steven, 19, absolutely loved hard rock: Journey, Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix. Posters on the walls of his bedroom reflected his love for these musicians; his stereo boomed with rock day and night. We had many arguments about him playing his music so loud.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I went out to the old Gemco to pick up everything to prepare Thanksgiving dinner: a turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. At the last minute, I decided to go to the store's music section. I found a Boz Scaggs album and decided to buy it.
When I arrived home, Steven helped me bring in the groceries. One of the bags held the new album. He held it up and said, incredulously, "I can't believe this, Mom! You and I actually like the same singer!" I, too, couldn't believe it. My hard-rocker son liked mellow Boz Scaggs? We actually had something in common! I smiled as he helped me put away the rest of the groceries.
That night, Steven went to the Oakland Auditorium to attend a concert. Tragically, a riot broke out, overrun by gang members. Steven was robbed and killed. Years have gone by since his death, but every time I hear Boz Scaggs on the radio, I have this bittersweet memory of how my son and I finally agreed on some music.
-- Gloria Bucol Gates, Fremont
When the mommy track is a good thing
A few years ago, I was teaching first grade. I had three children, all younger than 5. One morning, as I was getting ready, I had an epiphany. I was doing my hair while mentally running through the list of things I had to do. I had parent emails to send, lessons to plan, and all the other little things you can think of that amounts to one big ball of stress. I remember looking straight into the mirror and thinking to myself, "I should be worrying about what my family is going to have for dinner tonight, not rehearsing what I will be writing in my next parent email."
Now, as a stay-at-home mom, I happily worry about what's for dinner while doing my hair in the morning! And when they leave the nest, I'll be doing my hair in the morning, looking at myself in the mirror with gratitude, love and fond memories.
-- Elena Harder, Castro Valley
When my daughter was in fifth grade, her friend "Emily" was being bullied. My daughter refused to abandon Emily, and this meant that my daughter was now being excluded, too. People told me that it "happens all the time" and to "let the kids work it out." So I waited and watched, only to witness the primal cruelty girls can inflict on one another.
My "aha moment" told me that sometimes parents must get involved. I was part of a group of concerned parents who attended seminars, read books, and learned how to teach our daughters kinder, more socially acceptable ways of dealing with the feelings that may inspire them to bully others. And the bullying stopped.
We should never accept bullying. It is not a rite of passage. I couldn't have tackled this issue alone. I'm so proud of all of us who made the choice to help our children become kinder, better human beings
-- K.M., Los Altos
Leaving my son's father
Before my only son was a toddler, I faced a very difficult and scary decision. His father physically abused me. I remember clearly the moment I decided to leave my son's father -- not only for my own safety and well-being, but to provide a better life for my son. Among many other issues, I learned that boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. I was fortunate to have family and friends who surrounded my son with love. Our life was not without challenges.
You could say we sort of grew up together, but I feel like I was able to provide my son with a really good life. I have struggled throughout the years with guilt and sadness that my son did not have a more present and loving father. Having said that, I've never once regretted my decision and feel that ultimately my son is a better man (and father) today because of it.
-- Name and city withheld by request
Ignoring others' ideas of success
When my daughter was graduating from eighth grade, the staff at her future high school wanted to advise us on how to prepare our children to gain admission to a top school. My goal as a parent had always been to raise a well-rounded, emotionally healthy child who was able to give back to the community. Education was just one part of the equation.
The counselors emphasized AP classes, high grades and SAT scores. When I shared my philosophy for my child, I was told to abandon it and push for good grades. My confidence was shaken, but I continued to push my approach.
Fast forward 20 years: My daughter has a master's degree and a teaching credential and is fluent in Spanish. She teaches low-income kindergarten and first-grade students who are English learners. She has successfully prepared virtually every student to move on to the next level. She is also married, has a toddler, and her parenting skills far exceed mine. She is all that I could hope for, and we are both grateful that she did not give up her love of music, nature or horses to spend more time "hitting the books."
-- Suzan Lawrence, Brentwood
Letting them struggle
For my son, homework that involves drawing has always been a nightmare.
He had a project that required illustrating with three pictures. He was stressed out about it, and I couldn't help him before leaving for a meeting. Cue maternal guilt. "Sorry to abandon you," I said, kissing him goodbye.
"That's OK," he replied, sullenly. Ugggh! Knife in the chest!
"Maybe Daddy can help you." Yeah, right. When playing Pictionary, even I don't want my husband on my team. "I can help you tomorrow morning before school, OK?"
"All right," he mumbled. Gah! I'm the worst mother in the world, leaving my boy alone in his time of need!
When I returned home, his homework was complete, and I congratulated him on his accomplishment.
"It took me forever, though!"
"That's OK," I reassured him. "It looks great! Are you proud of yourself?"
"Yeah, I guess," he sighed, but I could tell he was really pleased with himself.
-- Patty Reinhart, San Jose
Learning to trust my gut
Back when I was still barely pregnant, I received occasional, unsolicited advice. Naysaying stuff like, "You should stay home for the first year of your baby's life." I knew this wasn't a reasonable choice for our family, but it still pained me to hear these things.
Throughout my pregnancy, I did phone interviews with about 45 different infant care locations. I visited about nine in person. Being thorough helped alleviate my fears, and it boosted my faith that I would find an ideal match. I made sure to listen to my best interviewing skill: my gut.
As I walked through this process, I found that making my own thoughtful choices is a very empowering thing. You can listen to lots of external feedback, but ultimately you need to follow that small, inner voice. Eventually, I found a wonderful caregiver who was just right for me and my son. I felt good about returning to work. And since that first day of day care, when my son was still a wee bald little thing, I have never looked back with regret, only gratitude.
-- Janet M., Concord
We lived in New Orleans for many years and, like all families, we viewed numerous Mardi Gras parades. My two sons (then 10 and 8) and I were standing next to a woman with a young boy in a wheelchair. He was crying his heart out. The mom said he was upset because he didn't catch any beads thrown off the floats. I turned to my two boys, took their bags full of goodies and put them in the little boy's lap! His tears quickly turned into the biggest smile that I ever saw. When I asked my sons if they understood why I did that, they immediately said, "You taught us to share and be especially kind to people who are not as fortunate as we are." My sons are now in their 50s, but that was my best "Mom Moment" ever!
-- Helene T. Plotkin, Walnut Creek
Admitting I'm far from perfect
I love being a mother to my three kids and have looked back over the years and wished I had done some things differently, such as not yelling so much and having more patience. My oldest child, Joel, now 20, was always a challenge, and I know more times than not I lost my cool with him.
But he's matured so much over the past couple of years -- and so have I. We were recently enjoying one of our peaceful conversations, and I said to him, "I'm sorry it took me so long to learn how to interact with you. I never thought we would have a chance at an 'adult' relationship, and now I'm confident that we will." Of course, things between kids and their parents are never perfect, but I really like where we're headed -- and I wouldn't change a thing.
-- Sidney Weintraub, Fremont
Turning mistakes into an adventure
I try really hard to not make a big deal about making mistakes. As teens, the pressure for perfection mounts. A bad test or a tough time at bat, I say, "You're learning. You'll get it." Or I lead by example. If I take a wrong turn in the car, I'll say, "I guess we are on an adventure." We had a two-hour layover at Chicago's O'Hare Airport this past fall. The airport is so big, an indoor train shuttles people up and down the terminal. My 13-year-old and I hopped on a train in search of food. You couldn't tell which direction it traveled. He was sure it was going the right way. We took it to the end. Everyone got off but us. We needed to go the other direction. My younger son said, "Well. I guess we are going to have an adventure." I smiled inside.
-- Francie Low, Lafayette