Saying the Unsaid, Finally, To My Girl: Part 2

Dear Caroline,

To begin, you should try to appreciate nature. I know: you’re a city girl, and I’m a city guy, and the city is our preferred ecosystem. But you might take a moment, perhaps in a stroll through Central Park, to marvel at the most basic wonders around you – the sky, the light, the trees, even the squirrels. The planet, in its raw, unprocessed state, free of sidewalks and skyscrapers, is deeply beautiful. Admiring it all will bring you great rewards.

Here’s another piece of unsolicited and maybe unwelcome advice. Listen to all kinds of singers and all kinds of music, even those unrelated to opera. Listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney, to jazz and big bands and swing. Ultimately it’s all music and it’s all connected.

Knowing music history will be both instructive and influential. You never know which song from Barbra Streisand or Billy Holiday might teach you something valuable that you’ll later decide to apply.

Oh yeah, just in case you’re wondering, it’s okay with me for you to go out with boys. If I’ve never come out and said that before – and I doubt I have – I say it now. You should get all the benefits life has to offer.

You might also forgive me for anything I’ve ever done wrong. I wish we could have surrounded you and Michael with more family and friends – you deserve the love of others, too – and I’m sorry about that. We’ve closed ourselves off somewhat, for all kinds of reasons – Mom and I are largely solitary souls, happiest among ourselves, our standards high, and we’re also easily disappointed in others – and you tend toward the same attitude yourself. We are what we are, and even though we can change, we’ll probably never change all that much, just enough to get by, if that much.

Now let me share with you just one more urging. It’s important, and that’s why I’ve saved it for last. If it comes last, you might also remember it best. Here it comes, something I’ve long wanted to tell you but never dared.

You really should give yourself a break.

Savor your many considerable accomplishments. You’ve earned a degree of self-satisfaction.

You’ve worked long and hard and smart. You strive to excel. And it’s wonderful for you to be so ambitious, because we know you’re going to get where you want to go. But sometimes I worry you’re too hard on yourself, even unfair. Ambition is both tonic and toxin, and you have to learn to regulate the hydraulics involved enough to get just the right dose. Even those intent on success once in a while take a deep breath.

So please, I beg you, start now. Breathe. Breathe deeply. You can always get back to practicing your singing in a few minutes.

Saying the Unsaid, Finally, To My Girl

Dear Caroline,

Well, now it’s finally time for me to level with you. I’m going to tell you some stuff I’ve long wanted to share with you but never dared.

No, nothing to be alarmed about. Still, reveal I must.

For starters, you really should let me dance a little in public. It never lasts more than a few seconds anyway. Always I’ve picked up a beat and just need to give in to it. You could just walk over to the side and pretend you have nothing to do with me until I’m quite done. After all, I probably love to dance almost as much as you love to sing.

It’s true.

Next, let me once in a while have a conversation of sorts out in public with a complete stranger without getting all freaked out about it. Again, such an encounter will invariably be brief. Nobody really gets hurt here. Just take a deep breath and let it go.

And if you get an extra minute, clear off your sofa, too, so I can sit there for a spell on a cold winter morning.

Oh, yeah, cut all those tourists a little slack, too. They’re here to enjoy a few days in the great city you and I get to call home.

So that right there is definitely enough of a to-do list to get you going. But I’ve got more stuff I’ve never really dared to tell you. Will I ever get a better chance than this? So please bear with me for a bit here. I’m going to get a little more serious now, more serious than saying you should learn to drive because you never know when it might come in handy.

P.S. – Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

Saying the Unsaid, Finally, To My Son: Part 2

Dear Michael,

Expect more from yourself, too. That’s really important. You must if you are to accomplish anything much. Discover how to unleash the genius inside you. I know that sounds like self-help bullshit. But trust me. You should awaken your talent, let it loose.

While you’re at it, go for the funny. Humor is a special gift, and should be exploited.

I could go on here, about how you should learn to drive a car, and how you should make every moment count (remember, I say this knowing no one you know has wasted more time than I), but I should stop soon. In a sense, you already understand what you should be doing (though it never hurts any of us to be reminded now and then).

But as long as I’m telling you some stuff I would never dare tell you, let me say just a little more. You should forgive me for any wrongs I have committed, whether against you or your mother or anyone else. I intended no harm. I wish we had more of a family surrounding us, some uncles and cousins at least. I would have liked to keep more family in our lives, at least theoretically, so you could be even more loved, by more people.

By the same token, I wish we could bring more friends around, too, more guests in our home, to make us feel less insulated (even though a certain degree of insulation can be good for you).
We are who we are, of course, and as Dads go, I suppose I’ll do.

But back to you now. Love yourself. Let the small stuff slide. Take nothing for granted (except for me and Mom and Caroline).

And if you remember nothing else, please remember this: Grandma would be proud of you. So keep it up. Honor her memory.

Saying the Unsaid, Finally, To My Son

Dear Michael,

I’ve skipped so much here in these “letters,” even though I have more to tell you. I’ve left out everything I want to say but would never dare.

So let me make amends and give it a shot now.

For starters, I urge you to eat more vegetables. You’ll never regret it. What’s the big deal anyway? There. I said it.

You should also go easier on the cologne. You’ve heard that suggestion before, too. You’ll smell just as good with less.

You should vary your exercise routine – a little of this, a little of that. Take it beyond pushups and crunches. But you knew that.

The floor in your bathroom I’ll leave unmentioned. It speaks for itself.

Okay, so much for the lighter stuff. Now let me get a little serious.

You should get out more (I know, I should, too). I know the writing has to get done mostly at the computer. But still, getting out and about more will refresh you.

You should give nature a chance, too, while you’re at it — develop an appreciation of it. I know, I sound like an old hippie. Well, maybe I am. Still, admire the sky, the trees, the rivers, if for no reason than because it might bring you a moment of peace and wonder.

Read more widely – newspapers, magazines, books. Read, particularly the writers, including movie critics, you like best, writers you might want to follow. You’ll find heroes and inspiration.
Be more opportunistic. You’ve heard us say this, of course. Take advantage of certain situations that pop up – people you should know, stuff you should do – because it might be your only chance.

Be more curious, too. Maybe I’m being predictable and unimaginative here, but the whole world is a classroom. We can all learn so much more if we open our minds. Even a stranger on the street can be a teacher.

P.S. – Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

What I Love Most About My Girl: Part 2

Dear Caroline,

And I love how you always carry yourself like a lady, and how you climbed on that boulder in Martha’s Vineyard (we should put a plaque there with your name on it), and how you swam in the pool t the beach club like a water sprite, and how you showed me yoga and Pilates and gave me a facial.

And how you never complained about having the smallest bedroom (it’s always made me feel guilty), and how stubbornly you argue and defend your opinions and pursue your dreams.
I love how much you appreciate everything Mom and I have tried to give you, and how you say so, too. I love how much you love Grandma Nettie, and hold her dear in your heart and will always remember her all-powerful love for you.

Did I already mention how much I love how you so often say you love me (yes, but it’s worth repeating)?

I love how you love food (just enough) and how excited you get about dessert and how you love going to restaurants (I even love how you order your meals so charmingly).

I love how you look, too, your pretty face, and how strong you are, doing pushups.

I love how you looked paying the check as a tot at the Tower Diner, your head no higher than the counter for the cashier, and how you looked next to me on the “R” train as we rode to Times Square and Town Hall.

I love everything about you (well, almost – it’s hard to love your once telling me, “I hate you”), and I always will, truly and with all my heart, no matter what you say or do, no matter what happens.

But now let me tell you what I love most of all about you. I love how you sometimes smile in your sleep, and how you laugh, and you know why? Because more than anything, I love seeing you happy.

What I Love Most About My Girl

Dear Caroline,

Here’s some of what I love about you, the stuff you do and say that I love best, the qualities that make you so special, that make you Caroline.

I love how you looked as a baby, so adorable with those cherry-black eyes, as Grandma once said.

I love how you cried so much then, too, your cries telling us, “I’m here, I’m here!”

I love how hard you are on the outside, how you took issue with me once and jutted out your jaw and challenged me with the remark, “You think you’re tough?”

I also love how soft you are on the inside, how you used to talk to your dolls in your room (I heard you through the kitchen door), how you grew your hair long so you could cut it and give it away to kids going through chemo, how you cry at certain movies (such as all the Disney classics), and how just about every day you tell me you love me.

I love that sweetness about you, how you’re all heart.

I love how you look so at home on stage, so sure you belong there, and how you sing and dance with such skill and conviction, always going for the right note, the right step, usually hitting it, too, but if you miss it, always trying again until you get it right.

I love how very alive you are, how close you live to your skin, your nerves so exposed; and how intent you get before auditions and shows, how focused and zoned in.

I love how you talk, too – yes, it’s true – how you string together the words so well, the words coming in a burst, a waterfall breaking loose, because you have so much to say, pretty much 24 hours a day.

I love how you love Broadway and opera, the theater and Lincoln Center, music itself, the thrill of performance.

P.S. – Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

What I Love Most About My Boy: Part 3

Dear Michael,

And I love how you’ve kept your own counsel, nursed your secrets, savored your solitude, maintained your long silences, because you’re entitled to your privacy and your personal business is yours alone.

And how you’ve steered clear of weed and drink only a little even when everyone around you had to be doing otherwise.

And how you impersonate Christopher Walken and crack wise and mock and spoof, ever quick to play with an idea that dances into your head, to riff it into a routine right on the spot, taking over the party.

And how once, asked if you ever considered yourself short, you referred to yourself, instead, as “undertall.”

And how hard you make me laugh, how you’re the funniest person I know, the proof being the ribs I’ve almost cracked laughing at your lines.

And how smart you are, how fast you pick up on facts, how deftly you can assemble your knowledge into something new, a true sign of intelligence, I believe, because what’s really important is less what you know or how much you know than what you make of what you know.

I love so much about you, almost everything, how you smile and how you laugh. I love how much you have in front of you, because you’re so talented, so singular, such a complete package, how many great accomplishments lay ahead, and of course all the happiness in the world, too.

P.S. – Tomorrow will bring “What I Love Most About My Girl.”

What I Love Most About My Boy: Part 2

Dear Michael,

And I love how intent you are when you watch a movie, how very studious, because you, like me, believe with all your being in movies, in the stories being told, just as you do with wrestling.

And how you looked after we gave you the pink medicine for all your earaches, so relieved with the pain gone and no more need to cry.

And how well you deal with being just like me, or at least so much like me, bearing the blessing and the curse alike, because yes, I believe it’s a bit of both, but which more than the other might be hard to say, and believe me, I would know because I’ve lived as me longer than you have as you, more than twice as long.

And how you slept on the floor in our bedroom for so long, there on the carpet until maybe age three, close to Mom, and who could blame you.

And how you respect and trust your mother, how much you love her and recognize inescapably how much she means to you, and to us all.

And how you still believe in women, in romance, in love, in all the promise and possibility, as well you should.

And how you love your sister, how you admire her tenacity and ambition, and would do anything for her, how you would protect her against any threat no matter how small.

And how loyal you are to Mike, and how well that Newsday piece of yours turned out, and how taken you are with action heroes and superheroes, how these characters animate your imagination and excite your creativity and fuel your aspirations.

And how you you’ve turned out to be such a gentleman, always polite with the Vilettas and the Dreyfusses and acquaintances we might chance to encounter on Queens Boulevard, and how well you’ve treated your girlfriends, even those undeserving.

P.S. – Part 3 will appear tomorrow.

What I Love About My Boy

Dear Michael,

I wish I could say I love absolutely everything about you, but it’s almost everything, and that’s good enough.

I love how you made me a father for the first time, and how beautiful you looked as a baby, and then as a boy, and now as a man, all your features perfect.

I love how you played that scene in the play about Iraq where you’re angry at your father, how true it felt, maybe because little or no acting was involved after all.

I loved how you made your favorite move to the basket, dribbling straight at me, then going right and flinging up a shot.

I love how you never spoke ill of any of your friends, neither Gio nor John nor Lacey nor Roman nor Kevin nor Mike, even though you probably could have; and the same went for your girlfriends, too, even though you must certainly should have.

I love how much joy you gave Grandma Nettie (and she you), and how much you heard from her, how many words you must have picked up, because the woman never, ever, stopped talking.

I love how you looked in your bar mitzvah suit, almost like Tom Hanks at the end of “Big,” even though the suit fit you just fine.

And how you write, how well you shape your ideas in your movie reviews, your essays, your screenplay, your birthday poem for Mom.

And how strong you are, doing all those pushups – was your record an unbelievable 183? – and how fast, finally outsprinting me with those long, loping, slashing strides at age 17 or 18, leaving me in the dust.

P.S. – Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

Mother’s Day Dirty Little Secret: Estrangement

Here, in honor of Mother’s Day, is an essay about my mother that appears today (in slightly shorter form) in the New York Daily News:

Mother’s Day is engraved in our hearts with warm images of families coming together to celebrate motherhood. In the classic holiday scenario, we give Mom a card and a gift, take her out for dinner and snap a few photos. We honor her for doing a job – giving birth to us, caring for us, loving us – that no one else is nearly as fit to do.

But this American tradition, now 106 years old, has a flip side, seldom seen and little talked about and none too photogenic. For just as surely as some families today come together to pay tribute to this singular figure, others remain apart, fractured by the ugly conundrum we call estrangement.

Nobody has statistics on how many mothers and children are alienated from each other, nor whether such ruptures are on the increase – some psychologists, based on anecdotal evidence, suspect they are – much less exactly why these breakaways happen in the first place. Certainly websites, support groups and online chat rooms have cropped up expressly to address mother-child estrangement. Yet this phenomenon remains little-researched, little-discussed and much-misunderstood.

As it happens, I’m an expert in estrangement. In 1999 I cut myself off from my own mother. Why we fell out I will skip here. Enough was enough. But in a sense, why is almost beside the point. Why makes no real difference.

I lost track of my mother for the next 10 years – one-eighth of her life and almost one-sixth of mine. No visits, no phone calls, no letters. I had no idea even whether she was still alive. I had no wish to hurt her, only to spare myself, along with my wife and children, any further hurt. But all the while, I struggled with my decision. Was I doing right? Was this helping?

So it goes for so many others. The causes are many – abuse, alcoholism and conflicts over everything from money and career choices to divorce, remarriage and sexual orientation. Estrangement springs from a single incident or is cumulative. The family itself has changed sharply over the last 40 years, too. Relaxed divorce laws, ever-increasing geographic mobility and the never-ending American pursuit of happiness have granted us a new freedom of choice. If anything bothers us, we want out.

That’s why today someone somewhere has somehow gone missing, leaving a chair at the dinner table empty.

Suddenly, about two years ago, I stopped believing I could go the rest of my life without seeing my mother again – one of us could die, denying us the opportunity – and about two years ago I decided once again that enough was enough, only in reverse. Our rift no longer seemed to serve any purpose. I wanted to get together with her before it was too late. We could start fresh. I sent my mother an e-mail. I told her I missed her and suggested we get together.

So, on a Saturday afternoon in April, 2009, the sky blue, the sun bright, I drove to the northern New Jersey town where I grew up to reconnect with the person once the most important in my life.

We met at the front door. Now 80, she seemed a little shorter, her hair all white, but still beautiful. We hugged each other.

“You look good,” I said.

“You look good, too,” she said. “My handsome son.”

We walked to a nearby diner to have lunch. There, in a booth under a skylight, we filled each other in on our lives over the last 10 years. She had a boyfriend. I had a new job. My two kids, absent from her life for a decade, had grown into adults. I also explained my abrupt change of heart.

“Everything that happened before no longer matters,” I said. “Who did what to whom – it makes no difference. None of it means anything anymore.” My mother nodded her understanding.

”We’ve both made mistakes,” I said. “We’ve caused each other and ourselves enough pain. Nobody has to forget anything – or forgive anything, either. I’m here today so I can see you and you can see me. That’s it. Let’s leave it at that. At this moment that’s all I care about — that we’re together now.”

“Okay,” my mother said. She reached across the table to pat my hand. “Okay,” she repeated, louder, more emphatically.

Estrangement remains largely a taboo topic in American life, a stigma, a dirty little secret, a silent epidemic. It flies in the face of all those homespun homilies about families sticking together through thick and thin. But I’m here to tell you such splits are rarely the answer. More likely, they’re a stopgap, a solution that only creates new problems.

Some of us deserve a second chance to honor our family commitments. I believe that to be true for children and mothers alike. Enough is indeed enough. For most of us, it should never be too late for Mother’s Day to feel like Mother’s Day again.

P.S. — Here’s the piece that ran in The News:

P.S. — Have you gone through anything similar? Please let me know:

Guest Mom Laura Rossi: Twins Spell Wet Kisses and Magic

Laura Rossi, mother of two, is founder/owner of Laura Rossi Public Relations ( A book publishing and public relations professional, she has worked at many publishing houses, including Random House and W.W. Norton & Company with authors such as Terry McMillan and Elmore Leonard. In September, her contributution to the collection MAKE MINE A DOUBLE will appear. Laura’s blog, My So-Called Sensory Life: 365 Unexpected Gifts From Motherhood(, is a Top 25 Mom Blog

Dear J and M,

If I could, I’d thank you both 365 times on Mother’s Day!

Since I don’t want to spend the day repeating myself (I do that the other 364 days of the year!), this Sunday I will silently celebrate each of the 365 gifts you gave me since Mother’s Day 2010. My heart overflows with love when I think about all the things you two have given me this year.

As you both know, I began my blog one year ago, after Dad and I received some unexpected medical news about you, M (and your special needs). In that moment, I saw the world through your innocent, brave, hopeful and beautiful eyes, and with lots of confusing thoughts racing through my head I made the decision to commit to finding a daily gift — the virtual silver lining each day no matter what–from you and your twin sister, J.

And so, with you both at my side, I set out on my gift mission (silently chanting your gift-receiving mantra “You get what you get and you don’t get upset!”). The only way I can explain it is to tell you that I felt like you both do on Christmas morning–every single day! I couldn’t wait to tear off the wrapping paper, untangle the glittery ribbons and open your unexpected gifts. Of course, these gifts weren’t real gifts like perfume or jewelry and usually you didn’t know you were giving me a gift. I quickly learned that gifts you can’t hold in your hand but that you hold in your heart are small miracles.

The gifts have been unique, personal and intimate. When I think about the variety, I’m breathless. Of course, I expected surprises, but what I didn’t account for was that in the course of just one year — more than anything else on my motherhood journey — your daily gifts changed and redefined my life, shaping it to fit and embrace the unexpected, something I have never been able to do.

As twins, you are both connected in a special way. As individuals, I’m in awe of your uniqueness. And because we are a family with a special needs child, your daily gifts have taught me how to find gratitude even on the tough days. Your beautiful, simple gifts have transformed my appreciation of motherhood, my parenting and most of all my love for you. J and M you’ve made me a better Mom and a better person. Thank you 365 times!

You always ask to read my blog (and to help write it!) and you are tireless in your requests for a list of my favorites gifts. It’s so hard to pick (there are 365 after all!), but these I’ll always cherish:

Wet Kisses

Waking Up Before Dawn


Patience (more of it from me)

Finger crossing



On Mother’s Day 2011, I will thank you for your 365 gifts and for proving to me that even though we don’t always get what we want, we do get what we need.

I love you! You are and will always be my greatest gifts.

Love, xoxoxox, Mom

Guest Moms Kristen Henderson and Sarah Kate Ellis: How We Became Pregnant Partners on the Same Day

Kristen Henderson is a founding member, guitarist, and songwriter for the popular female rock band Antigone Rising (/
She divides her time between strumming guitar on tour with the band and toting two toddlers to Mommy and Me music classes. Sarah Kate Ellis is the vice president of marketing for Real Simple magazine and previously served as creative services director at Vogue. She divides her time between her job and marching around the house singing “We Are the Dinosaurs” with her kids. They are co-authors of TIMES TWO ( ), “about two women meeting, falling madly in love and realizing that they’re so crazy about each other that they want to have kids together.” Here is the book’s prologue, recast as a letter to their kids.

Dear Thomas and Kate,

From the beginning of our relationship, we knew we wanted children. Each of us had moved up the ladder with relative ease in our chosen career fields, so we naïvely thought the most difficult thing about getting pregnant would be making the decision to do it.

We were wrong.

First one of us tried, then the other, with no success. And then, all at once, we were both pregnant: on the same day, with the same donor, and with due dates that fell three days apart.
Immediately, every single person we knew had one question: “How are the two of you going to do this?”

Easy, we thought—there are two of us. One of us would run errands. The other would offer foot rubs. We’d rotate the late-night dog walks and order every meal in. Since we’d conquered the music business and the publishing industry, a little morning sickness would be a piece of cake, right? We pictured a sort of pregnancy fire brigade, each of us pitching in to help the other until we got too big, at which point we would . . . well, we hadn’t thought that far. “Let’s just celebrate!” we told our friends and family.

And thank God for our friends and family! It’s like they knew when asking us the fateful question of how we were going to do this, the real answer was “You’ll be helping us, sillies!” By the time we were in our ninth month, our home had a revolving door on it—with mothers delivering meals, siblings lugging baby shower loot, fathers assembling things they never knew existed, and friends dog-sitting and driving us to appointments.

Our grand delusions about the joys of pregnancy were squelched by the second trimester. Between the two of us, we experienced every pregnancy-related ailment from numb hands to swollen ankles to inappropriately timed laughter.

“I knew this was going to be fun,” one of us would mumble sarcastically in bed, and the other would mutter, “I just had no idea how much fun,” finishing the sentiment. Then we would roll over and snuggle with our individual body pillows.

But with our unlikely twins growing inside of us, every moment of those nine months taught us more about life—and our relationship—than any baby book, therapy session, or birth doula could.

We learned, for example, that our mothers are always right.

We learned that God has not come up with a better way to get a baby out than to have the body turn itself inside out like a tight-fitting pair of your favorite Jordache jeans from 1984.
And that homeopathic remedies like moxibustion and traditional therapies like Pitocin and epidurals all work—depending on your definition of the word “work.”

This is our family’s personal story. But in many ways, it’s a story for anyone who has ever taken a pregnancy test and felt the heart-wrenching disappointment of a negative result. It’s for families who would go to any lengths to conceive a child. It’s for anyone who has ever been told their way of life is not acceptable. But mostly, it’s for any woman who has fervently wished that her partner could just understand what it was like to be pregnant.

We love you with all our hearts,
Mommy Kristen
Mommy Sarah


Guest Mom Deborah Swan: Three Daughters, Each an Angel in Her Own Right

Deborah Swan, a mother of three daughters who lives in southern New Jersey, has been an elementary school teacher for 35 years. She loves her profession, but is looking forward to retiring to pursue some artistic cravings she put on hold. She enjoys cooking and sharing her culinary talents with family and friends. One of her goals is to live within walking distance of a beach so she can sit and listen to the waves.

Dear Colleen, Lindsay and Courtney,

“Poor Mrs. Stevenson has THREE GIRLS!”

I said it as though I was secretly sharing with my colleague that my student’s mother had a terminal illness.

What would you possibly do with three girls?

Well, life is filled with many ironies, and here I am ready to celebrate my 30th Mother’s Day, as the mother of you THREE GIRLS!

My tone is different when I speak of the three of you. There’s no terminal illness quality in how I say it. My pride flows so easily from my lips – no hesitation, no regrets, just thankfulness and joy. There’s such a profound gratefulness you are all here. Each of you has enhanced my life in too many ways to share, but I’d love readers to know just how proud I am of the women my daughters have become.You have all learned how giving to others will fill your soul with a joy that is ineffable.

Colleen, you work tirelessly to teach your high school students so much more than the academics. I see from their letters and Facebook messages how you have touched their lives and their futures forever. What a gift you have chosen to share!

Lindsay, being a palliative care nurse has to be so hard as you watch your patients prepare to pass on in a dignified manner. I’m sure seeing your smile and feeling your gentle touch brings them and their families comfort in those final days. What a special calling you have!

And Courtney, you too have chosen a field to help others. As a music therapist, your desire to work in the field of geriatrics is very impressive. Most twenty year olds don’t have the appreciation for senior citizens that you do. When you graduate in 2013, I have no doubt that you will bring such joy to all you share your music with!

I couldn’t be prouder that you have all chosen fields to help others. I believe that to be one of my greatest lessons to each of you. Well, having been a daughter myself, I know all too well that at some point, we fear we will be just like our mothers.

Secretly, or sometimes not so secretly, we have been known to say, “Shoot me if I turn into my mother!” News flash: each of you at some point has seen me in yourselves; whether it’s buying the same Christmas cards at different stores, saying the exact same thing at the same time, or making the same dinner without even talking to each other, I am forever a part of you, forever connected – the good and the not so good.

Scary isn’t it?

I hope that when the fear passes, you will embrace it as a teachable moment and recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. May those lessons enable you to go on to be better women and better mothers. I’m thankful each day how blessed my life is and how full my heart because of the three of you.

As I celebrate Mother’s Day, I secretly pray for a special gift for myself, the gift of time, so that I may spend many more Mother’s Days as your mother. of you three girls!

I love you all,


Guest Mom Leslie Long: Letter to My Unborn Son

Leslie Long, a friend of mine from high school, is an Associate Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi ( She is also a photographer and travel writer ( In 1988, while working at Young & Rubicam in New York City, Leslie wrote this letter to her then unborn son, Ian.

Dear Baby,

We’ve been together seven months now and I read in the books that if you were born today, you’d almost definitely be okay. I guess that makes you a real baby now instead of a developing one. So even though you won’t read this until much later on, your status as a total baby makes today the day I’m writing it to you.

How are things so far? You’ve been a model fetus, causing me little discomfort as pregnancies go. You’ve kept growing, started to move right on schedule and once you started, you just kept on moving. Every day I wonder what you’re doing in there — you seem like a very determined and active little thing.

At less than four months, we saw you trying to suck your thumb during a sonogram. You put your little hand up in an arc and aimed it right where it had to go. The doctors and technicians were cheering you on, saying “Do it for Mom and Dad!” Right when you hand was almost at your mouth, it slipped behind your head. You missed and it was really cute how hard you seemed to try. I’m sure by now you’re a pro at it.

For a long time, I’ve thought your name will be Ian or Dahlia. I keep looking for something I like better, but come back to those two names most times. Should Ian become your name, you may wonder what we liked about it. I’ll tell you.

Ian is Scottish and it’s also popular in England — the only country where Dad and I have common ancestry. I love England for its tradition, modernity, courteousness and resistance to yield to the modern world. Ian is a simple name, it’s one you don’t hear too often and I’ve always just liked it.

Your Dad and I looked at newborn babies in the hospital nursery. It was really touching to imagine you as one of those little things all wrapped up and on view for the public. Most of these babies had full heads of dark hair. You’ll probably be blond, but we’ll see!

I just hope and wish for everything good for you and that we have an interesting, special and fun relationship through life. You already mean a lot to us and even though we’ve never seen you, we love you very much. You are eagerly awaited. (And by the way, your first pet will be a soft, sweet, sometimes crabby cat named Weasel. She’s waiting, too.)

Bye for now,


Ian arrived two weeks early — with blue eyes and hair so blond, it was white. As a pre-schooler, he was always trying to figure out the workings of the world, which truly fascinated me. That propensity led me to write down many of his questions, thoughts and observations. Every time I come across that document, it charms and amazes me.

It would take another piece this long to describe all the reasons I love being Ian’s mother. (And yet another to describe the same sentiments for my younger son, Erik.) The 22-year-old Ian is athletic, wise, funny, determined, smart, responsible, successful. He graduated college in 2010 and is now living and working in Baltimore. Maybe it’s time to not only show him this letter (had it in a file somewhere and just never did), but to write him another one.

Guest Mom Sherrie Madia: The Secrets of Storytime

Sherrie A. Madia, Ph.D., is an educator, author and speaker. She is Director of Communications, External Affairs, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.Her latest children’s book, Bumblelina, (2010) earned a Parent Tested, Parent Approved award. She is the author of Alphabet Woof! (2009) a humorous, rollicking rhyme about a dog called Moxy who eats magic soup and learns to talk (English/Spanish). Her recent books on the business of communicating include The Social Media Survival Guide (English/Spanish), The Online Job Search Survival Guide, and The Social Media Survival Guide for Nonprofits and Charitable Organizations. Her most important job is being a mommy. Daughters Emma and Anna remind her every day of what’s really important.

Dear Emma and Anna,

When you were very young, I marveled at your ability to communicate without a filter. In fact, at times, I cringed at your adeptness at calling out the ready and loud-spoken observation, such as, “Mommy, why is that lady so fat/so tall/so fill-in-the-blank-with-unfortunate-public-remark?” Still, you shared yourselves with the world and with me at the deepest levels, and I relished every minute.

But as luck and development would have it, you, now 15 and 13, respectively, have since moved on to being self-aware, and other-aware, and concerned with things like pride and tact and being cool. And the filterless, never-ending chatter has ceased.

In fact, I’ve grown accustomed to offering creative questions pertaining to the quality of your days to ensure that our communication doesn’t screech to a terminal halt. The stories come in bits and spurts, but as long as we are sharing glimpses of our lives, I am not afraid of losing you to growing up. And what you don’t know that I do is that while you’ve now reserved your most important stories for the BFFs, I’ve already learned enough to know I know you at your core.

Anna, you began as the storyteller, spinning yarns of logical nonsense that evolved into richly detailed narrations, complete with puns and double entendre, making you either a wunderkind or just wildly fluid with words. As a toddler, I keenly recall, your protest of meat on the grounds of your love for pigs and your understanding of their intimate relation to pork. Extrapolating out, as I placed a juicy filet on your favorite Elmo plate, I heard your tiny voice cry out, “That’s not a steak – it’s a MIStake!”

I’ve thrived on your stories since I got my first taste. Your humor is infectious and has cost me my reputation as a serious adult on more than one occasion when the off-handed comment caused my unmistakable laugh to emerge in places such as church or an Important Meeting with your school. Of course, I would have paid double the price for those invaluable, unexpected commentaries.

Emma, in your earliest days you offered not only a window, but an open, drive-through warehouse to your soul. Your perspective on the world is wrapped in your capacity to give, to dream, to show kindness and empathy and love, and to believe. You have always held the roles of being sensitive and heartfelt in our house, and you have your priorities straight. Money and possessions and success are nice, but love comes first. Ingenious. You opened your soul to show me a treasure trove of who you are. It’s beautiful in there.

You’ve shown this through your earliest bursts of compassion and tenderness. Dismissing the fights over clothes and whose turn it is to walk the dog, when I first placed Anna in your arms on the day that she was born, you held her like the small miracle she was—ever-so-gently, and with the seriousness of purpose that only a big sister can bring.

Now you are both in the throes of Teendom, making you cautious, reclusive, and more willing to share with the shampoo girl at our local salon than with me (granted, she is a good listener). Still, I remain calm and optimistic, for it’s only a matter of time before the tides will shift again. As you enter young adulthood, you will rethink our relationship and seek advice and conversation on careers, motherhood, and growing up.

Lest you find me inauthentic, falling hopelessly over sugary words, indulge me now with offering some balance. As loving and as caring as you both can be, you are equally as demanding. You infuriate at times. You are unyielding and by far, the toughest bosses I will ever have.

And yet, this job is one that I refuse to quit. For in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, and off in the wings, I remember why this all makes perfect sense: When you laugh, I laugh. When you cry, I cry. The experience of watching you grow and growing with you is nothing short of raw joy.

No one has brought more of this than the two of you, in different ways, in equal measure.

It’s always a happy day to be your mother, and whether we speak more or speak less, the end game is the memories we create along the way and together.

P.S. — Bonus link to “Bumbelina” book trailer

Guest Mom: I’ll Be Here For You Always

Here, in honor of Mother’s Day, is a guest blog from a long-time friend of mine. The author — a mother of three, a wife of over 30 years and a busy executive in New York City — prefers, at least here, to remain anonymous.

My Dear, Dear Children,

When you were born, you were so helpless and I had to do everything for you. Mother Nature provides new mothers with hormones to insure that we fall head over heels in love with our children. This is the kind of love needed to cope with the all-consuming type of nurturing you needed back then when you couldn’t do anything for yourselves. Day or night, rain or shine, if you needed it – I made sure you had it. I was thrilled to do it all.

Fast forward to today when it’s not always so clear what kind of nurturing and mothering you need. Oh sure, there’s the kind of mothering that requires me to make sure the refrigerators and pantries are filled so you don’t starve – but I’m talking more about what you might actually need from me as a person.

I’ve tried to be the kind of mother you can come to when you have a problem, a concern or you’re upset. Sometimes you do – and I try my best to give you the guidance or advice you need or the loving support you want. When you don’t come to me and you’ve gone down the wrong path, I feel like I’ve failed you in some way. I hate to see any of you in pain.

I believe I’ve told you all many times, but it bears repeating, there’s nothing you can do in this life that would cause me to stop loving you. Nothing! Never! You can always tell me the truth about anything and I’ll try my best to help you as much as I can. The sad fact is, though, unlike your younger years, when your needs were so basic, your needs today aren’t always things a mother can fix.

I want to tell you that I can’t, no matter how badly I want to, do the following: make someone love you when you want them to (or soothe the broken heart which results); repair the economy of our country and our world so that the (fill in the blank) that you want so badly is available to you right now when you want it; make the teacher/professor think highly of your work and give you the “A” you so strongly believe that you deserve; and even more timely – I cannot control the weather when it snows on your plans! I know a child’s mother is supposed to be able to fix anything but your childhoods are now (or are soon to be) over, and being a parent to an adult child is a new experience for me.

So as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I ponder how my love for all of you has grown and evolved over the past twenty-plus years. I ponder what I can do for you all at this juncture in our relationships that will reinforce for you how very much I love you now and how I can give you what you want and need from a mother today.

With love from your friend,


Guest Mom Jill Smokler: To My Favorite Child

Here, in honor of Mother’s Day, is the first in a series of guest columns to appear this week. Jill Smokler, the mother of three children, is a domestic satirist about the underbelly of marriage and parenting. Her blog,, averages over 500,000 page views a month. Babble’s “Best Mom Blogger” list named her blog #13. She has more than 101,000 Twitter followers, earning her a number-five ranking on Babble’s list of “Top 50 Twitter Moms.” Her take on parenting has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, CNN, Redbook, and Ms. Magazine. Jill also counsels large companies and independent small business owners on social media strategy.

To my Lily: I love you the most. You introduced me to the world of motherhood and made us a family. I love how genuinely kind and sweet you are. I love how you consider any alone time with me now a special date, even if we just go to the market. I love how nurturing and compassionate you are to animals and people, alike. I love watching you draw and the pride you take in your art. I love how you hug like you’re never going to let go. I love how thoughtful you are, always. I love your tan lines and the tiny birthmark on your cheek. I love hearing from teachers and neighbors how wonderful you are, even though I already know. I love talking to you on the phone, on the rare occasion when I’m not at home. I love reading the little notes you leave around the house and hearing you read to your brothers. You are my absolute favorite.

To my Ben: I love you the most. You were the sweetest baby in the world and I literally didn’t put you down for over a year. I love your exuberance and enthusiasm. I love how you wake up every morning in a fantastic mood, no matter how you went to bed the night before. I love how easy to please you can be. I love the smell of your neck and the color of your magic eyes, whether they are green, gray or blue that day. I love holding your hand and the face you make when you spot me at school. I love the way your voice gets really high when you’re excited and that you actually squeal with delight. I love that you “remember being born.” I love how much you worship your sister and the way you watch her when she’s not looking. I love your favorite teddy bear and how cool you look in sunglasses. You are my absolute favorite.

To my Evan: I love you the most. You will always be my baby, even though you insist that you are a big boy. I love your husky voice and the way your repeat everything you hear even though half the time, you have no idea what you’re saying. I love watching you try to keep up with your siblings and their friends. I love the humming sound you make when you really like what you’re eating. I love watching you play and how you can make a game of pretty much anything. I love how much you love making people laugh. I love the way you say my name. I love your pudgy thighs and your knees and the way you look in your pajamas. I love the way you hold my face with two hands when you give me a kiss. I love hearing you thump down the stairs in the morning. You round out our family, completely. You are my absolute favorite.

(For the record, you each got the exact same number of words. It’s even.)

P.S. — Bonus link to Jill’s recent article at