My father wrote this essay for Mother's Day 1983.
Mothers are indeed something special, and every Mother’s Day I try to make a trip back home to spend that special day with my mother.
This year, the plans were all set but a myriad of things cropped up at the last minute that prevented me from being in Baltimore.
It seemed awkward not being with my mom on her day, but I used the occasion to reflect on events that happened in my life that made my mother seem extra special.
Growing up in Baltimore was nothing special, yet in a sense it was - because mom always made it seem that way. She constantly impressed up the Pittman kids that they were different - not better, but different.
While we did the normal things that kids do, like play all sports, skate in the street, play cards, stick ball and step ball (Baltimore was noted for its marble steps - you’d get a rubber ball and while one player bounced it off the steps, another would hit it back toward the house).
We had our rules for when we could play and how long. We could never play cards or any type of ball on Sundays, and during the long summer vacations, it was a must that our day include reading a few pages from any book.
It was also a must that we take a nap or just come into the house to spend some time with mom. The other kids in the neighborhood never understood why the Pittmans had to take naps or read books, or why we couldn’t just run aimlessly up and down the alleys. I might add that the Pittman children didn’t understand either.
It was just that mom wanted it that way, and we seldom questioned her reasons. Her favorite line whenever we had the nerve to question was, “You just can’t do what the other kids do because I know what’s best for you.”
I don’t mean to imply that was a tough disciplinarian. In fact, she was just the opposite. She was a caring and loving mom who just knew what she wanted for her children.
Learning By Example
She often talked about her younger days when she grew up in Lumberton, NC and how she graduated as valedictorian from high school. But she never put any pressure on us to perform in school. However, she did manage to raise all honor students, a National Merit Scholarship finalist and a valedictorian.
Mom was always a very pretty lady with long hair, and when we were younger we’d take turns combing and styling it. This was her way of letting us stay close to her, hoping that we’d continue to grow up to emulate her. I think that all the kids would agree that mom knew her role and played it very well.
The family consisted of three boys and a girl, and all the boys had athletic inclinations. My two brothers played baseball and I played football. My father, who was a real sportsman, took credit for this.
While he actively pursued and encouraged our athletic careers, mom never watched any of us play because she feared we’d get hurt or take losing too seriously. I still remember the first time she came to watch me play in college. It was actually the first time she’d come to see any game I played in. I didn’t get into the game until the second half and when I did, I never touched the ball.
I was so disappointed because I never had a chance to show her what her son could do. As a result, I was the last one out of the locker room after the game. But when we got together afterwards, she consoled me only the way a mother can do. She said, “Well, at least you didn’t get hurt. Just think, you still have three more years to show me you can play. Just be patient. You’ll get your turn.”
She was right again. Patience paid off and she watched me perform on many occasions at Penn State. Whenever she was in the stands, it gave me a little more incentive to play well.
Mom never saw me play professionally because she could sense, as only a mother could, the disappointment I was experiencing as a pro player. When I finally decided my playing days were over, she probably experienced a relief that I was never seriously injured during my years of playing.
I’m sure that during the many times you see an athlete say, “Hi Mom” after making a great play on national TV, you wonder why they salute their moms instead of their dads.
Well, I can answer it the only way I know. While all moms are special, moms with children who are athletes are even more special. Mothers keep meals warm because of a late game or practice. They organize car pools and wash and clean uniform after uniform. You can’t even count the physical aches and pains they nurse.
And if, by chance, the team loses because of your error or fumble, mothers just don’t seem to let it bother them. They manage to keep it all in perspective. And I guess for no other reason, my mother has always managed to help me through the years to keep everything in perspective.
Even now, when times get sort of tough, she still manages to find the right solution to make life better.
And even though I didn’t get to see my mother this Mother’s Day, it was quite nice just to take time to reminisce about the things we often take for granted. Somehow, no matter how old children get, mothers never stop being mothers. And for this I am thankful. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
My father wrote this essay for Father's Day in 1984. It ran in our local newspaper in honor of his late father, Charley J. Pittman (1922-1975).
For Mother's Day, I wrote about my mom. For Father's Day, I guess it’s only fair that I write about my dad. Besides, that’s the way Dad would have liked it.
He advocated for equal rights, especially when there was a Pittman involved. Charlie James Pittman was the backbone in the Pittman family and no one ever questioned his role as leader. Dad was tough because he had to be. But he was far from being perfect - because I believe that’s the way he wanted to be.
Laying Down the Law
He set tough standards for his children and expected us to live up to them. He desperately wanted our lives to be better than the one he had to endure. Born and raised in Red Springs, NC as one of six children, he was forced to drop out of school in eighth grade to help support his family.
After becoming a Master Sergeant in the Army during World War II, he married my mom and went to work as a steelworker in Baltimore. There, he worked for 29 years before dying of cancer at the age of 53 in 1975. You see, my father was no one special. He had no degrees or titles. All he knew was what he wanted for his family -- and what he didn’t want them to be.
He knew the environment that we grew up in didn’t lend itself to producing successful people. He showed us first hand what life in the streets was all about and what heavy drinking could do to your family life.
His philosophy definitely was “Do as I say, not as I do.” He expected excellence from his children and got it. If we didn’t achieve what we were supposed to, the worst words in the world coming from Mom were, “Wait until your father comes home."
Dad was not the type who accepted excuses. I remember once how, while playing first base in a critical baseball game, I missed a low throw on the back end of a double-play that almost cost us the game. After making an excuse about missing the throw, my dad said, “Charles, the ball never gets too low to catch -- now go to bat and do something about that error.”
Wouldn’t you know it, I hit the game-winning homerun in my next at bat.
Dad supported all of our sports activities and came to almost every game. He offered encouragement when times were tough. When I was a freshman at Penn State, I called home one night complaining about how tough things were at school and how the coaches were not treating me fairly. I told my mom I was coming home from school and like a caring mom, she said, “Okay.”
But Dad got on the phone and said, “NO!” - emphatically. “Do you want to work in a steel mill all your life?” he asked. “You stay there.” He went on, “If the other players can stay there, so can you.”
Thanks to Dad, I stuck it out.
A Tough Leader
His methods were different. I believe to this day that he convinced us of all the wrongs of the streets. He decided one day never to drink, smoke or gamble again. He settled down to push us all through college and encouraged us all to pursue athletics to its fullest.
Because fathers, then, were different from what they are now, we never really got a chance to tell Dad thanks.
It seemed, then, not to be permissible for fathers to show affection or emotion. They knew their roles as head of the household, and most of them played it well.
I’m so very thankful my dad did.
And to Tony, Kira and Mauresa - Thanks for the breakfast on Father’s Day. Don’t worry about how it looked, because it really tasted good. And Kira, thanks for your missing tooth. It was awfully big of you to give it to me for Father’s Day rather than save it for the Tooth Fairy.
Carowinds is a local theme park that straddles North and South Carolina. My family has been season pass holders for many summers. My husband joined us on occasion, but usually I took all 4 kids on this adventure alone. I’ve done Carowinds with babies, small children, and now with teens. Here are my Top 10 Tips for Taking Tots to Carowinds:
5. Get a good parking space. When you arrive at the park, scan the parking area as soon as it’s in view. There’s a divider that prevents you from turning into the first several aisles of the parking lot. Be patient. As soon as there’s an opening, turn your steering wheel all the way to right and whip your minivan around the corner. Drive all the way down to that first aisle and look for an empty spot. That’s if you’re going to ride some of the attractions before hitting the water park. If it’s blazing hot and you want to go straight to the water park drive straight through the parking lot to the back entrance. Park as close to the water park area as possible.
6. The best times to go to Carowinds is during off-peak hours. I try to avoid evenings, weekends and holidays.
7. I don’t recommend taking valuables to Carowinds, but if you must, you can hide them inside a disposable diaper and stash it in your stroller. Otherwise, you could spend the extra cash and get a locker.
8. After entering the gates, go straight to guest services and ask for a Kid ID bracelet. The Kid ID bracelet contains your child’s name and your cell phone number. If your child is lost in the park and found by a security guard, the guard will take that bracelet off of your child and call you.
9. Use a waterproof pouch for your cell phone. That way you can keep it safely in your possession without having to worry about it getting damaged or stolen.
10. There are plenty of benches throughout the park, but if you're bashful about nursing in public or just want to kick your feet up in air conditioning, head to Planet Snoopy. There's a blue house across from the carousel that has a breastfeeding nook and diaper changing facilities. The people who staff that little house are always friendly too!
There it is! Those are my tried and true tips for enjoying a summer at Carowinds. I’d love to hear how these tips work for you and if you can add to the list.
I have to give a shout out to the woman a few stalls down from me at the Harris Teeter. Every mother knows the difficulty of trying to use a public bathroom with a toddler in tow. You'd almost rather bust a gut than have to face the peril of being immobile in a public bathroom with your toddler on the loose!
Your toddler will either open the door and expose you to the masses or crawl onto the nasty floor and escape. The latter happened to me.
Not only did he escape, but he climbed into a neighboring stall with a complete stranger! I heard a friendly voice say, "Why, hello there!"
Mortified, I said, "Please tell me my son isn't in there with you."
She laughed and said, "Yes, but don't worry about it. I have 3 boys of my own."
This is the time of year when the wheels begin falling off of the mom train. It's harder and harder to get the kids dressed for school, pack lunches and arrive at school on time. I think parents look forward to the end of the school year more than the kids!
My kids try to help me out when they see me struggling. My kindergartener, for example, packed the "hand sanitizer" in her lunchbox and threw in a napkin before we all raced out the door to school. The next morning I went to pack lunches again, and this is what I found. I mean, anyone could have made that mistake, right? The bottles are similar. But why did it have to be MY kid? Mercy! Let this school year end already!
Returning to work after having a baby was probably the single most difficult time in my life. I was starting my days at 4:30AM so that I could be home with my daughter in the afternoons. My husband watched the baby during the day and worked at night. Neither of us was getting more than 4 hours of sleep a night, and some nights, those 4 hours were not even consecutive. I reflect back on those days and don't know how we did it. It certainly wasn't graceful! Here are some tips for sleep-deprived parents trying to do the best they can.
Keep a complete change of clothes (including shoes) in your vehicle at all times. One day I was so tired I didn't realize that I had left the house still wearing my fuzzy animal slippers. Fortunately, I had an extra pair of shoes in my car and was able to change my shoes before anyone noticed.
Keep a complete change of clothes (including underclothes) in your vehicle at all times. I can't describe the level of exhaustion a new parent feels when the baby wakes up at 4AM to nurse and you have to leave for work by 5:30. Yes, I was so tired, I forgot to put my bra back on after breastfeeding my infant. That may not be a big deal to some people, but I wear a 38K while breastfeeding. Going without a bra is not an option. Fortunately, I had a sports bra in my gym bag that was in the trunk of my car.
Have a good friend at work that will look out for you, someone that will tell you the truth. I am so thankful for Marsha who was the only person in my office who told me that I was walking around with spit-up in my hair and running the full length of my back and left leg.
Have another good friend that will bring you coffee or encourage you to take a brisk walk outside to get coffee. Vanessa on the second floor saved me when I had gotten very little sleep after a night soothing my child through teething. TWO YEAR MOLARS ARE NO JOKE!
Pump before the meeting begins. My poor co-worker sprung a leak during a meeting that was supposed to be less than an hour but lasted much longer. Fortunately, she was armed with a legal pad and was able to clutch it to her chest to cover the wet spots developing on her blouse!
Being a working parent is hard. It's so important to find the humor in challenging moments because if you don't laugh, you'll cry.
Recently, I paid a visit to a client who was about two weeks postpartum. Her baby boy (pictured here) was a little fussy. I demonstrated how shifting the baby's position, as pictured here, could help with gas pains. The baby stopped crying almost immediately. Having a doula around during those early weeks is a great way to learn tips like this and help build your confidence as a new parent.
Getting the kids off to school in the morning used to be the most stressful task of my day. There was always one child missing a shoe, one that overslept, or a fight among siblings over clothes. Getting to school on time was a monumental effort. Today I was reminded of a particularly stressful morning when my very active toddler got his hands into the tray where we keep car and house keys. As we were running out the door I reached for the car keys and discovered that my toddler had emptied the entire tray! Not a single key in sight! I started frantically searching the house. Like many schools, my kids' school had a policy that required parents to exit their vehicles in the morning and sign their children in if they were tardy. I was desperately trying to avoid the walk of shame.
I searched the toy area, the couch cushions, inside shoes. Nothing! I looked in the laundry baskets, trash cans, and even the closets. By now, I was sweating and my heart was racing. Finally, as I was beginning to panic, I saw the spare key on the floor under the dining room table. I screamed the for the children to pile into the van and we took off. Somehow we managed to get to school on time. When I returned home, I continued looking for the missing keys. It took over an hour, but I finally found my set of keys hidden inside the fireplace. Well played, Toddler.
There is no right time to have a second baby. Some experts recommend a 2-4 year age gap between siblings. Sometimes life catches you by surprise and the gap is smaller than you had planned! I have a set of daughters who are less than 2 years apart. Having two babies at once presented many challenges. I remember trying to take two babies to use porta-potties. It’s too traumatizing to remember the details but I do know that most of the urine landed on my shoes, and one child got scared and ran out without pulling her pants up. While two babies presented many challenges, there were many positive experiences. Watching the bond between the two sisters while they tandem nursed was special. They often held hands while nursing and were extremely close. Each of my children have their own bed, but the two closest siblings preferred to share a bed and snuggle with each other every night. They enjoyed dressing alike and got a kick out of strangers asking if they were twins. Yes, having two babies is challenging, but the tender moments make it worth it. It is my hope that my girls remain close and grow up to be best friends.
I'm starting to hear the first complaints of sore throats this season. I thought I would share some tips for getting through cold/flu season with kids.
For infants with stuffy noses, I find sitting in the bathroom with the doors closed and a hot, steamy shower running works wonders. You can nurse your baby, read a story, offer a bottle, or sit quietly and listen to the water run.
For kids over 1, I use Aviva Romm's recipe for garlic lemonade. It's is an effective tool for sore throats, ear issues, and general cold/flu symptoms. You pour one quart of boiling water over 2 cloves of minced garlic and let steep for 30 minutes. Then strain out the garlic and add the juice of 1 lemon. Serve warm with local honey for sweetness. For kids between 6-12 months, maple syrup can be substituted for honey.
Speaking of garlic, I love to use a blend of garlic, labelia and mullein oils. A few drops in each ear usually keeps ear infections at bay.
For adults, my go-to treatment when I feel like I may be coming down with something is a recipe from one of my favorite books, Herbal Antibiotics. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2tsp of sage or oregano. Steep for 10 minutes. Strain out herbs and the add the juice of 1 lemon, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and 1T honey. Sage and oregano may reduce your milk supply if you're lactating. This tea is not recommended if you're breastfeeding. Instead you can add lemon, cayenne, and honey to your favorite tea and enjoy!
Finally, I love to give my my family 1/2 tsp of elderberry syrup each morning during cold/flu season to help strengthen our immune systems during the fall/winter months.
As always... practice good hand washing!
*This is shared for informational purposes. It is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider.
Living the JACK'd Life
I am a certified birth doula (BAI) in Charlotte, NC . I provide information and support to pregnant individuals and couples so they can have satisfying and empowering births. I am a married mother of 4 trying to navigate life, unafraid of sharing my truly JACK'd up missteps.