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.
A couple of weeks ago, my children began a new school year. The first day of school is uneventful for us now, but when they first started school, we had some JACK’d Up experiences. I remember the first day my oldest child started kindergarten. I made sure to get my daughter to bed early, prepared her work bag, and carefully selected a dress for her to wear. I remember going through her closet and selecting the perfect dress from her new back-to-school wardrobe. It had frogs wearing little pink bows, a perfect blend of my daughter’s personality.
The next day, I anxiously waited to hear about how her day went. When she climbed in the car, I asked how it was. She said, “It was great!”
“Did anyone like your dress?” I asked.
“Yeah! Elloree said she had the same dress at home, but hers is a nightgown,” my daughter said matter-of-factly.
My eyes widened. I casually looked at the back panel of her dress. Printed inside the dress were the words, “Flame resistant SLEEPWEAR.”
Yes, my daughter wore a nightgown on her very first day of school. In my defense, nightgowns should not be sold on hangers.
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.