For Mother’s Day I had visions of sharing some sweet parenting stories with you. You know, things that would put me on a nice motherly pedestal with the likes of June Cleaver and the Brady Bunch mom. Alas, when it comes to day-to-day mothering, my life is more reality TV than sitcom.

 

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Let me use this year’s Spring Break to illustrate my point. The vacation lasted not just one week, but a week and a day. Yes, I was counting; even June Cleaver probably counted. On this extra day off, a feud that had been building all week between Daughter Hatfield and Son McCoy came to a head.

 

I had spent the bulk of the day in my attic office on the phone with Comcast, trying to figure out why all my business email was being bounced and declared as SPAM. If you’ve ever dealt with anything similarly frustrating, you can guess I was not in the greatest frame of mind.

As I hung up the phone, the issue still unresolved, the house started to vibrate as two sets of pounding teenage feet ran up the basement steps from the computer room, sounding like stampeding elephants as they pounded down the hallway. This was followed by the slamming of a bedroom door and undecipherable shouting.
The last time my kids were fighting this intently (over something as earth-shattering as who would get to eat the last of the Extra Cheddar Pepperidge Farm Goldfish), I was on my way out of town to visit my brother in the U.K. I picked up my luggage, smiled at them, and said, “I’m going to London. When Dad gets home he’ll deal with you.” I remember how triumphant I felt as I walked out of the house. Not quite material for Mother of the Year, however.
This time, my son dashed up the steps to my office, complaining that my daughter had unplugged the den’s TV, cable, and DVD player while he had been watching a movie. We discussed his ideas for settling the feud. I was just about to agree with one of his suggestions (all the others involved compromise on behalf of his sister and no sacrifice whatsoever from him), when the mouse from the family computer slipped out of his pocket. As he proudly put it, he was ‘holding it hostage’ to guarantee my daughter couldn’t finish her school paper unless she reconnected the TV, cable, and DVD for him.  
Without a trip to London, or even a trek to the grocery store as an escape hatch, I was stuck in the sticky land of motherhood, remembering how cute they had been as babies and wondering what I had done wrong. I wish I could tell you that I had a Carol Brady moment where I settled the feud in record time and that both kids walked away smiling and singing while they plugged back every appliance in the house. Rather, my son and daughter pseudo-listened to me as I came up with a compromise that neither of them liked and then they both begrudgingly hooked up the electronics.  
Unlike children, who expect to win everything, businesspeople who are involved in negotiations expect to lose a bit and win a bit. Give-and-take is an implied part of the process and is what makes negotiating and the subsequent compromises so gratifying. That said, my children have taught me well. By entering into every negotiation with the optimism of a child/teen, assuming I am going to win it all, I often come out ahead.
Until I wrote this, I didn’t realize that good mothering means teaching your children, as well as being willing and able to learn from them, too. I plan to keep this in the forefront of my mind on Mother’s Day as well as every other day of the year – and especially on that extra Spring Break vacation day when all hell seems to be breaking loose!
 Ellen Fisher, Unplugged Publisher