Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Etched in Sand

Sometimes we find the best parenting advice in the most unusual of places.  Recently a friend recommended I read Regina Calcaterra's, Etched in Sand which debuted on the New York Times best sellers list at number 25.  I downloaded it to my on my Kindle and could not put it down.  In her 300 pages Regina changed my heart as a mother and for that, I am forever grateful for her honesty.

Regina grew up on Long Island with a bipolar mother who self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. Disappearing for up to months at a time, Regina and her four siblings (each of whom had a different father) were left to fend for themselves. They dumpster dove, had elaborate shoplifting schemes, lived in lice invested apartments and worked their way through a very broken foster care system.

So how is reading Regina's story of  abuse and working through the foster care system going to make you a better parent?  Because through her stories  as a child growing up on the fringe, she actually figured out, all on her own, what is really important and what children really need to be given and taught.  It isn't about ipods, designer clothing, or fancy vacations.  It is about helping our children develop a strong center core of values and strength to face obstacles and then to be able to build an amazing life for themselves.

Like all children, Regina craved stability and security wanting a life that was predictable.  She found that in school (when she was allowed to attend), her teachers, and her studies.  Given her circumstances she found that her life was, by its very nature unstable and she even found predictability in that as well.  Regina had unwavering faith in herself that she could survive.  Regina showed gratitude to those who helped her, for their contributions to her life both big and small.   She developed strong family bonds with her siblings and knew the importance of keeping them all together even if it meant sacrificing her own well-being and innocence.  These bonds stretched when they were separated and she shared her joy when they were brought back together.  Regina demonstrated the importance of forgiveness of the grandparents who turned their back on her, other family who rejected her, and even when her older sisters left her alone to care for the others.  At every turn in her book Regina shows her grit and perseverance that carry her out of the foster care system and beyond her personal circumstance to a life all her own.

And, last but not least, Regina writes that at each step she learned to accept that life is unfair.  She was left in a hovel while her two older sisters lived with friends in homes.  She knew other children were tucked in warm beds as she slept on the cold floor of a trailer. You deal with the cards dealt.

As a mom I have struggled with how much I provide for my children.   Are their gadgets up to date? Do they have trendy clothes? I wonder of their disappointment when I did not have the money to take them on a vacation this summer. I have scaled back activities a bit because of budget. Will they be ok? Will they survive?  Yes, I am most certain that they will.  Regina Calcaterra has built a very successful life for herself on the foundation of her broken childhood.  I've shared a bit of this book with my own girls and we have talked endlessly about the responsibility they have to make their own way. The world does not owe them anything, and it is all out there for the taking.

Regina, thank you for sharing your very personal stories.  It has been an honor to read your words.  You have given me that quick readjustment I needed to stop worrying about the monetary things I provide for my children and rather concentrate into raising them to be strong confident productive citizens.  You my dear, are a role model and I hope some day we find a way for my girls to meet you.

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