This essay was first published in Newsday. Mother's Day comes around again this Sunday. The holiday stirs mixed emotions in people. My family has always treated me to a nice, low-key Mother's Day - a homemade card, some extra help around the house, a special meal at home.
But my mother was, sadly, never satisfied with her Mother's Day celebrations. Maybe one day a year couldn't sufficiently thank her for the hard, loving work she was doing raising seven children, or the things she went without so that we could all attend college.
So this year, on behalf of my late mom and mothers everywhere, I'm going to think bigger about our wishes for Mother's Day.
I wish for an end to the stories about pervy teachers, coaches and school administrators. This week, a Bellport High School history teacher posted bail after he was charged with having sex with a 16-year-old student. Last week, a substitute teacher at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School, who also coaches girls' volleyball and gymnastics, was also charged with having sex with an underage girl. In March, the same allegation was made against a Freeport middle school principal with an undetected felony record. The schools aren't a singles bar. Hands off.
I wish for better employment prospects for teenagers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than three in 10 American teenagers find summer jobs. This isn't just about earning money. Jobs teach young people about responsibility, cooperation, time management, handling conflict and choosing a career. Yes, parents teach these too, but at some point, teens must move into a wider world. How about a well-run, creative, summer volunteer corps for teens? They could collect trash or fix up homes - and put it on a resume.
I wish the child care subsidies for working people in Suffolk and Westchester counties, among others, would be restored. People shouldn't have to quit jobs because there's no one to watch their children. Nor should they be forced to leave their kids in dangerous situations - home alone or with a too-young sibling? - because they have to work.
I wish for a new federal policy that would make it easier for workers to take time off when their child or parent needs care. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, which provides for 12 unpaid weeks of leave with a guarantee that a job will be waiting afterward. That landmark law originally applied only to companies with 50 or more employees. But even for smaller companies, in just one generation, complying with the FMLA is often the norm. Still, it's not enough. Some people can't afford unpaid time. We need new thinking on how work and family responsibilities can coexist.
I wish schools would bring back late buses, so more kids could participate in sports, extra-help sessions and clubs.
Oh, and one more. I wish for "Princesses: Long Island" to be painfully accurate. The upcoming Bravo reality series, which begins June 2, has the potential to make my life as a mom a lot easier - if it's realistic about the excesses of Long Island girl life. Being driven around in limousines, discovering new must-have spa treatments, dropping hundreds of dollars weekly on clothes - if my daughters see that only "princesses" get this treatment, maybe they won't think they have to have it too.
Wishing won't make it so, of course, just as appreciating Mom one day a year isn't enough. But sometimes change begins with a wish.