A Collection Stories About Or From The Moms Of The World

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Maternal Ties by Noreen Braman

An excerpt from the book Treading Water available through 

As most single parents know, there comes a time when trying to be both mother and father falls short. At no time is this more evident than when the children become TEENAGERS — when puberty hits them like a semi on the interstate. Dads of daughters are suddenly faced with running the gauntlet of the Feminine Hygiene aisle of the supermarket. Mothers of sons suddenly are dealing with deep-voiced strangers who eat everything in sight. 

My son is at an especially distinct disadvantage, being child number three behind two sisters. Only three years span my oldest to youngest, meaning the puberty hormones in my house can be as thick as a Cape Cod fog. So, living in a house of women is especially trying for my son. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me that he would not like shaving with a cute pink razor, or bathing with gardenia shower gel. And standing around in Victoria’s Secret, while the three female members of his household giggle over bras is not his idea of a fun day at the mall. 

Now he at least has his own personal care products, and gets to shop in the more manly mall establishments. I’ve made a diligent effort to be responsive to the needs of his gender and give him his own time away from “the girls.” Recently, without traipsing through a single women’s clothing department, we enjoyed a shopping trip to buy him a suit for his graduation photographs. Together we discovered that men’s dress clothes come in strange size combinations and apparently, it is very important to know how big your neck is and how long your arms are. To further complicate things, one cannot even try on a man’s shirt to see if you have guessed properly, as they are all packed up in unbreakable plastic like Tylenol in the drugstore. 

When finally, the suit, shirt, tie and shoes came home, my son immediately went to his room, to try on the ensemble. My eyes filled with tears of pride when he stepped out of his room, looking so much like a grown man. Except, the suit pants were dragging on the floor and the tie was hanging limply by his side. 

Folding, pinning and begging an older sister to utilize her sewing skills took care of the pants. By that time it was 10 PM, on the night before the photographs. As my son tried on the suit for the second time, I said to him “lets see the full effect, tie the tie.” 

“I can’t tie a tie,” he answered. “You tie it.” Ah, the faith of a child who thinks his parent can do anything. There was no way I could tie that tie. “Ask one of your teachers in school tomorrow,” I suggested. 

The expression of horror on my son’s face made me realize that this was another puberty/teenager/manliness issue. Asking a teacher for anything so personal was out of the question. So we tried to tie the tie ourselves. 

Rule #1 for tying someone’s tie – the gentleman cannot have a ticklish neck. Every time I even touched my son’s neck he collapsed into uncontrollable laughter. 

Rule #2 – Tying a tie is not the same as tying a hangman’s noose. At one point, this knot was so tight I though I would have to call the fire department to extricate my son from its murderous grip. Also, a square knot is suitable for a sailor, not a high school senior, and take my advice, don’t even mention tying a bow. 

Rule #3 – It is just about impossible to tie a tie that is around a neck other than your own.

As each attempt by me failed miserably, I was reminded of a story told to me by a good friend. Having grown up in a third generation family of funeral directors, leaning how to tie a tie was a skill he acquired at a young age. However, after injuring his hand, my friend was unable to tie his own tie, and he went to his father for help. After all, here was a man who had been tying his own tie for decades, as well as the ties of countless deceased gentlemen. Gentlemen who were reclined in eternal peace. There was only one way he could tie his son’s tie. “Lie down,” he said. 

Well, that didn’t work for me, and just about when we were resigned to a tie-less photograph, the cartoon light bulb over my head lit up. I rushed over to the computer and signed on to the net. 

“I can’t believe you are going online now!” moaned my son. But he didn’t realize what I was doing. After all, you can find out how to build bombs, buy drugs without prescriptions, spy on your neighbors and enlarge certain parts of your body online – why not how to tie a tie! 

Sure enough, we found a guide, complete with pictures. It was still impossible for me to do it, but eventually, after several attempts and a lot of head twisting, my son was able to successfully knot the offending piece of cloth around his neck. We celebrated like baseball players who just clinched the pennant. 

And just to be safe, my son slipped the tie over his head, and hung it — still knotted — over the hanger. Part of becoming a man is knowing when not to tempt fate.

Noreen Braman  – Creativity On Call,  American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA)Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH), Certified Laughter Yoga Leader

Noreen’s Digital Dreams

Living on the Smile Side of Life in Jamesburg, New Jersey

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011


Don’t Worry! Its Just A Stage! by Noreen Braman

Noreen Braman


Like any parent, I can recite the dates and times of my child’s developmental milestones. Those famous firsts: first tooth, first steps, first words, all clearly remembered. Are they recalled so well because of instinctive pride? Hardly.

We remember them vividly because these events represent periods of parental relief. Parents of toddlers are like beginning water skiers, holding on for life as their child careens through all those celebrated “stages”.

We remember the Sleeping All Night milestone because it ends the Mixed Up Days and Nights Syndrome. Usually the infamous Teething Stage begins thereafter and each tooth is applauded for the few nights of unbroken sleep it brings.

First Steps are a thrill for parents, until we realize it heralds the Getting Into Everything phase, which arrives hand-in-hand with the Can’t Sit Still Stage.

During this time of constant motion, most children speak their first words and utter their first sentences. Fascination with the child’s speech dulls after spending days and weeks trying to comprehend and then translating for everyone else. Then, the baby talk clears and real conversations begin. If we are lucky enough to have them potty-trained by this time, we may think we see light at the end of the tunnel.

But there are more several more tricks up those innocent toddler sleeves. Parents of children in the “No” Stage know the meaning of exasperation. Following this is the equally trying “Why?” Stage. Reasonable people turn into screaming maniacs after spending a day with a “Why” child.

Somewhere around the time my oldest started school without a hint of the Won’t Do Homework phase and my youngest finally came out of the Terrible Twos, having thoroughly enjoyed his stint as dictator, I began to think that I could handle anything a preschooler threw at me. However, the middle child, in a brave effort to break out of the pack, invented a new stage, the “What If” Stage. Annemarie developed this infuriating game into a science.

For example, we were seated in a family restaurant, waiting and waiting for dinner. Annemarie wanted to know (as did we all) why it was taking so long. We explained several possibilities, but she wasn’t satisfied.

“I’m so hungry, I’m going to throw up!” she announced loudly. Hushing only encouraged her.

“What if I really did throw up in here?” she continued. We tried to pass over the question.

“What if someone just kept throwing up and couldn’t stop?”

Parties at nearby tables began to look uncomfortable. We whispered threats, but Annemarie had a whole restaurant of people to entertain.

“What if someone just walked by and threw up on my food? What if the waitress tried to clean it up and she started to throw up?”

The families around us put down their utensils and stared menacingly at us.

“What if I didn’t see them throw up in my plate and I ate it?”

After this remark the room was strangely silent. When I had the courage to look up, I saw the restaurant was empty. My oldest daughter was holding a napkin to her mouth and I began searching my pockets for the car keys.

“Where everybody go?” asked the baby.

For quite a time after that, when out to dinner with my children, curious strangers would ask about the bag over my daughter’s head.

I told them she’s just going through a stage.


Noreen Braman

 “Creativity On Call”

American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA)

Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH)

Certified Laughter Yoga Leader

Noreen’s Digital Dreams

Living on the Smile Side of Life in Jamesburg, New Jersey


Interested in contributing to this blog? Guidelines

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

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