Friday, May 11, 2018


all artwork by Theo Slavin

When I look back on my active motherhood years, I think of the expression, 
If you can't be a good example, be a terrible warning." 

Sometimes, I found motherhood filled with cringe-worthy actions on my part. I can think of 10 mistakes that I made while Theo was growing up that put me in the terrible warning category. (I'm sure he could make up his own list!)

The first on my list occurred when Theo was in college. I had been intent on cleaning out the detritus in our house and gave away several boxes of duplicate family photos to the reuse center in Oakland. I never gave the boxes another thought until one afternoon when I received a frantic call from Theo.

"Did you give away all my baby pictures?" he demanded. He told me he was standing in the gallery at California College of Art. On the wall in front of him, from ceiling to floor, was a collage of photos of Theo. An art student had made an assemblage out of all the photos I had given away. That doesn't seem so terrible until you put yourself in Theo's shoes. He walked into the gallery and saw his life all over the walls. How would he feel at that moment? Would he think, had I gotten rid of him on purpose? Did I not want to have his photos? What heart-wrenching thing had I done?

I told him quickly that all the photos were duplicates. That those same images were safely stored in numerous photo albums at home. I apologized profusely for not telling him that I had given away the duplicates.

That incident ranks right up there with leaving him abandoned on the subway platform in Paris, his shoe in my hand as I hurtled away inside the train. Theo, his friend and I had rushed to catch a train. The friend and I made it, but Theo stepped into the car as the door closed. In Paris, the doors do not reopen even if your foot is in the doorway. I grabbed him to try to get him in, but finally (this all took seconds) let him go, bringing only his shoe with me. Luckily, Theo knew his way around the Paris subways. But he didn't follow my explicit instructions about being lost from each other:  "Stay in one place, I will come back for you." (We had limited cellphones in those days.) Instead, he climbed up to the street with one sock foot, one shoe foot, and started walking home. Meanwhile, his friend and I got off at the next station and hopped back on the next train to try to find him at our starting point on the platform. We arrived, but Theo was nowhere to be found. Frantic, we gave up, rushed home and found Theo waiting for us.

Those first two on my list are my most memorable 'momming' moments along with catching his tiny fingers in a closet door when he was about two. As mothers, we bounce around from one fire to the next, trying to dampen the unexpected heat from our own actions, and hope no one is singed in the process. I am glad that my mistakes turned out to be relatively small in comparison to the person Theo turned out to be. My 29-year son is a kind, thoughtful and inquisitive person, just the kind of man you would like to have for a son.

Theo, fingers and toes intact, now rides BART and buses without a care.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers who I know have your own list. 
May you have a good day full of joy and fun!

photo by Martha Slavin


  1. Happy mother's day to you. It brings to mind some of my unforgetables... thank you. We did the best we could do at the time

    1. We are all works-in-progress, aren't we? Thanks for your comment, Christine.

  2. What sweet artwork photos and poignant/funny stories! Ah, those mistakes we made. But what would our adult children have to talk about at future family gatherings if we didn't? Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Teresa, both for your comments and for continuing to read my posts. I agree what stories would our adult children have to tell if we were perfect parents!


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