Stars and Stripes Scene, Sunday, November 1, 2009

This week, I have decided to steal an idea from Bil Keane, the creator of the comic strip "The Family Circus." Over the years, he has often taken "vacations" and left it up to his cartoon son, Billy, to cover for him.

Rather than being on vacation, I am up to my ears in work. For example, I came home at six this evening, promptly took the boys to McDonald’s and then headed upstairs to resume working at home.

The phrase that kept echoing in my mind as I did these things is probably familiar to all women who try to balance motherhood and a career: Bad mom!

As I headed upstairs, Ronnie gave me his journal from school and asked me to read and initial it before school tomorrow morning.

I began to read it and came up with my idea of transforming Ronnie into my own little Billy, just for this week.

What follows is Ronnie’s introduction that he wrote to his teacher back in September when she asked him to place three small items in a paper bag and bring them to class, explaining their importance to him.

My name is Ronnie. I am 10 years old. I think school is educational. In my bag, I have these things: a mini dog, a mini football and a mini license plate.

I brought a mini dog because my brother gave it to me. He got it from Ocean City. The dog is sleeping and it was only one dollar.

I also brought a mini football. I brought it because it reminded me of my grandparents in North Carolina.

I got it from a restaurant called Captain Tom’s. My family always goes to their house on Christmas and the Fourth of July, and also when we want to visit them.

Last of all, I have a mini Texas license plate. I brought it because I was born in Texas. My brother and I want to go to a water park in Texas. I also have another one.

At the end of that last sentence, Ronnie’s teacher wrote, "Another what?" My guess was that he had been referring to having another brother besides whichever one he had already mentioned.

I summoned him upstairs and quickly discovered that I was wrong, of course. "I have another license plate," he said, assuring me he had explained it all in his final draft.

I wasn’t worried about his final draft, and after thumbing through his journal, I wasn’t so worried that I have become a slacker mom.

My son had introduced himself to his teacher by bringing in three items that reflected who we are as a family and the things we do when we go places together.

He even wrote nice things about at least one and possibly both of his brothers. That seems like a small miracle when I consider the tattling and name-calling I hear from the three of them! (Ronnie’s latest nickname for Jimmy is "Nimrod.")

After reading Ronnie’s journal entries, I didn’t feel quite so guilty about all the fast-food wrappers and long hours spent at work. Despite having a mother who is trying to balance work and postgraduate classes, Ronnie still feels the love that exists between the walls of our home … even for his nimrod brother.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 18 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at or visit her Web site at

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