By Ken Trainor
I nominate my daughter-in-law, Kristen Zotti Trainor, for Mother of the Year. I've nominated her each year since my own mom died in 2015, so that's only two years so far, but I expect this to be a long run. After all, she's only been a mother for 3½ years.
There are far too many deserving candidates to actually name a Mother of the Year, so getting nominated is as far as this goes. Almost every mother is nominated by someone, which is as it should be.
Some mothers face great adversity and overcome it. Some can't quite overcome it but deserve our admiration for facing that adversity and doing their best under an amazing array of circumstances. Some are naturally good at being mothers and some have to really work their butts off to do the best they can. Some moms are fun/have fun and some are/do not, but they still love to their full capacity. Many second-guess their own mothering, which may be partly why they're so good at it. Self-doubt can be a motivator.
This is why we can't name a single Mother of the Year. Too many variables.
But Kristen has earned her nomination. Right out of the gate, she had twin boys, born two months premature. Tyler, the smaller of the two, was 3 pounds, 1 ounce and stayed in the NICU for two months. When he finally joined them at home, there were still plenty of doctor visits because he had internal issues to iron out. Bryce, aka "The Bull," was 3 pounds, 9 ounces, so not a big bull.
On top of all that, a few months later, Kristen and my son separated and eventually divorced. Kristen lived with her dad and step-mom for the first year and a half, so there was some help, but she was still a single mom. Dylan helps support them. He's good with the boys and clearly loves them, but Kristen does the heavy lifting.
It hasn't been easy for her, but she also gets "the good stuff," the upside of being there. The boys are funny and sweet, but they're wonderful to be with mostly because of the time and effort Kristen has put in with them. It brings out their best side. It pays off.
To be a good parent, you have to love fully and you have to set limits. Having fun with them isn't essential, but it's a big plus. Stimulating their minds and introducing them to new experiences, enlarging their world, is also very important. Having a support system of family and friends helps, too.
The boys have read a thousand books in their 3½ years because Kristen signed them up for a program at the local library and diligently kept a log. It may have been 100 books, 10 times each, but we all worked at it. And the boys got the bonus of plenty of snuggle time as we read those books to them. And, of course, the readers get a snuggle bonus too.
Last week at dinner, we introduced the boys to a lemon wedge. We had them smell it first, then Bryce licked it (and puckered up), then Tyler sank his teeth into it and laughed. They were willing to wade in and weren't traumatized by the experience. The credit goes partly to them, but also to Kristen. They aren't afraid to try new things.
Shortly after, Tyler wanted jelly on his pancake, but I insisted he stick with real maple syrup, which I always bring along because it's healthier than other forms of sugar (which they'll get soon enough). Tyler dissolved into tears and I told him we'd have to go outside because he was making too much of a racket in the restaurant. He said something I didn't quite make out and I asked him to repeat it.
"I want a hug!" he said again. The answer to that request, of course, is always yes. All is always forgiven. Then he sat down next to me and enjoyed his syrup-soaked pancake. I give Kristen the credit for his ability to accept imposed limits and also to verbalize his feelings.
These boys are, for the most part, happy and healthy. There's very little meanness in them and they're not entirely self-centered either, which always surprises me. They have their moments, for sure, but by and large, they're a delight. Is this nature or nurture? Some of both, no doubt, but Kristen provides most of the nurture. I can see it when I watch them interact.
And I get the benefit whenever the boys and I are together.
Some mothers face greater challenges than Kristen, but Mother of the Year isn't a contest to see who has it roughest. Every mother faces challenges. This is about love's ability to meet whatever challenges they face — and to face them day after day after day.
I'm writing about my admiration for Kristen because of Mother's Day, but I don't need Mother's Day to remind me.
Every time I see my grandsons, I give thanks that Kristen is their mom.
Answer Book 2018
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