“Raising Drama” is the title for the unfolding story of a woman who loves being a mom. Motherhood is one of the most demanding roles that is played out in a social context. The urge to fill this role has to begin somewhere and for us all, the starting line is from the time we are born. Just because you have the ability to go forth and multiply does not qualify you to be a good parent. Not everyone is cut out to be like the moms portrayed in family shows on television. Family shows like, “Leave It To Beaver”, “Donna Reed”, and The Huxtables, of the “Bill Cosby Show”, were shining examples for us to watch. But they are not real life. A lot of kids are fortunate to have loving parents and a pretty balanced home life. Unfortunately many kids are not so lucky. Too many are not raised in ideal situations.
The thing that Theresa Dodaro wanted most in her life was to be a mother, but it was also what scared her most.
Theresa explains she grew up in surroundings she describes as dysfunctional and with lots of drama. I’m certain many of us can relate to some familial dysfunction and drama … especially around the holidays. If you were fortunate enough to have a dependable upbringing it is sad to think that it isn’t so good for every kid.
The blog “Raising Drama” is the story of an intuitive woman whose door has always been open to many of the children in her neighborhood and even to some from countries far from her home. She has seen the pain in the lives of these children and as much as she wanted to help them, she learned the environment that they had to go home to limited the help she could give them. So, she decided to reach out to the parents of those children in the hopes that she could show them that they may be “… packing the baggage that their children will carry for the rest of their lives.” In the event that she might not be able to reach those parents, she hoped that she could reach the children. She wanted them to see that although they cannot change the past, they had the power to change the future. She has written her first book and in these chapters, she allows herself to therapeutically release those things from childhood. Her thoughtful approach is one that can be appreciated by her readers, and we’re glad she decided to become a part of the blogging community.
Theresa: I know you live outside of New York City, one of the most famous and exciting of places. Do you often travel in to shop, see Broadway shows, see the Fourth of July Fireworks, or ice skate at Rockefeller Center?
TheresaD: I have never been to the Thanksgiving Day Parade, or the Statue of Liberty, or the Freedom Tower. But my daughter and I enjoy going to Broadway shows together and I love the Museum of Natural History and the Tenement Museum near Little Italy and Chinatown. I worked in the city in Rockefeller Center for eight years at McGraw-Hill in the late 1970s and 1980s. Most of my time there, I was an Editorial Assistant in the College Book Division.
Theresa: How many children do you have and what are their ages?
Theresa: At what age did you start writing down how you were feeling about things going on in your life?
TheresaD: I had an English teacher in 9th grade that told our class that some people could paint while others had different talents, but that everyone could write. And that writing could be a way of expressing what was hidden inside, whether or not we decided to share it with the world or just keep it for ourselves. I probably started writing then.
TheresaD: This is a difficult question. If you ask my siblings, you will get different perspectives. I was the fourth out of five children and there was an eighteen-year span between the oldest and youngest. My parents raised us the way they were raised, they didn’t know any better. They didn’t mean to harm us. There are levels of dysfunction and mine certainly wasn’t the worst.
My father was “king of his castle.” He worked hard every day as a machinist and although he made very little money, he was frugal and provided for his family and was even able to save. We didn’t go away on vacations and throw birthday parties like the other kids in our neighborhood, but we had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food in our bellies, which is more than Dad had when he was growing up. He had been a child of the depression era, which taught him not to trust the economy.
My mother was a mother because she didn’t have any other choice; there were not many options for a woman in those days. She bore her five children over eighteen years. She loved babies, but she wasn’t very fond of children once they outgrew the baby stage. She had no vote about anything in our household because my father’s word was law. Instead she got attention by playing us children against each other. She did this long into our adult years and this caused a lot of hard feelings between us kids, but she never did it intentionally. She did it because she was child-like herself.
My father was the disciplinarian. He thought he was teaching us a lesson when he hit us with his belt. We feared him and at times we hated him, but we also loved him. He had a gentle loving side, too. By the time I reached the age of six our Dad had been diagnosed with cancer. My older brothers will tell you that this dreaded disease “mellowed” him. Both of my brothers left home when they were 17 or 18 to join the service, which left me, and my older sister, and our youngest brother still living at home. Cancer is a difficult thing for a family to live with and back then, there was no one to talk to about cancer. It simply wasn’t talked about. Our father suffered for fifteen years and when I turned twenty-one he died.
Theresa: What are some of the basic guidelines you have incorporated into your style of parenting?
TheresaD: I make mistakes and when I do I apologize. I believe in taking ownership of your part when things go wrong. You can’t control another person, but you can try to influence them. If they respect and care about you, you might hold sway over them. Think ahead to the years to come. What is cute when they are little becomes a problem for everyone when they become a teenager. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When children are young and trying to gain control of the house, remind yourself that you are the parent. Indulge them but outline their boundaries. Encourage and reward rather than punish when you can. Be clear on the rules and enforce them. When you do punish them, make the punishment relative to the infraction. Never hit them or humiliate them.
Theresa: How do you feel about the struggles you experienced from early childhood and on into your teenage years? All of us face challenges and struggle somewhat as teens … did you have more than your fair share at that age?
TheresaD: Perspective is everything. Some people may think I have had more than my share, but to others it could seem that I may have had it easy. I’ve always been someone who watched the rest of the world, making a point of remembering particular moments. I found an interest in why people do the things they do because I was always trying to understand them. The struggles and experiences I had as a child made me who I am now. Not all struggles come from your family. Many come from your peers and your environment. Some even come simply from events beyond your control that are happening in the world. No one has a perfect life. It would be boring to live with total perfection.
Theresa: How challenging is it to write your first book?
TheresaD: I didn’t know if I could write a book, but it was what I’d always wanted to do. I took my first real job at McGraw-Hill because I wanted to understand book publishing in preparation for writing my own. I realized writing a book takes time and focus and I was busy living my life. I was very ill when my daughter was about to turn 11 and my son was about to turn six. I had strep in my blood system and was in renal failure, respiratory arrest, and congestive heart failure. Doctors put me into an induced coma and I was placed on a respirator. Given only a 20% chance of survival, well that changed my life. With a second chance at life there were two things I knew I needed to do, raise my children and write my book. When my daughter was fifteen, I finally knew what I wanted to write about. I told her that I didn’t know if I could finish a book, I didn’t know if it would be any good, I didn’t know if I could get it published and yet writing it would take time away from my family, from her and her brother. My beautiful teenage daughter looked at me and said, “Then write it for me, mom.” I did as she suggested … I wrote it. I loved my characters so much that one book has turned into a trilogy. The second book is half finished and the third is already begun.
Theresa: Do your kids sit down and discuss what their days were like? Do they often ask for your advice? Do they have friends who ask for your advice, too?
TheresaD: Yes. My daughter is a Ph.D. student in Environmental Anthropology at Tulane University. She is spending this summer at a field school in the Amazon learning an indigenous language to prepare for the research she will need to start soon. During the school year, she doesn’t call me every day anymore, but she calls me once a week and texts to check up on me. I’m the one she calls if she is stressed or having a difficult time.
My son is 18 and he has just finished high school. Every day he came home from school and sat with me in the kitchen while having a snack and telling me about his day. Last October, on one of those afternoons, he confided to me there was an exchange student from Ecuador who was living with a local family. They were not treating her well. He said the girl had gone a whole weekend with only cereal to eat and that the host mother yelled at her a lot and was making her clean her house. When the girl tried to get her host parents to talk to her own concerned parents, they refused. Just the thought that one of my children could be in a foreign country and having a similar experience made me say, “Tell her she can live with us.” We contacted the proper representative and a few days later, we had an eighteen-year old exchange student living with us for the next eight months! We Skyped with her parents a week later, and they were both crying as they thanked us for taking their daughter into our home. Even her younger sister and brother were crying. It wasn’t long before she, too, came home from school eager to tell me about her day.
I enjoy talking to my kids and they trust my advice. Their friends are always welcome at our house. I have been the PTA President of my children’s elementary school and the Girl Scout Leader for my daughter. Their friends especially like when I read their Tarot cards. They come up with some very interesting questions that show what’s going on in their heads and their hearts. It’s an easy and non-threatening way to give them advice as I read their cards. I love when they come back to me and tell me that the cards were right. They don’t realize it wasn’t the Tarot cards it was really I giving them direction.
Theresa: Have you been enjoying the summer so far? Any plans to go to the beach or have family outings?
TheresaD: It has been a hectic summer. Our exchange student’s mother came to visit for a week before taking her daughter back to Ecuador. After she left, some of my family came to visit to be here for my son’s graduation. Meanwhile, our daughter left for the Amazon. This past week was college orientation for our son. Even though it has been chaotic we do try to find time to relax. We have a little place in the mountains upstate and when we go there, we get a chance to recharge our batteries.
Theresa: How long have you been blogging and do you enjoy socializing online?
TheresaD: I’ve been blogging since 2011, but my blog has changed over time. It started out as “Raising Drama” because unlike when our children were small, there was no place for parents to go to discuss how to raise pre-teens and teenagers. I wanted parents to know that the drama that their teenagers were exhibiting may be, in part, due to the way they raised them. If we don’t take ownership of our part in it, then there is nothing we can do to change it. It’s good when we take responsibility, because if we don’t then it is beyond our ability to enact change. There are things we can do while raising our children, from the time they are toddlers, to reduce the amount of drama that our teenagers will take part in. And I try to share those ideas in my blog. But as my children have grown, the blog has turned into an avenue for me to explore myself, and the changes that I am experiencing in my life as my children prepare to leave the nest. As life changes and I now find myself taking care of my mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, I reflect on how that has impacted both of our lives. Finally, it’s also a platform for me to share my book and to develop a following that will be interested in reading it when it’s published.
Theresa: Who has been the most influential in your life … someone you found to look up to or emulate?
TheresaD: Mrs. Mullen. She was the mother of two of my closest friends when I was growing up. She was the mom that everyone in the neighborhood could talk to when they couldn’t talk to their own parents. I want to be for others, what she was for me.
Theresa: Do you plan on writing more books and if so, what topics would you like to write about?
TheresaD: My first book is about overcoming dysfunction in a family but it is also a love story, a historical novel, a mystery, and a journey with a ghost for a guide. The story is about three teenage girls growing up in 1968-1969 on Long Island. The girls find a tin box in a tree house that once belonged to one of their mothers. In the tin box they find a collection of letters. Those letters take them on a journey to 1912 in which secrets are revealed about the past, clues that indicate a possible imminent danger for one of them. As the girls grow and change, the world is changing. There is the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Protests, the First Landing On The Moon and Woodstock. By the end of the first novel, the girls discover a hope chest that sends them on another journey, this time back in time to the 1860s and the Civil War. The reader makes the discovery that some of the characters in the “The Tin Box” are reincarnations of characters in the prequel, “The Hope Chest.” The third book will take the original characters into early adulthood and the 1970s. My hope would be that someday these books are used in classrooms as part of the school curriculum.
Theresa: Tell us please some of the things you like to do to relax and unwind.
TheresaD: I research my family tree. I don’t read that much anymore because the books I want to read are the ones I’m writing therefore I write instead. I like to take walks and ride my bike. I’m a history buff and enjoy traveling to visit historical sites, especially Civil War sites. I enjoy going on Ghost Tours in every city I visit and hearing the stories behind the history.
Theresa: If you were not a mother, if your life had turned out differently, what might have you pursued as far as a career or dream?
TheresaD: I went to college to be an English teacher, but instead, I worked in publishing and marketing. I intended to continue working after having my children. But it took a long time to have them, and once I had them, I didn’t want to miss a minute. In being a mother I have been everything, so I didn’t miss out on anything and together with writing, I am living my dream. I am also very lucky to have a husband who supported my desire to stay home to raise our children and who also supports my dream to publish my novels.
Theresa: What do you like the best about writing?
TheresaD: Creating a story that entertains and educates at the same time. I slip back in time and make things right in the only way that I can and that is very therapeutic.
Theresa: Do you like to travel?
TheresaD: Yes and I will be doing more of that now that my kids are grown. I especially enjoyed going to Italy and meeting my cousins. An ocean had separated our family for the last 100 years.
Theresa: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? I set little goals for myself and wonder if you do, too. Tell me what your life could be down the road.
TheresaD: I look forward to becoming a published author, traveling and talking to young people about my books and about life.
Theresa: What are some of your hobbies? Do you like to cook, grill or bake? If so, what are a few of your favorite recipes to make?
TheresaD: I cook Italian recipes and I bake. I enjoy keeping the traditions of my family’s ancestors and in Italian families that is very intertwined with cooking.
Theresa: Tell us about some of your relatives and ancestors. Where are they from originally and how have they influenced you?
TheresaD: My grandparents came from Italy, as did my husband’s grandparents. My father’s parents were from Sicily and when I was a small child we spent a lot of time at their house. Some aromas in the kitchen or the sound of the Sicilian dialect bring me right back to my childhood. Each of my ancestors has a story and I tell their stories so that they won’t be forgotten. I research the family tree to put the missing pieces of the stories together so that the whole picture can be seen.
Theresa: What have your children done to make you thrilled to be a parent? How have they affected your life?
TheresaD: Knowing my children appreciate their lives is the best reward I could ever ask for. They have made my life worthwhile and through them, I have left a wonderful mark on this world.
Theresa: You mentioned your son is preparing for college. How difficult will it be to let go? The separation … what do you think it will be like?
TheresaD: I am not worried about him. He will be fine. But I have worried about me. I have my books and my family research, but I need to find a more social setting to get involved with. Too much time alone with my computer is not good. I am an activist (sometimes in spite of myself) so I will find something meaningful to get involved with.
Theresa: Do you feel that you have instilled in your kids the good common sense that most grandmothers speak of so bluntly? At least I know mine did!
TheresaD: I think they have a good foundation for common sense but that they are still developing it. We can talk to them all day long but sometimes common sense comes from experience and that part of it will come in time.
Theresa: Is there anything you regret or would change if you could?
TheresaD: I believe the most beautiful things in life are born out of pain and suffering. Can one appreciate achievements when one hasn’t struggled? We are dealt a hand when we are born and we need to learn how to play it the best way we can. I do not regret anything … because it’s all part of my journey.
Wow! What a great time spent with this young author. Theresa Dodaro has depth of character that stems from her early years and her ability to be a great wife and mother to her two almost-grown children. She relies on her positive outlook and caring personality in instructing her children and has helped them develop into kind and thoughtful people who will know first-hand how to raise kids with love, while setting a boundary of rules that are good for them, too. Love goes a long way in the structure parents need to have in their homes. Children are gifts from above and if you’re lucky enough to be a parent, then take in what Theresa Dodaro has laid out and see if it will help you, too. Her first book is due to be released in the upcoming months and we are so happy she has decided to use BlogCatalog.com as a platform to launch her published works. We wish her the best!
About Theresa H Hall
As a professional vocalist, licensed broadcaster, artist, published poet, lyricist, writer, animal lover and budding pastry chef, my blogs are intended to be conversational, thought provoking, interesting, mostly humorous and sometimes serious. Please join me on my quest to make "Sleeping Kitten - Dancing Dog!" (SKDD) a favorite of yours to visit. Read me on Half Hour Meals dot com and on BrooWaha dot com