Of all the things I am grateful for, at the very tip-top of the list is being born to Beth and Rob Ayer.
Like us all, I’m sure there are things in their lives they wish they’d done better, but one thing they don’t have to worry about? How they raised three daughters. In honor of Mother’s Day, I present to you one more Marvelous Mama interview: this time with my own mom. Enjoy, then go tell your mama or favorite mama stand-in how much you love her!
Name: Beth Ayer
With whom do you live? I live with my husband of almost 36 years, Rob. (I am also Em for Marvelous’s proud Mama.) Living with my husband is a bit of a recent change, though; from 2011 to 2015 we had a “long distance marriage.” After retiring from the Coast Guard he lived and worked in Virginia and then Maryland while hoping for a job back in Connecticut where we have lived for 30+ years. It was not ideal, but we liked to say that we were paying dues as a military couple that we hadn’t earlier in life. (Since Rob was on the permanent teaching staff at the Coast Guard Academy, we didn’t move frequently like most military families.) We would have much rather lived apart at this point in our lives than when the girls were younger, but we are glad to be together again.
Occupation: I’ve had several occupations during the course of my career-life. I worked with children with learning disabilities right out of college. After marrying Rob and moving to CT (for the first time) to follow his Coast Guard career I worked as a bank teller. We moved to Boston for grad school for Rob and I found a job as a bank teller there. A year into that job we had our first daughter and I began my favorite job, as a Mom to Kate and then her two sisters, Emily and Kimberly. We moved back to CT when Rob finished grad school and he began to teach at the USCGA. A few years into being a mom to our two girls I was approached to be a teacher at the nursery school Kate was attending. I had just found out that I was pregnant with our third daughter, so I turned down that offer. When I was approached again two years later, I considered it more carefully: our youngest was two, the school was right across the playground from the elementary school that our girls would attend, and it was a job that I would love to have. I took the job, part time at the beginning, easing into full time over the years and eventually becoming the director of the school. I retired from the school a few years ago after 16 years as director.
What does a day in the life look like for you? It all depends. Since I’m retired, on a typical day I get up when I get up, which is very nice after having an alarm for many years! I try to take a walk first thing, then come home and get ready for the day. There’s usually some sort of errand to be done next — I find that now that it’s just Dad and I I’m almost like the French, going to the market every day. I volunteer at our town’s food pantry and clothing exchange and have responsibilities at our church. I usually do some sort of yard work and reading, and sometimes get together with a friend for lunch. I also substitute teach at a local preschool a few days a month. And often (happily!), I’m traveling to be with my children and grandchildren, who are spread out over several states.
Words you live by: I try to live by the Golden Rule, but it is a struggle some days. I also have a few Bible verses that I’m working on living by: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) and “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). And lastly, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” – a wonderful reminder to be grateful every day.
Tell us a few things on your bucket list. Cheering at the Kentucky Derby. Visiting the Grand Canyon and some of the other beautiful National Parks in the Southwest. Seeing Alaska. A river cruise through Europe. Visiting Scotland and seeing some ancestral places. Seeing more baseball parks.
What do you watch on TV? I love the Bachelor (Em and I have that in common!), Scandal, NCIS, and Grey’s Anatomy.
Favorite books to read with your kids: Probably the Robert McCloskey books, because there were so many familiar places and themes in them.
What was one of the best things you did for preparing to have kids? We didn’t do much! That sounds terrible! We went to a Lamaze class, I think. I did not read Dr. Spock. I had babysat and had a much younger brother, so I had some experience. I think I felt like things were going to unfold no matter what, and I figured I’d learn as I went, that it was just going to come to me. And it did! I didn’t go back to work right away, so it wasn’t as important to get things on a schedule immediately – if we didn’t get any sleep one night, I could just sleep when the baby slept the next day.
What is something you were not at all prepared for? When I was pregnant with you, I was worried how I would possibly have room to love another baby. It felt like my heart was full, but then it expands! The love I had for Kate felt all-encompassing, but your heart just grows with each child.
What is your parenting philosophy? We kind of winged it in regards to our philosophy of parenting. We wanted to raise kind, responsible children, so our philosophy flowed from that. When we moved to Connecticut, I was lucky enough to have a circle of other Coast Guard wives whose children were all about the same age. We (mostly) were far from family and relied on each other for questions, watched each other’s kids, and got together for play dates.
Best tip for a new parent? Be present – it really does go faster than you think! You know your child best; do what you feel is right for her. Someone gave you some advice at your shower, Em, that I thought was spot on: they are the longest days and the shortest years. So very true!
Tell us about a few of your favorite family traditions. I loved going to get our Christmas tree. Where we went depended on the year – we went to a city lot in Boston the first two years (and got a little tree for the top of our grand piano), then we went to Dad’s farm, then to a local family farm with lots of other Coast Guard families and had dinner afterward. As you guys got older we went to Maple Lane and I think you all loved it, too – we were instructed to wait until you were home from college in later years to get the tree! I loved our vacations in Maine, and going to Lake Winnepesaukee with our family friends – sometimes that felt like a little more of a vacation than Maine, since there weren’t the family dynamics! I loved our evening street walks when you guys were little – our crowd would grow as we roller skated, biked, and stopped to talk to neighbors, then people would peel off one by one as we made our way back up the street.
What is one thing you were not prepared for as a parent? The 24/7 nature. Obviously I knew that, but I don’t think you can understand it until you experience it. As a babysitter, you have them for a short while and then are relived of duty. You are never relieved of duty when they are YOUR children, no matter how old they are. You always worry about them (see “words to live by”…), even when they are grown-ups themselves :)
What is or has been your favorite part about having children? I really loved being a spectator at all of your events. I felt like that was part of my job as a mom, but I loved it. I loved watching you grow up, gain skills, and gain confidence in whatever it was you were doing – dance, athletics, drama, singing. It was fascinating to watch you guys grow up. I also love how our relationships have evolved – from me being a protector, watcher, and caregiver to consultant, friend, mentor – and now you’re often my mentors!
What do you miss most about having kids in your home? I just miss you guys — having you near, the daily interactions that make up life together – oh boy, I’m going to cry. It’s nice to have it be just Dad and I again, but I would not necessarily have a hard time if any of you ever had to move home, ha! I am grateful for how technology connects us – a quick text, phone call, Instagram post, or email. Though they weren’t in person, I had an interaction with each of you today, like most days.
What has been the best part about watching your own children become parents? How good you are at it. No, really! I’m not surprised, I expected you to be good at it, but I don’t think either you or Kate had a lot of experience babysitting, so I just didn’t have an opportunity to see you in that role before June arrived. But watching you with her at six weeks old and seeing how focused, attentive, and not distracted you were was the best. There’s so much more to distract your generation, and I’m glad you are not doing that. My Mom said this about me and I didn’t always feel like it, and I’m going to say the same thing about you, even though you might not feel like it: you are so patient as a parent. You don’t show it if you’re frustrated. She is the priority.
What is the best part of being a grandparent? When you’re the parent there’s so much other stuff going on – work, house, obligations. When you’re a grandparent (especially if you’re retired), there’s none of the same pressure. Whenever you get to be together, you can be all there. You know how precious it is because you’ve done it before. You get a second chance to be a part of a childhood, and this time with a different perspective.
See? She’s the best. Thank you so much, Mom! I love you!!
P.S. Seven things I love about my Mom.