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51 States, 51 Dates

Me pretending to be a Georgetown student

I stood at the podium at the Georgetown Hotel and Conference Center in Washington, D.C., looking at 51 mothers, one from each state and the District of Columbia. They were here with one singular purpose: Change everything. They were here to learn how to work with (and when necessary, fight back against) the superintendents, the congressmen, the senators, the school lunch planners, the corporate interests, the teachers, the principals, and the unengaged parents to fix the American school system. It was Parenting's second annual Mom Congress, but I had a different agenda. I spoke into the microphone. "I'm here to meet chicks." 

Now don’t get me wrong. I have a wife, a beautiful, ambitious, laser-guided missile of a mother named Brandy with red wine and rocket fuel pumping through her veins. I went to Parenting’s Mom Congress 2011 to score information from these chicks. My mission is to find a home for these women’s stories, causes and passions in our magazine. There’s only one problem: We don’t print a 500-page issue every month. While the moms were here to listen and learn just like me, every so often the opportunity arose for them to share slivers of their stories. Each was like seeing an eye-opening, gut-wrenching movie preview, knowing you may never see the full-length feature on the big screen.

 A household that has welcomed 35 foster children.

Kids—both biological and adopted—with shaken baby syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, ADD, ADHD, autism and Asperger’s.  

District budgets being edited with a bulldozer.

Special needs programs evaporating.

A school lunch line that isn’t big enough for her child’s wheelchair, so he skips asking for milk because he doesn’t want to bother anyone.

So yeah, this is about more than getting some girls’ digits.

I couldn’t wait until I got home to jot down my thoughts. I start writing everything down in Seat 8B on US Airways Flight 1476. And I’m sitting there thinking about these chicks: Meg from New Jersey, Jen from Oregon, Melissa from Colorado, Stacey from Wisconsin. They will go home, their intellectual toolkits full, left with the simple task of reversing the rotation of the earth, of filling the Grand Canyon one Dixie cup at a time. What they don’t know is there are two boys in Melbourne, Florida, whose dad will work a little bit harder because of them. And that's just the start. If these mom advocates can help two school-age seedlings sprout and grow from dirt like me, imagine what else they can do. Street by street, town by town, state by state, they will gradually turn the Grand Canyon into the world’s biggest Jacuzzi.

So here’s what the American population minus 51 can do: become a fan of Mom Congress on Facebook. And if it makes sense, submit your kid’s school for Parenting’s School Transformation Contest, where one lucky school will receive a $20,000 grant.

I’m on a mission: 51 states, 51 dates (yes, I know my social studies, but this just sounds better). I'm here to share your causes, ladies, and in the world of parental advocacy, I think that’s getting to third base. Of course, changing the whole damn system is a home run.