Home Local Voices Transition, Work & Motherhood: Birthdays, Buttercream, And Lessons From A Scandal

Transition, Work & Motherhood: Birthdays, Buttercream, And Lessons From A Scandal


Ed: Sydney Chaney Thomas is a Moraga-based writer and businesswoman with three books to her name, all currently available on Amazon. She is also co-founder of a sustainable sailing apparel company called Ocean SF, and operates a nonprofit that works to reduce plastic waste called the The Trident Project.

Sydney Chaney Thomas

Sydney teaches entrepreneurial marketing at UC Berkeley in their International Diploma Program and, in addition to this column, she writes a popular lifestyle blog, which can be found at sydneychaneythomas.com.

Transition, Work & Motherhood
Moraga, Calif. 
March 15, 2019

On Sunday we celebrated my youngest daughter’s 18th birthday. It came at the end of a cold and rainy winter, but the daffodils were in bloom and the cherry blossoms had just begun to open. The sky was the bright white of late winter.

So many birthdays, so many parties at the home where I’ve raised my children.

My daughter once again requested a flower cake and I dipped the pansies in sugar like I always do. I made my mother’s buttercream frosting from scratch and gently frosted the vanilla cake made the night before. Rhythm, traditions, motions from the past.

I love the quiet morning before a party. The doors open, and the crackle of anticipation in the air. I cut fresh lemons from my lemon tree, fill white platters with food, while music plays.

A large boutique of flowers and a dozen pink and white balloons adorn the library table in our nook. There is comfort in the way I’ve always done things that link these years together like a chain of daisies. I’ve started to use the word “we” as my daughters assist me. The way “we” do things is a more common phrase as now these things are done together.

In the afternoon, the familiar friends pour in to celebrate and the day flies by like a dream. Nothing has changed and everything has changed. This time next year both my daughter’s will be in college, and I will likely be sending my birthday wishes via text or in the mail.

It’s ironic the college admissions scandal has broken now as this last year of high school ends. I watched both my daughters and their friends work so hard to earn their right to attend the colleges of their choice. It’s encouraging that these practices will end, although it is an education in privilege to learn that it is possible to buy something as valuable as an education, and not just the superficial trappings of wealth.

It is a time of transition for not just me, but on a larger scale as our society is changing. It’s a new chapter for everyone. No longer are the crimes of the elite and powerful hidden. As my daughters enter adulthood and take flight from the security of the home they have always known this is nothing, but a good thing.


  1. Quite right. A lot of crime is now in plain sight. But what is encouraging about that? When every new drug bust is the biggest ever we don’t conclude we are winning the “war on drugs “.

    • It’s a start to build awareness. The #metoo movement and now the college admissions scandal begin to eradicate some of the long held toxic problems within our culture.

  2. That slapping sound you heard when this scandal was released was 50000 parents facepalming themselves. I can’t think of a more shameful example of rich privilege taking down any further belief in our institutions and systems. What next – the church? O yea, that’s right.

    • It’s very discouraging for the kids who worked hard and sacrificed so much to get into those schools. It’s very sad.

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