Must be your First Child

As a modern mother becomes a “seasoned parent,” she may gain confidence, based not on books and "experts" seen on The Today Show, but on having made and recovered from more than a few parenting mistakes, from having cobbled together some semblance of a harmonious family system, however temporary. And yet, when the well mannered mother stumbles upon this sudden awareness of her own, dare we say, parenting prowess, she remembers all the times when she made an “issue” out of nonsense. Maybe she worried obsessively about how she would ever put an end to her 9 month-old’s thumb-sucking habit. Perhaps when her child went on his first independent playdate, she called three times in the space of two hours. Or possibly, she used to look askance at any mother who preferred to read on a park bench rather than watch her child play. Whatever her former foibles, the well mannered mother remains acutely aware that parenting is a moving target, a learning process, and a more experienced mother might find her current worries about primary school homework foolish or naive. In the spirit of this awareness, she refrains from commenting, “Clearly, this must be your first child!” in many, many situations. When she overhears the mother of a toddler say, “I really think he is gifted, have you seen the way he stacks his books and lines up toys?” she moves on. When she witnesses a parent approach the school nurse to say that her kindergartener “didn’t really eat any breakfast this morning - what should we do about it?” she bites her lip. When a mother explains that her baby is “24 and a half weeks,” she admires the baby, rather than respond, “Weeks? Must be your first, if you’re counting that closely!” Because, what new (or new-ish) mother wants to have her inexperience remarked upon? What mother of any experience wants her weakness pointed out? So, even if she has to pinch herself to remember, the well-mannered mother tries not to let the phrase "must be your first" slip out, no matter how much she is thinking it.


Lisa said...

I am reminded of my status of mother of more than one as I am sitting here at ikea. Her kid: is 3.5 (overheard) being spoon fed pasta (no sauce), veggies and milk. My kids: eating mac cheese, meatballs, choc milk, and watching a movie while I sit as far away as I safely can eating my salmon, savoring the calm and making this post. The funny thing is I remember her shoes - except for the feeding part.

Nancy said...

I watched a first time mom mess with her sleeping newborn's blankets while thinking "Don't mess with that - he is fine and not too hot - you will wake him if you keep..oh, too late"

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