My first Mother's Day as a new mom brought with it mixed feelings. On the one hand, I felt so much joy to be blessed with a new, beautiful, innocent life. On the other hand, I would be responsible for feeding, loving, nurturing, and shaping this little soul's life, none of which ends once they leave the nest. It's a lot of responsibility but something I'll be thankful for my whole life. My children have shaped my life as much as I have theirs.
As my daughter Lauren enters her first Mother's Day with my 5-month old grandson James, I can't help but feel nostalgic for when she was a child. Now, she had some questions for me, and I gave her the best answer a mother of three could give.
Here were some:
Does picking up a child every time he cries spoiling him/her?
Regardless of what "experts" say about this, I always picked you up if you were wailing. Children, especially ones as young as James, are helpless and need to feel heard. When they're that little, it's the only way they can communicate that something is wrong, and sometimes it's just that they need to know that someone cares about them. Often times there is a reason they are crying.
What was the funniest thing I did when I was a kid?
You were such a thoughtful, smart child which I think you took into adulthood. You had an imaginary friend and those toy trolls with the big funny colorful hair that you'd make villages for. When you had a friend over, you and your friend would make little snow villages for the trolls. I would sometimes watch and feel really lucky to be witness to such a whimsical daughter.
Do you remember what my favorite bedtime stories were?
Of course! I read many of them multiple times, Goodnight Moon, all the Dr. Seuss books which always made you laugh, and you got a real kick out of the Berenstain Bears stories. They're all available to buy and I think parents still read them to their children today.
What were you most anxious about with your first child?
If I had to narrow it down, it was leaving you all alone. What's important to me is that my child feels loved and cared for well. I didn't ever want any of you to feel neglected, which is why I hated the idea of having a sitter. Every time a mother is away from her young children is anxiety-provoking but having someone we trusted take care of you always helped.
I still remember all the activities you'd have us do. Gymboree and campaigning being two. Did you have special reasons for making sure we were always involved in different activities?
I wanted to start having you all socialize with those around you at around 9 months old with other kids and parents. I wanted you to be able to interact well and easily with people and the world around you. Only through a lot of exposure to the outside world would you learn how to live in it. All of you were all so attentive and took in everything around you. You weren't afraid.
How'd you always keep us in line, especially in public?
I tried to make sure I never talked down to you. I wanted there to be an honest dialogue between us, even as mom-to-child. As much as I made sure you tagged along with me to as many places as possible, and hated the idea of a sitter, moms have to let kids have some alone time to develop curiosities and imaginations. I wanted you to feel loved as much as I wanted to raise you to be independent thinkers.
To be sure, children act out. They have since the beginning of time, but for me, speaking clearly, directly, and trying to explain why you couldn't do something as opposed to just saying 'because you just can't!' made more sense. Also, children watch what you do, so I made sure I was always aware of how I talked to others as well as you. Mimicking is a popular thing for young kids.
What do you do when your child is teething?
No mother wants to hear her child crying and teething is a hard time, especially for a new mother. When you were teething, a doctor suggested miniature frozen bagels. Once I'd hand you the frozen bagel, I'd make sure to wait until the bagel was moist and unfrozen before taking it away from you. I didn't want you to accidentally swallow any! That was imperative. It works like those teething toys that you may see parents have in their freezer but they're not plastic which made me feel better.
When should I start feeding my child solid foods?
I started doing it around 3 months by putting a little cereal in with your bottle. Solid food helped you all sleep through the night for some reason. When you get your child to sleep through the night as a new mom, you don't ask why!
How to handle a picky eater?
I tried to have a laissez-faire tactic with feeding all of you. I don't like the idea of force-feeding kids, so I pretty much left you alone when you didn't want to eat something. I didn't make you feel shamed over it. It was important for me not to have fights at the dinner table; I wanted to make sure you kids thought of having a family dinner as a good thing.
You probably remember that at 3, you decided you didn't want to eat meat anymore. I remember trying to hide little pieces of hamburger in your pasta but you'd still find them and pick the pieces out with your fingers. I should've known I couldn't trick you even as a toddler. And you're still a vegetarian to this day.
Sometimes children know themselves at a young age and express that with food, toys, playtime, etc. You never want to break a child's personality, plus kids go through their phases. Nowadays, there are so many protein alternatives for children who decide they're done with meat, so my advice would be not to micromanage unless they don't want to eat anything, then, you worry.
What were my favorite toys?
Other than those funny trolls, you loved Care Bears. They were a lot more popular when you were a child then they are now, but all the kids loved them. Too much these days, parents use technology or video games to keep their children occupied, but I think that interferes with play and imagination. I think it stunts kids. I think technology is great and there are programs that teach language, and spelling, and things of that sort, but balancing it out with tangible toy friends is good for kids' motor skills.
After offering the best answers I could to her questions, I told my daughter that most importantly, she needs to enjoy her first Mother's Day. She (and all of you) deserve it! The best advice I could give Lauren was to go ahead and ask questions from the person who did it before her -- her mom.
Give your child love, love, and more love. One day, she (or he) may be asking you some questions of their own.
Happy Mother's Day to all mothers this Sunday!