Grieving My Mom Changed My Parenting Style

I Used To Be A Chill Mom — Because I Had To Be

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Courtesy of Rachel Levy Lesser

I used to be a really calm mom. I stopped breastfeeding my son when he was three weeks old even after our pediatrician laid out the research to me on the benefits of breast milk related to an infant’s immune system, growth and development. I “Ferberized” my son when he was six weeks old one night by accident when I forgot to turn on the baby monitor, and I didn’t hear him crying from his room on a different floor in our house. When my son was five months old, he rolled off the changing table on my watch one evening after bath time. I inspected him by sight and sound. He looked and seemed okay to me. He even laughed that night — perhaps at me?

My baby daughter never had a real afternoon nap. I couldn’t bother to let her take a proper nap as she had to be dragged around town with me or our babysitter to pick up my son wherever he was or go on a walk in her stroller so I could get some fresh air, clear my head and sometimes talk to a friend on the phone as I pushed her along. I once took my baby daughter to see my son in his nursery school play in a wet diaper and no socks, and it was the dead of the winter. I didn’t have a spare diaper with me or an extra pair of socks. She smiled throughout the entire play, sitting on my lap on the floor of the makeshift theater room in the school.

It’s not that I didn’t worry at all back then. It’s just that I didn’t worry about my kids; I worried about my mother, in the last few months of her long battle with cancer when my first baby was born.

It’s not that I didn’t worry at all back then. It’s just that I didn’t worry about my kids; I worried about my mother. She was in the last few months of her long battle with cancer when my son, my first baby, was born. I breezed through my son’s baby checkups, signing the immunization paperwork without even really reading it. I took copious notes at my mother’s doctors’ appointments, trying as hard as I could to get a clear understanding of her treatments and asking questions wondering if I (the girl who never took a science course after AP Biology in 12th grade) could somehow find a treatment or a medication to save her life.

I couldn’t. She died when my son was nine months old.

The mothering part to my babies, who grew into toddlers and then little kids, seemed so easy to me back then. I’m not sure if it was because I was focused on other things, but I suspect that may be part a big part of it. I was amazed at the other mothers who obsessed over feeding schedules, bedtimes, baby gym classes and tummy time. I didn’t have time for any of that. I had to miss my mother, to keep her memory alive, to make dinner for my widowed father, to host the holidays and be the glue in my forever-changed extended family. I also had to maintain my close friendships that became increasingly important to me after losing my mom, have a happy well-adjusted grownup life with my husband, and also work and maintain my career.

Courtesy of Rachel Levy Lesser

I don’t think I am a calm mother any more, now 15 years since I stopped breastfeeding and accidentally Ferberized my kid one night. I seem to worry about the big kid stuff more so than I did with the little kid stuff. I am well aware of the age-old adage “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems,” but I think there is something more to that for me.

I find myself wondering all too often how my big kids’ lives will turn out. Have I made the right decisions about the schools they are attending? Have I properly guided them to make good choices of their own when I am no longer there to be part of those decision making processes? Am I present enough in their lives now? Am I too involved in their lives now? When I am worrying about the not-so-calm mom thought of the day, I tell a friend or my husband or my father or anyone who will listen that I just don’t want screw up my kids. That doesn’t seem too much to wish for, right?

And then I remind myself about how far my kids have come since those early “calm mom” mothering days. My son, who only got three weeks of breast milk in him, is allergic to nothing. He has slept through the night, freakishly soundly, since the night I forgot to turn on the baby monitor. His changing table fall has not seemed to affect his thirst for sports and current events knowledge, nor his all-around even keeled nature.

I was amazed at the other mothers who obsessed over feeding schedules, bedtimes, baby gym classes and tummy time. I didn’t have time for any of that.

My daughter has a ton of energy. I don’t think she has ever taken a nap, save one or two late night long car ride homes. She happily joins me on walks now by my side, or lunch or shopping dates with my friends and/or hers. She also enjoys going to see plays with me now, although she no longer sits in my lap. She is also really good company.

Perhaps not worrying so much back in the day has paid off? Or maybe it’s just that my kids were destined to become who they are becoming? Whatever the case may be, it seems that the not worrying/calm mom part is the way to go. It’s just harder than it looks. And I really don’t want to screw up my kids. That’s all.