I lay in a hospital bed, and the doctor placed my brand-new son into my arms. As I held him close and stared in wonder at this tiny new life, the gravity of being totally responsible for another person settled in with an enormous weight. I could hear my mom’s voice in my mind, “Support the head, hold him close, let him feel you breathe.” Words from my youth when she taught me how to comfort my crying baby cousin. The first lesson I had in taking care of a baby.
When I brought my son home from the hospital, my mom came to stay for a few weeks. She taught me how to give a newborn sponge bath, how to burp him, how to tell whether his cries were from hunger or gas.
She taught me everything I needed to know, countless lessons in taking care of my son.
The first time my son was sick, of course, I called my mom. She told me what medicine to use, how high a fever could go before I could officially worry, and what to do for his cough. I sat in the bathroom with him, the hot shower filling the room with steam, and rocked him as his coughing eased. A memory surfaced of my mom rocking me in a hot steamy room as a cough wracked my own tiny chest. Although I remembered the cough, the memory wasn’t about that—it was about her holding me close, comforting me, taking care of me.
When the toddler years hit us, there were tantrums and battles and testing of limits. Everything I said was answered with “No!” My mother’s oft-repeated mantra saw me through it: Pick your battles. As a mother myself now, of course, there were rules to be set and directions to be followed, but not everything was important enough to fight him on. It was a lesson she taught me when I was older, when my teenage self saw injustice at every turn, but it was also the lesson I needed to maintain a balance of discipline and harmony in my home.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I worried about how my son would adjust to having a sibling. I told this to my mom and her response was “A mother’s heart grows for every new child, and there will always be enough of you to give to them.”
With that, I knew it would be okay.
When my daughter revealed herself to be a wild, independent little thing, and I worried about how best to parent her, my mother shored me up, reminding me that I was the same way. I remembered battling with her, the anger I felt when she told me to pick up my toys or get ready for school, but I also remembered her resolute calmness and the way she stood firm as I swirled in chaos around her. I did my best to emulate her unflappable demeanor, learning yet another lesson in parenting from my mother.
When my son is up on a late sleepless night, worry and fear keeping him from rest, I hear my mother’s words leaving my own mouth as I advise him, “Pray on it. Give your worries to God and trust that He’ll take care of it.” Taking this advice, we both find peace and sleep.
When a big decision needs to be made or a difficult obstacle overcome, my mom is my moral compass and most trusted advisor. She walks me through the issue and helps guide me to figure out the solution. She doesn’t overstep, doesn’t insist she knows best, but helps me find the path for myself. And I know that someday, this is the model I want to follow when my own kids are big enough to make their own choices—hopefully, asking me for advice along the way.