Mothering in Perspective

By Mia Geiger
Web Exclusive

Little girl misbehavingI was at a meeting of a local nursing mothers’ group, trying to listen to what the speaker had to say about keeping the spark alive after having children, and my 16-month-old daughter, Eliana, started screeching.

I tried to distract her with all my old standbys: a crayon, a pretzel, a sippy cup, and my secret weapon – a tortilla chip. Nothing worked.

Meanwhile the speaker was trying to get a point across and 12 women were trying to hear her. I turned to the mom next to me and, sort of apologizing, mumbled something about Eliana being antsy.

The woman smiled and said, “She’s singing.”

It was like someone flipped the switch in my brain. Here I was: embarrassed, anxiety-ridden and apologetic. And here was this other mom, calm as can be, smiling at my daughter.

I wasn’t smiling at Eliana and I certainly wasn’t thinking such a pleasant thought. I was thinking: I’m tired … , please behave … , just a few more minutes … .

The woman’s comment got to me. It made me see how what we think is everything. I became so wrapped up in how the situation looked, how my daughter was making noise when she “shouldn’t be,” and how maybe I looked like I was unable to “control” my child.

Why wasn’t I focusing on the one thing I needed to at the time – the needs of my daughter? Why didn’t I think that she was “singing?”

It’s hard being a mom. And it’s hard being a child. We take our sons and daughters with us to different places and we pray they will “behave.” We ask them to “be a good girl” at the mall, when all they want to do is jump out of the stroller and run into the toy store. We ask them to “be a good boy” at the museum, when all they want to do is squeal with delight at all the new sights.

We take them to the supermarket and ask them not to touch anything, yet we walk down aisles with colorful fruit, boxes with cheerful cartoon characters, and of course the checkout line with impulse buys that suddenly become impulse touches. We take them to restaurants and ask them not to drop any food, but who can resist pushing a piece of cereal off the corner to see where it will go?

When we were starting to babyproof our house, articles told us to get down low on the ground so we could see things from a baby’s perspective. When I did that, everything looked big. It also looked new, interesting and fun. Quite different from my usual perspective.

What we think is everything. Maybe the old adage about the glass being half-full or half-empty is still around because it’s true. Maybe my friend is right when she tells me the one thing she knows is that if you want to be happy, think of others, and if you want to be unhappy, think of yourself.

That day, after the meeting, I vowed to think about my daughter’s feelings ahead of mine. And to think about what is going on in a different way. Sure, I hope she doesn’t start to wail during a religious service or during dinner out or at another parents meeting. But if she does, I’ll handle it without apologizing.

Actually, I hope she does squeal with glee when she sees a well-loved friend, no matter where we are. I hope she does laugh loudly when something is funny. And I hope she does cry to let me know something is wrong.

Because that will be music to my ears.

Mia Geiger is a freelance writer in the Philadelphia area.