Foss: Learning about my mother, through my son

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I haven’t turned into my mother. 

But sometimes I sound like her. 

“Are you eating candy?” I ask my two-year-old son. “If you’re eating candy, sit down.” 

I used to mock my mother’s fear that her children would choke to death while eating hard candy. Now that I’m a parent, I relate to her terror. “Toddlers choke to death all the time,” I inform my husband, when he hands our son a piece of candy cane. “Are you sure you want to give him that?” 

My sisters and I like to call my mother VOD, for voice of doom. 

Lately, though, I’ve been sounding a bit VOD-like myself. 

“Be careful,” I say. “You don’t want to fall in the pond.” 

“Hold my hand,” I say. “You don’t want to get hit by a car.” 

“Watch where you’re going,” I say. “You don’t want to run into a tree.” 

Being a mother is hard, tiring, worrying and sometimes scary. It’s also a joy. Every day brings gifts, sometimes literally. 

Now that it’s spring, my son likes to present me with flowers when he comes in from playing outside. 

If you had told me five years ago that my heart would melt every single time this happened, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it does, because getting flowers from my son just never gets old. He usually grabs them out of my hands moments later, hurls them on the floor and stomps on them, but it’s still very endearing. 

My son likes giving me little gifts. 

But his greatest gift is something he’s not yet aware of: He’s deepened my understanding of my own mother. 

I now comprehend why she worried so much and worked so hard to protect us, while also giving us the freedom to explore the world and grow. 

Maintaining a healthy balance between keeping your child safe and giving them the space they need to be themselves isn’t easy, and my mother was actually pretty good at it.

What I finally grasp, after all this time, is how difficult it can be to let your child make their halting way toward greater independence. Just watching my son navigate a staircase can give me heart palpitations. But I can see that he’s getting better at it, and finding his way. 

Growing up, I thought my mother knew everything. 

But I now understand that she was sometimes just as confused, weary and uncertain as I often feel, which has given me confidence. 

It’s been refreshing to realize that even the best parents are muddling through things the best they can, baffled, at times, by temper tantrums and unpredictable mood swings.

My son can be wild at bedtime, demanding story after story, bouncing up and down, shouting and laughing, even doing somersaults across his bed. When I described this behavior to my parents, they were completely unsympathetic. 

“Sounds like someone we know,” my mother said. “It used to take hours to put you to bed!” 

I now recognize that I tested my mother’s patience just as much as my son tests mine – and that she, like me, didn’t always know what to do about it. In many ways, she’s a model for maintaining patience and poise when dealing with a difficult child. 

Everything I’m going through, my mother’s been through already.

My son is outside now, no doubt fetching me flowers that he’ll later destroy. 

He’s taught me a lot, and I’m sure he’ll teach me more in the years to come. 

His biggest, most humbling lesson is that I’m a lot like my own mother – and that’s not at all a bad thing.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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