8: Show, Don’t Tell

8: Show, Don’t Tell

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Show, Don’t Tell

Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember, you’re the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside.

~Rachel Wolchin

During my first pregnancy, my mother couldn’t wait to meet her new grandchild and help me while I adjusted to motherhood. But to her great disappointment, I told her I wanted time to bond with the baby before she flew down to help.

Always the headstrong and independent daughter, I wanted to do things my way, and I asked her to wait a couple of weeks before she visited. She graciously honored that request, and after her two-week ban, Mom arrived with her suitcase brimming with baby gifts and handmade blankets. She oohed and aahed over baby Emily and held her as much as possible, even jumping up to respond when she cried in the middle of the night. I almost felt like I was in a competition to get to Emily first.

Mom also did the laundry, put fresh sheets on my bed, and cooked dinner every night. I appreciated all her help, but I was already feeling pretty competent at mothering. After a weeklong visit, I was happy to pack her off to the airport and have my baby to myself again.

A month later, it was a different story. My “easy” newborn had developed colic and cried for hours on end. I no longer felt like a competent mother. In fact, I was overwhelmed. I made a tearful call to my mother to see if she would come back to help. She immediately booked a flight and came to my rescue.

Now I was overjoyed to have someone jump up in response to my crying baby — there was plenty of crying baby to go around. Mom bundled up Emily in the stroller and walked her around the block so that I could have quiet breaks. She walked the floors with Emily while my husband and I went out for a quick bite to eat. She accompanied me to the pediatrician and helped me implement the bland diet he recommended for me so that my breast milk would irritate the baby less. Just having my mother there helped me stay calm and not feel crazy or inept.

In other words, Mom was a lifesaver. This time when she left, I was a lot more reluctant to see her go. But she assured me that she’d come back if I needed her. Luckily, like a textbook case, the colic disappeared at three months, and I had my easy baby again.

Although we lived 500 miles apart, Mom and I visited as often as we could to make sure Emily would grow up knowing her grandmother. And my mother continued to help me, filling in occasionally as overnight babysitter so that my husband and I could have a weekend away. While it would have been nice to have Mom right down the street, we made do, and I appreciated all of her selfless support and love.

Two years later, when I was pregnant with my second baby, Mom again planned to come to help. When I called her from the hospital to let her know that she had a new grandson, she was thrilled, but when I asked her when she would arrive, she said she would have to check her calendar. She had a couple of appointments that week.

Apparently, Mom hadn’t anticipated the 180-degree change in my attitude about needing her help. After a surprised pause, I said, “Mom, I don’t think you understand. I have a newborn in my arms and a toddler at home. I’m not leaving this hospital until you get here!” She was on a flight the next day.

While I had resisted my mom’s help, wanting to be a mother in my own way, the reality was that she was there for me in whatever way I needed, whenever I needed it. She let me have my space and independence when that’s what I wanted, and she came to my rescue when that’s what I needed. She did it all graciously, too, with love and selflessness. Mom didn’t tell me how to be a good mother; she simply showed me how.

~Marjorie Woodall

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