Go Ask Your Mother

I’m extremely lucky – and grateful - to have a child development professional for a parent. My father’s work has been enormously influential and helpful to countless families and professionals across the world. He has spent decades treating, researching and writing about children. That said, nine times out of ten when I call home and I want to talk to someone about kids, I ask to speak with my mom.  Even when I would ask my father for advice about children the typical refrain was “Go ask your mother”. My mother raised five children with extremely different gifts and needs and she raised them well.  I’ve never seen anyone more able to sync up with a baby – any baby. It’s not something you could ever teach, or even properly describe. It’s nearly magical. My father helped me learn how to think about children, but my mother made me good at being with them. When I am with a child, my body language, my phrasing, my voice and tendencies are all an expression of her own behavior with me and my siblings. The way I try to explain a brain – sure, that’s all my dad, but when I put a baby to bed that’s my mom.  It’s amazing – and sometimes eerie- to catch myself so seamlessly enact these patterns. I used to worry that I was “becoming” my mother, but now I hope I can be half as good.  I spent some time asking her about her experiences parenting.

KP “Why do you think you enjoyed parenting so much?”

BP “It gave me a lot of confidence that I figured it out. It helped enormously that I had a GREAT pediatrician and he helped me make all five of you great sleepers.”

KP “What made him a great pediatrician”

BP “ He gave me information, support and perspective. He would say things like ‘the only trouble this baby is having is with you – your job is to enjoy them’ when you have better sleepers everything else is easier.”

KP “Did you always know it would be easy or I guess at least enjoyable for you?”

BP “ In the beginning there was this sense like ‘oh I’m going to get this baby and plug it into my life’ well no you’re not.  People would try to tell me that I would have to adjust my life to the baby and not the baby to my life I just assumed that I would do it better than them, and I was wrong. It’s humbling like nothing else, I sat there with my law degree thinking I could figure it out then they come and it’s like WHAT THE HELL! When you can’t figure out what’s wrong or how to fix it it’s awful. I didn’t realize how much hard work it was – or more accurately how much of it was just hard work. 90% of it is hard work and then you’ll have just moment in your day where you and your child connect and you think ‘I could do this again’ and your dad always loved having a baby around so it was never a hard sell to ask for another one.”


KP “What was surprising about it?”

BP “I thought it would be more instinctual – the learning curve is huge and sharp and every baby was different.  The first one made me feel so competent, because he had such an easy disposition. Then the next baby was totally different – hard to soothe, even the pregnancy was harder. Maybe that was because I had two, maybe it was because I was working more, who knows,”

KP “ Was I the best baby?”

BP “You were always smiling and a great sleeper and you never cried. It worried me actually, I thought you might have brain damage you were so easy. You were just this fat happy Buddha. I tried to get your father to take you in for a brain scan.”

KP “oh come on!”

BP “it’s true! You were darling but suspiciously quiet”

*for the record this IS true that they were concerned but I had a perfectly normal brain*

KP “Ok, let’s move on. Do you ever wish you had gone back to work?”

BP “I can’t speak for other women but having a lot of children suited me. A lot of women of my generation accomplished so much but the truth is this was right for me. I don’t know why but it suited me. It worked for us. We wanted kids crawling all over us.” 

KP “You always seemed like you knew what you were doing, what helped it come together?”

BP “When you decide to lean into it and let it be messy and accept that you’ll have a different path than you’ve ever had in your life. You just go with it. And you’re tired and cranky and you just be tired and cranky and that’s that.”

KP “Did Dad ever try to use the stuff he did at work to influence the way you guys parented?”

BP “Oh no, if anything it was the other way around – being with you all informed his work.”

KP “when did you feel like you really figured it out?”

BP “ The more your baby can tell that you’re enjoying them the better you’re doing as a parent. I just loved being close to you all. Like last night when Grant (grandson) crawled into bed with me and fell asleep – I don’t know if it’s right, I don’t care anymore – I just know it feels heavenly. The other thing I would say about parenting is that when you stop fighting being with the child, by that I mean paying attention to only what they are saying or doing, even if it’s only for a moment, being truly present,  it connects you and it feels wonderful.  A million of those moments are the glue and the gift.”

KP “Has it ever been hard to love us all the time?”

BP “Here’s what’s true: if you were attached to your child the way you were when they were 3 you’d never let them go to college. Intellectually you know it’s healthy that they say “I want to do it myself” and you’re also happy because it’s exhausting to love like that all the time. But it’s also the turning point and that can be bittersweet. There is a natural evolution to the way love looks and feels. ”

KP “What would do you wish more parents could understand or appreciate?”

BP “Sometimes your children will take you places you don’t want to go, but instead of fighting it you’ll see yourself grow so much more than you would have imagined. Everyone has an idea of what they want for their child – but most of the time that’s not what your child wants, or could maybe even do. You can’t have one expectation of success. If you walk away from your ego a bit and let them grow into themselves it will be the best thing for both of you.”

KP “Thanks mom”


What's your perspective on leaning in to the "messiness" of motherhood? Do you find if you enjoy the moments and are truly present - are you a happier mom? Please share below!