One soon-to-be grandmother's advice: Don't sweat the small stuff

From early diets to first words, moms should resist the urge to do everything right

December 16, 2010|Susan Reimer

Years ago, I was waiting to give a speech to a group of high-powered mothers in Ohio when a conversation caught my attention.

You know this type of mother: a woman who has left the corporate or professional world to stay home with the children. The kind of capable, organized, energetic woman who will be chairing every committee from now until her kids are grown and out of the house.

Anyway, I was waiting to take the podium when I overheard a mother behind me complaining that her pediatrician had not been specific when recommending she feed her toddler a "serving" of grapes.

"I mean," I heard her say, "is that four grapes or 12 grapes? And what if you cut the grapes in half so the baby doesn't choke? How many then? What exactly is a serving of grapes?"

My kids were in middle school at the time. And I wanted to turn to this excitable young mother and say, "Relax. It turns out not to matter."

By the time we meet again on these pages, dear reader, I may well be a grandmother. And if there is any wisdom I hope to pass along to the baby's rookie parents — my son and his wife — it would be this: "Relax, because it turns out not to matter."

I was one of those excitable young mothers with my first-born. I wanted to do everything right, and I think I made us both nervous wrecks.

My second arrived just two years later, and with babies that young and that close in age, you really don't have much time to be a perfectionist. And I think it did us all a world of good.

Anyway, I hope my grandchild's parents will listen to me when I tell them that it doesn't matter when the baby turns over on its own, or whether it crawls backward instead of forward, or whether the baby does not bother to crawl at all.

It doesn't matter if your baby arrives with a funny-shaped head or a crooked foot. I had one of each, and the baby with the funny-shaped head grew up to be handsome and smart, and the one with the crooked foot took ballet and played lacrosse.

First words don't matter. (Well, they might. My son's first word was "helicopter," and he grew up to fly one.) Potty training doesn't matter, either. When they realize all their friends are going in the toilet, they will want to, too — no matter how many stories you have read to them from the bathroom floor.

They all eventually learn to read. It isn't a race. They all eventually learn to tie their shoes and button their shirts. You don't have to drill them on these skills. They all eventually agree to wear deodorant in middle school, although that may take longer than you like.

My son lived an entire academic year on a school lunch of pepperoni sandwiches with barbecue sauce. It turned out not to matter. He cut holes in his sweat suit during art class and apparently that didn't matter, either, because he would one day win awards for his drawings.

They wanted us to send my daughter to private school to better exploit her promise. We did not do for one what we had not done for the other. And it turned out not to matter. To either one of them.

A lot of things do matter, of course. The love and protection of parents, a family commitment to learning, a strong sense of empathy and justice, snuggling under blankets while driving around looking at Christmas lights.

These things all matter, but it turns out that the number of grapes doesn't matter. And neither do lots of other things that seemed so important at the time.

    Baltimore Sun Articles
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.