My sister recently asked me this, and I spent the better part of a morning lingering over it. It’s not often someone asks something this optimistic, and I was flattered and humbled by the subtext that she felt I had done something right. Further, it’s hard to discern what’s worked versus what we can chalk up to her innate personality, and any of the responses I worked up felt oddly smug, self-congratulatory. (Why am I so much more comfortable soliciting input on my struggles and questions as a mom (ahem)?)
After some time, I offered three replies.
First, I feel I’ve done a good job raising an adaptable girl, one who was oddly calm amidst the uprooting of our lives last fall and one who generally tolerates changes to her routine with aplomb. This is as much a benefit to her as it is to us: it has enabled us to live our lives with less stress. I believe we achieved this by sticking to a routine rather than a hard-and-fast schedule, by rolling with the punches, by following her cues. Sometimes her nap is pushed back an hour. Sometimes dinner is at four. Sometimes we talk loudly with friends outside her nursery while she is sleeping, just a pocket door away — because there is nowhere else for us to sit in our apartment and we need to live our lives, too. All in all, I think we have cultivated a resilient, independent little lass who is a part of our family rather than the epicenter of it. Maybe that sounds cruel to say, but I’ve always worried Mr. Magpie and I would erase ourselves and our interests if we changed everything to accommodate mini. We’re not infallible, of course; there are still times we find ourselves sprinting home from dinner, or declining an invitation because it doesn’t jive with her routine, or, you know, cursing ourselves for buying train tickets that encroached on her nap time. But we have worked at this, and I think it has paid off.
Second, I feel I’ve done well at raising a bookworm. We read every single day, multiple times a day, and we have since the day I brought her home from the hospital. She will spend a good portion of her afternoon turning pages on her own, pointing out the animals and shapes. I have been hellbent on this. (Some of our favorite books here, here, and here.) I have also found books to be a good way to give her a sense of autonomy, as I will often present her with two or three book options: “Which one?” And she will point with her stubby finger and her borderline Italian accent: “DEEES one.”
Third, I feel I have avoided coddling her, especially when it comes to routine tumbles and bumps. I am often astounded at how quickly she picks herself up, dusts her hands off, and goes back to playing. It was hard at first to bite my tongue but as long as I don’t react, she doesn’t react. I’m proud of this, proud of her persistence — and the same holds true for activities and tasks that she is struggling with. It is so hard to watch her fumbling to take the top off of something or straining to fit a puzzle piece into its spot, but I have learned to sit back and watch. Maria Montessori once wrote: “Never do for a child what she believes she can do on her own.” I have taken this to heart and have tried my best to encourage her to do things herself — put on her own shoes, open a drawer, fit the pieces into a shape sorter. Altogether, I think I have done a passable job at quietly observing her rather than intervening.
All of these are heavily caveated because there are so many occasions where I fall short of these aspirations — but, in sum, I find myself to be fairly consistent and intentional about them. I walked around for the next few days mentally preening these replies, wondering if they were accurate or self-indulgent or entirely beside the point. As I laid down last night, I thought: probably none of this matters next to the bigger (biggest?) truth of motherhood, which is that I have loved her unconditionally and fully since she was born.
What about you? What have you done right as a mother?
+Loving this liberty print dress.
+Mini has been very into using our broom, but, mid-sweep, has also nearly knocked over a lamp, a vintage ginger jar I inherited from my grandparents that is probably worth more than our entire living room, and a glass vase. I promptly ordered this set for her.
+Love this corduroy romper for the holidays.
+Had to have this ballet slipper sweater for mini. SO CUTE.