For years and years I have had a copy of this essay printed out and taped to the inside of a cabinet door.
I first read it in 2004 when I think it may have been run in the Washington Post. Or maybe a friend forwarded it to me via email. I have no idea.
Back then, I was basically sleepwalking with three kids four years old and under.
But I knew enough to let Anna Quindlen’s words echo in my mind any time I wished those long, laborious days away.
This week’s fab find is simply the essay. Because really? Everyone should read it.
I searched for it across the internets because a friend of mine had shared one of Anna Quindlen’s quotes, so I thought I’d share with her the essay that for many years was my lifeline.
Let me know what you think.
Here’s the skinny. . .
Teachmama Fab Finds: A Must-Read for Every Parent // Anna Quindlen’s ‘Goodbye Dr. Spock’ —
In some spots I’ve found it titled ‘On Being Mom’ and in others I’ve found it as ‘Goodbye Dr. Spock’.
Either way, all credit goes to the amazing Anna Quindlen:
If not for the photographs I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.
All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief.
I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost adults, two taller than me, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets, and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.
Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach. Berry Brazelton. Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages, dust would rise like memories.
What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations and the older parents at cocktail parties—what they taught me was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all. Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can only be managed with a stern voice and a time-out. One boy is toilet trained at three, his brother at two. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome.
Read the rest on Anna’s site: Anna Quindlen’s Good-bye Dr. Spock
But know that this is my favorite part:
(I bolded parts–not her.)
But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. How much influence did I really have over the personality of the former baby who cried only when we gave parties and who today, as a teenager, still dislikes socializing and crowds? When they were very small I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.
SO good, right? Such a great reminder.
Thank you, Anna Quindlen.
You can find the whole essay and more in her book, Loud and Clear.
Want a few more fab finds?
fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. This small percentage of money helps offset the costs of hosting this blog, which helps me keep this content free for you. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy.