Here’s Some Good Advice

We’ve all said it. We’ve all declared that we will never be like our parents when we grow up. We will be different, especially when we raise our own children. We will never say things like, “You will catch your death if you go to bed with wet hair,” or “You can’t go out tonight. It’s a school night.”

But then 30 years later it sounded like an echo in the room as I said the same things to my own child. How is it that we – the baby boomer, self-professed, free-love, can’t tell us anything hippie generation – wound up sounding just like our own mothers? Is it some sort of cruel joke life plays on us? Where did we fail?

We didn’t fail. We just had so many things ingrained into us by our moms and dads that it is next to impossible to escape the end result: we are a lot more like our parents than not.

When all the baby doctors urged us new moms not to feed our babies anything more than milk until they were at least 5 months old, my mother said my son was crying because he was still hungry. So at three months of age, he ate a few teaspoons of baby cereal. He also stopped crying and slept through the night. Thanks, Mom.

And why not take advice from a woman who raised 12 children and goes to Mass every day because she says she has a lot of people to pray for?

Then there are mothers-in-law. I never understood all the bad jokes about these women because I am so fortunate to have one of the best mothers-in-law God could make. She has two sons but welcomed me like the daughter she never had and for that, I thank her.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned from both of these mothers in my life is when to say nothing. That is not always easy for two strong women who care deeply about their children. But I’m sure there were occasions when they wanted to inject their opinions, but chose to step quietly around those situations. Again I am grateful.

I anticipate being a mother-in-law in the not-too-distant future. I hope I can master that same ability to say and do the right things by my son and my daughter-in-law.

Three of my four sisters had children before my own son entered the world so I learned a lot about mothering from them as well. They threw out the baby-raising books, rocked their infants to sleep and didn’t judge me when I called for advice. That’s a gift.

Mother’s Day can be a trying day for many women whose lives do not include children, whether by choice or circumstance. Some of the best mother-types I know have never given birth. They are women who dote on your children when you don’t. They somehow sprinkle their magic on a crabby toddler and bring about squeals of delight with their playfulness. They are extremely maternal and they don’t even know it. I’m glad to know women like them.

This Mother’s Day when my child cooks my dinner at his place for the first time, I promise I will not offer any advice … unless he asks. Have a happy Mom’s Day.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at