A Mom’s Adventures in Role Reversal

November 8, 2019

Pregnancy casts every woman into the role of teacher.

We’re suddenly obsessed with the skills, lessons and values that we need to impart to the child we’re about to bring into the world. We’ve never really thought to tally them before, but our mind is now an ever-growing list of Things I Must Teach My Child.

I’ll continue adding to the list joyfully until the day I die, for it is a sublime privilege to guide a fellow human being through the journey of life.

But as I contemplate the upcoming birthday of my amazing daughter, I am reflecting not on what I have taught her through the years, but what she has taught me.

Where to begin. . . 

Well, she teaches me new things every day, so my mind lacks the bandwidth to enumerate her gifts to me. But here are some things that come to mind:

She taught me it’s possible to cradle a colicky infant for hours at a time without losing the ability, even for a split second, to marvel at her beauty.

She taught me that no tip or gimmick will necessarily cure colic. Sometimes a girl just needs to cry it out.

She taught me that 3 a.m. — the time of night she most typically called for me as a toddler — is when the planet is most magically and wondrously aligned with the stars.

She taught me that if exposed to teeny, mushed-up pieces of real-people food at a very young age, infants will turn into culinary snobs and never go back to Gerber’s.

She taught me, as she accompanied me to the restaurants I reviewed for a local newspaper when she was a child, that it is possible to be a chicken finger connoiseur.

She taught me that the dip she always requested for her chicken fingers — ranch — has two syllables when uttered with her lovely, soft-spoken and lightly accented voice.

She taught me, when I l honked impatiently at another car in traffic, to imagine that the driver was her beloved Mima, who couldn’t hear or see very well but was doing her best.

She taught me that when one stumbles during a piano recital, nothing shows more poise than to pause briefly, take a deep breath, and start over.

She taught me that when starting a piano piece over and playing it flawlessly the second time around, a mother’s heart can feel as if it might literally burst with pride.

She taught me that an unerring instinct for empathy can turn a soccer game into a why-don’t-we-just-share-the-ball moment of grace.

She taught me that doing handstands and flipping one’s hair into George Washington hairstyles in the pool never gets old.

She taught me that it can take an otherwise-observant mother a full three months to glean that her tween, who was playing with Barbies just a split second ago, has a crush on a boy.

She taught me that when a teen daughter’s taste proves to be far superior to her mother’s, Afore-Mentioned Mother must defer to her daughter’s taste from that point on.

She taught me that a college class in InDesign can be a bee-yotch.

She taught me that you can laugh yourself silly even over tragic books by de Balzac while cramming for an English Lit exam.

She taught me that going to a movie is kind of pointless unless you poke holes in the plot as you watch it.

She taught me that I never want to drink cows’ milk again . . . like, ever.

She taught me to share her passion for causes like animal rights and environmentalism, but mostly to stand in awe of her selflessness and commitment.

She taught me if you want to pick a great city and go start a new life in it, well, duh, you just do it . . . and somehow make it look effortless.

She taught me that a heart can hold more love than I ever thought possible.

Happy birthday, my beautiful girl. Keep those lessons coming.

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© 2020 Christine Hurley Deriso