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How do you learn to be a good parent?

August 4, 2014


My mother holding me as an infant in 1951.

When did my daughters learn to be such good mothers?

We were planning to stay at a friend’s guest house on a trip to my home area for my mother’s 90th birthday celebration. (More on that later; also note I’ve been on a short blog vacation and totally offline for the duration.)


“Do they have a rocker?” one of my daughters asked.

Flash back 30 years when I would have asked the same question of a vacation spot, wondering how I would put my baby to bed or to nap without a rocker?

My daughter’s question made me flush with happiness. While this child enjoyed children and childlike play all her life, she had never been particularly baby-struck or begging to hold other people’s babies. But both my grandsons, born September and November of 2013, have their moms caught tightly in their little fists, the hearts of their mothers snagged forever.

Of course I wouldn’t have it any other way. But how did this happen? What course did they take? How did they—how does any mother—learn Baby Love 101?P1050924

Our daughters Doreen, Tanya and Michelle, in an earlier time.

It’s a crash course for all of us as new parents.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the transformation of their fathers, from two regular guys doing guy things while also taking on their share (and more) of household tasks along with full time jobs, gradually and suddenly immersed as pappas. Awesome pappas whose little ones reach out or smile with pure joy or crawl to them.P1050117

Son-in-law Brian with our grandson James.

It is partly instinct. The mother house finch currently feeding and ferociously guarding her four baby birds (with the help of a mate) in my fern on the front porch did not read any blog post or book or speak to any doctor or lactation consultant on how to feed and mother her babies.JamesTuckeredOut2

James, Michelle and Brian on our front porch earlier this year.

It is partly friends and family, observing over many years how proud and protective moms and dads become once thrust into the role of Mom and Dad.

It is a lot of reading of books and of children, watching their own offspring for clues and sounds that hint of frustration and happiness, pain and contentment, sharp hunger and satiation.

And maybe oh maybe they learned a little bit from me. From us. Maybe we weren’t half bad as parents, for them to turn out to be so dedicated, so loving, so committed to doing the right thing for their little ones that it makes me think maybe we did something right too. Maybe that’s what it’s all about anyway: we all bumble through the early days, weeks and even years, learning as we go, but somehow that deep love that comes along with the child, tunes us in to have their best interests at heart. They in turn can take heart knowing their blundering will likely still serve their children well.P1040765

Son-in-law Jon with our grandson Sam, plus Aunt Doreen.

And this rich love is not born from the act of labor and delivery—it comes no matter how you get your children.


Me and daughter Tanya, circa 1984, mother of Sam, above.

As people of faith we believe that love comes from God and in fact God IS love. Right? Love, instinct, nurture, training/environment and generous heapings of patience to get you through the toughest nights or longest days which sometimes look fearsome, bleak and even at times boring—when you are waiting for them to grow up when you’re not so tied down.

The gift of love—with all its challenges—is rewound for a new generation.


What has surprised you about parenting? Or about being a grandparent?


Earlier post about becoming a grandma.


Also read my weekly Another Way Newspaper Column here or subscribe.



From → Faith, Family Life

  1. I love this walk down memory lane as a mother and grandmother, one that matches mine in spirit if not in specific detail. I especially appreciated the phrase about the fist grip and the heart pull–wonderful. Not much has surprised me about being a parent or grandparents except that the truth of my mother’s statement all during childhood (even adulthood) has come to pass: “You’ll never miss your mother till she’s gone!” Now I am experiencing this full force.

    Because you were on a brief blog break, you may have missed a post about retirement that features a reference to one of your pieces:

  2. One thing my girls have said is that they’re learning all the things I/we did for them–things they never never thought of. I’m sure you’ve heard this too. Same way with missing your mom–I’m sure I won’t know the full force of that until she is gone. And thanks for the link. 🙂

  3. Caro-Claire Wiles permalink

    I really enjoyed this writing and the reminiscences of your mother and family and your transitions from daughter, to mom to grandmother.
    Thank you again and blessings to you r mother on her 90th birthday milestone

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Caro-Claire. The opportunity to be a grandmother feels like a full circle but I’m ever aware that not all of us get to experience this, so I’m very grateful. Take care, Melodie

    • Caro-Claire Wiles permalink

      We too are very grateful to have been the grandparents to 13 grandchildren (The youngest now nearly 16) but we are still well enough to enjoy our 5 soon to be 6 great grandchildren. Bless you and your family as you watch your little ones grow

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