Watch Out for the Better Mother

Sometimes, particularly in a public parenting setting, I will play the Better Mother. This is the mother who stands attentively outside a music audition, serenely listening to the notes emanating from within. She realizes the parent next to her said “Haydn,” not “Biden.” When her child emerges, the Better Mother isn’t sprawled on the floor playing Spelling Bee but instead greets him with encouraging commentary on the second movement. Also, she has brought a snack.

The Better Mother understands the lacrosse match (game?), cheering at appropriate moments in ways that hearten rather than humiliate. She knows the coach and chats amiably with team parents about various maneuverings on the field, nimbly expanding the conversation to school committees and after-school events. She did not bring a book.

The Better Mother ensures her kids have dress shoes that aren’t two sizes too small. She bakes. She reads official emails from school and camp from beginning to end. She knows which teachers your kids are supposed to get and whom to email if they aren’t gotten. She always brings a water bottle.

She is not the mother who didn’t know there was a school concert and has to sneak in as the lights go down. She knows which side of the field her child is playing on and possibly which position. She never texts at a stoplight with her child in the car.

She is empathic but not overbearing, affectionate but not treacly, wise but not smug, concerned but not anxious. She is the mother who knows danger but never checks in on a child for the wrong reason.

The Better Mother is, by definition, a better mother than I am.

She can be a total stranger spotted at the museum or a familiar face at a birthday party. Either way, she is a natural star in the play for which you haven’t quite memorized your lines.

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