I still rock Ezzy to sleep every night. We have a fairly elaborate ceremony at this point that has evolved as a way to avoid her getting upset and holding her breath, retching, and/or not falling asleep for hours beyond her bedtime. Most nights it takes 45 minutes to an hour. Sometimes, when she is particularly touchy, it expands into hours.

Although I prefer that it not take three hours, I really like my time holding her. Once she is asleep but not ready to be put down in the crib, sometimes I play Hearts or text or read a book on my phone…lately the light has been disturbing her so, I have been opting to sit back and think. I am not sure if it is prayer or meditation or just relaxing…perhaps it is all of these things. Whatever it is tonight I found myself thinking about mothering.

More specifically, I found myself thinking about my mother.

I realized that while this blog is so much about mothering, I haven’t written much about my most important model for mothering…and I wondered why that might be.

It occurred to me that, I suppose, like many mothers/daughter duos, we are so hopelessly intertwined that it is difficult to stop and look at her in this way–as separate from me. But, as we can all see in my obsession with writing about Esmé, who is not so far from actually physically being a part of me, that really is no excuse not to tell you all more about my mom.

My mom and I are like a perfectly mis-matched pair…we are simultaneously so alike and so different that there can be no question that we belong to each other. Our love for each other is so unconditional that we feel free to push each others buttons (although this happens less and less these days). We have infuriatingly different relationships with time. Our tastes in many things can be so opposite that occasionally they wrap around to the same ideal. I am rigid in all the places she is flexible…She is about big thinking while I am about details.

But, at the same time, we share a tremendous curiosity (bordering on obsession) with the activities of our lives. We are both passionate. We are both something beyond determined, such that when our focus is set it is usually best to move out of the way. And we both have a strong internal sense of justice, a contrary reaction to bullies, and a desire to prove people wrong whenever they think something can’t be done.

My mother doesn’t do things on a small scale. She gardens. But she doesn’t just “garden”–her gardens are elaborate living creations that are never “finished.” They have personalities, needs. Something must always be moved, adjusted, added…all spring when I call in the morning, I’ll be on my first cup of coffee and she will be just coming in from the garden, having already been up for hours…since daylight. And she’ll be busy scrubbing the dirt from her fingers in time to make it to court.

It never fails to make me smile.

Mom is a talented baker…like her gardens, her baking blossoms into some kind of extension of her…she manages to bake several things at once, rarely misstepping, all while doing ten other things. She bakes with such ease that I have been terribly disappointed as an adult at how difficult baking can be…and how rarely something comes out perfectly.

In becoming a mother myself, I have realized that the most important thing I have learned from my mother is to be fiercely defensive of my child. I can easily recall several times that my mother came to my defense, unable to see me as having done anything wrong, even when I had, in fact, been in the wrong. It isn’t that she thinks I am perfect (far from it), but that she is one person who I know will stand by my side no matter the storm. In the end I have never questioned that no matter the choice, if it is important, my mom will chose me.

Everyone deserves someone like this.

As a result of being cared for in this way, it has come so naturally to me to be in this position with Esmé…it has made it easy to stand up for her, to be her voice, to protect her. And my own mother’s unwavering belief in me has made it possible to do these things without giving in to losing other parts of myself…without giving up on school or the dreams I have for The Cute Syndrome or the hopes I have for my family’s future.

And when I think about what I want to give Esmé as her mother, it is precisely what my mother has given to me:

I know my mother sees me as the best version of me–meaning that she doesn’t overlook my short-comings or the places I need to be pushed, but still thinks I am pretty darn great…and it has the effect of making me want to be all the things she sees in me…all while knowing if I fall short she will be right there.


  • Hi Hillary! So…I've lurked on your blog for ages, enjoying your writing and keeping up with Esme, but I had to finally "come out" and comment on this one. Perhaps because our mothers are friends, or perhaps because the way you describe your relationship with your mom resonates so strongly with me. (PS – I called my mom to make sure she'd read it too and she was in tears! Good tears!) Anyway, there's nothing I can say to expand on your words – they are perfect – I just want to thank you for this blog post which touched me so deeply. And for all your posts, and for letting us into your life. Happy Christmas! – Jess Preston

Comments are closed.