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Mother Patel Knows Very Well

July 26, 2011


Genny White

As a Mother I have always had a commitment with my children that I would always listen to them, even if I did not understand what they were saying. This pact started out easily enough as I held each newborn in my arms and smiled at them making this promise to them. I never viewed my children as just children, but rather as miniature people, so as they would jabber on and on in their baby talk I would give them my full attention, as much as we all do when the prof says to summarize things, or to wrap matters up; we as students sit poised with our pens in our hands to record the nuggets coming out to commit those to memory; we recognize that this discourse is important. So I would pay this same attention to my children and listen to what they had to say. I never realized what a challenge this commitment would become in the teenage years.

Mark Twain is known for saying that when he was about 14 years old his Father had seemed to completely loose his mind, but that by the time Twain became 21, somehow his Father had marvelously regained his mind. There is so much that must take place for an adolescent to become an adult.  I, like my Mother also, seem to think that the only way the break can occur from child to independent adult is with some amount of annihilation.  As I say I will always listen even if I cannot understand.  This commitment to listening to my children was simply a natural off shoot of attachment parenting where I made my parenting decisions centered around the needs of the child opposed to negotiating the needs of the baby with the needs of the marriage or family. Part of this lifestyle was a the concept of baby wearing which I have written more about in Every New Mother needs an Ann Marie.

At the time I was a mother of three children, ages 6, 3 and newborn, I was aware that we needed for me to pick up some items from the grocery store before we had the university students over for our seasonal open house for the students.  I stopped at the grocery store, knowing full well that I was in a hurry and would not be in the store for very long.  I parked the car and looked in the backseat where my sleeping son was in his car seat, and I saw my ever present companion my khaki baby sling lying next to his car seat, and just this once entertained the idea of simply lifting the car seat from the back seat and putting it into the front of a grocery cart.  That was that my mind was made up.  I grabbed a cart, and, carefully ever so carefully without waking my sleeping son, placed the car seat atop the grocery cart along the front basket area.  There I mused as I shut the car door leaving that khaki baby sling in the back, I was now ready to race through the store.

I furthermore opened my purse and removed the pre made folded list to begin this shopping trip.  While I was making my way through the aisles,  a couple of ladies stirred my attention:  One was a woman about the same age as myself, the other, her companion, was a most notably elderly woman garbed in a traditional Indian sari. Her sari was a bright citrus yellow accented with orange touches.  As I shopped within earshot I heard:

“Come this way Mother Patel, and we are headed this way now.  That, that is green beans Mother Patel it is a common vegetable we eat here.”

I now entered the frozen food section where this tour of a modern grocery store was unfolding for this stately matron from India.  I could see more visibly the woman’s weathered skin, her small frail bones.  I could see how she was stopped over with age.  I could see her bright animated dark eyes as she gathered everything in.

Her docent for this trip had just completed patiently explaining to her the concept of precut frozen cookie dough from the frozen food section.  A quite extensive experience as Mother Patel first had to understand the concept of the sweet treat of a cookie, and then how it’s dough was composed and finally  why on the earth would one prepackage such a material to be frozen.

WHEN the aged woman from India made her way to my grocery cart.  She came and stood right next to me.  She raised her bony fingers and felt the hard plastic car seat and beaconed to her daughter in law to explain this.  The daughter in law shared that the baby was sitting in a car seat something the US enforces for the safety of babies while traveling.  Mother Patel made the keen observation: “Well,  the Mother and babies certainly are not traveling.

Mother Patel felt compelled to share with me that it was not good for the baby to sit in a hard plastic place, that it was possible for me to carry my child in a piece of cloth wrapped around my body.  “It would be better for the baby,” she said.

Mother Patel ‘s  daughter in law said, “Come get over here.”  The hostess for this trip felt the need to apologize to me for her guest’s commentary.  She explained that her Mother in law was visiting the United States for the first time, and, as a matter of fact, she had just picked her up from the airport and that she too just needed to grab some things from the grocery store,  so please forgive her Mother-in-law’s faux pas.

As she was explaining herself to me, I sensed the small woman’s dark brown eyes peering through my back.  When her host rejoined her, I could hear her say “She does not have anything on her back.  There is NO reason why she cannot be carrying that child on her back.  It is not good for the child not to be held.”

“Mother Patel,  shhhhh,” said  the daughter in law, as we parted our ways.

I wanted to say “STOP, Mother Patel is absolutely right. Our babies need to be held closely and frequently touched.”  I wanted to invite Mother Patel to my car and show her that khaki baby sling that I had in the back, but alas Mother Patel had moved on two or three aisles over I could still here Mother Patel reeling that the baby was in a substance called plastic and was not in his Mother’s arms.  “Wow,”  I thought, “what kind of luck I have.”  This was me the one who always wore her baby in the baby sling until the day that Mother Patel visited the grocery store.

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