I extract myself from our rental car’s backseat. I’ve been holed up there with my 9-month-old, Henry, to stave off a meltdown on a 20-minute drive to meet my friend and her two young kids. She gapes in horror when she sees me.
“Do you sit in the back with him all the time?” she says, incredulous. I know how I look: pandering, indulgent, weak. Once I would have thought the same. But after I lost Henry’s big sister, Susannah, at 20 weeks’ gestation, the parent I thought I’d be disappeared like smoke. The type of mom I thought I’d be would have told her kid to suck it up—that some discomfort is healthy, that independence is more important than momentary happiness. But once I held Henry in my arms, I didn’t care about whether I’d spoil him with too much indulgence. I just loved him.
Our son is 2 now. I am the mom I thought I’d be when I break the devastating news each morning that he can’t eat crackers for breakfast, or when I take away his beloved toy toolbox with the edict: “No, thank you. We do not hit people with hammers.” But when it comes to small comforts I can provide, I give freely and happily. He sits on my lap instead of his booster seat while eating. When he resists a bath, I hop in with him to splash and snuggle.
However, I am the mom I thought I’d be—confident in my values and choices, no matter what others think—when I respond to my friend. “Yes, I sit in the back with him all the time,” I say. Soon enough, my son will be rolling his eyes as I drive him and his friends around—or he’ll be driving away.