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Walk it Off

I am not an overly protective mother and when it comes to my kid -- my strong, feisty girl of 5 -- I tend not to worry too much and lean toward "walk it off'' before I freak out.

But, of course, the girl who hasn't had more than a cold or an ear infection since she was 17-months, gets a fever of 102 in the middle of a Swine Flu scare.

Of course.

After the pediatric nurse reassured me it didn't sound as if Maria had more than a late spring virus, she and I settled in the big bed. She watched videos and I read the paper. It was sweet and cozy in the moments I blocked out all else I should be doing. Lying there with my sick girl, I found a USA Today story on Ayelet Waldman, whose new book is "Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace." It hits bookstores May 5.

Waldman, you may recall, is the mom condemned after she told the world she loved her husband more than her children.

I haven't read her books, but have read a few articles on her and by her. Whenever I run across a story on Waldman, I save it and make a mental note to buy her books. I admire her for saying things that so many women won't.

The year Maria was 3, I thought I would die of exhaustion and from the sheer effort it took to control the inner-crazy she provoked. I needed to say some sharp things out loud and I remember telling a friend who was commiserating with me: "There is a reason our mothers went on the Pill and went to work.''

We laughed wickedly and felt better.

Does my lack of patience and freak-out make me less of a concerned, loving mother? For some, the answer would be yes. For others, no. Motherhood: It's a gotcha.

Like Waldman, I have little doubt my kid will talk about me in therapy one day. I know with certainty she'll never say I left her on the side of the road, but she will know that I too have thought about it. But, I think it is because of bold mothers who allow for public commiseration and brutal honesty that this generation of kids raised in plastic perfection may not have such long lists of maternal complaints. Better to get it out there than pretend all is roses.

And good enough is OK, isn't it? I'm counting on passing down the message that I was a mother who messed up, but worked hard to right herself. It is, after all, what I would want my adult child to do in her own relationships: Allow herself mistakes, acknowledge and work to correct. I don't trust mothers who never express a moment of the crazy, or I assume their children are either God's perfection or freaks of nature. By reading stories of other crazed mothers and by gathering, coffee cup in hand, with mom friends who vent their truths I get help being a better mom. I get to see myself and laugh at myself and forgive myself through other women, and get good reminders of what is important and what isn't.

I leave you with this from Waldman's USA Today interview:

Q: Any advice for new moms?

A: Nothing you do to them can damage them forever. There's no mistake you make that can ruin their lives short of boiling their heads in a vat of pasta. If you have that perspective, then you can forgive yourself your errors. Just give yourself a break.

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