This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
In a piece I wrote over two years ago, I bemoaned the fact that I seemed to be missing the mommy gene—that basic instinct I thought all moms were somehow graced with. You see, my mom had it when we were growing up (and she can still work her magic with her grandchildren). But even though I’ve since had more kids, I still walk around most days feeling like I’m just winging it.
But recently, I had a bit of a breakthrough moment that gave me a much-needed and long-overdue confidence boost. My almost 2-year-old daughter, A, had been running a fever for several days. It was a miserable virus at play—the type that zapped her energy and otherwise voracious appetite. And after several days of repeated forehead scans (gotta love these newfangled thermometers), A finally caught a break. Her fever stayed away for the entire day, so much so that I was convinced we were done.
But just as we were heading up to bed, I pressed my hand up against her head to give it a quick feel. And there it was—the fever had returned. Only this time, I knew it was back without needing a thermometer.
Of course, I scanned her anyway just to make sure, but only after having prepared a dose of Tylenol to get her through the night. And sure enough, I was right—the fever had climbed back to 101.5. And while I was obviously upset that it had returned, I couldn’t help but experience a brief moment of pride for identifying that fever myself.
Now all of this might seem like a non-event, but it was a big deal to me. My mom, as I mentioned, is a supermom. It’s just who she is. And I’ve always felt that no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to get close to doing as good a job as she did.
Growing up, no matter the issue, my mom always knew how to handle it. Remember, this was well before the days where you could Google your way out of a quandary or get advice from 100 well-meaning mom strangers online. Back then, you had to just plain know what you were doing, and my mom did. I, on the other hand, often feel that even with Google in my corner, I’m still relatively clueless.
Another thing about my mom—she never used a thermometer. She didn’t have to. She could tell when her children were feverish by feeling our foreheads or pressing her lips against them. It was a skill that escaped me for five solid years as a parent, and one whose absence exacerbated my already glaring feeling of inadequacy.
Until that day. When I put my hand on my daughter’s forehead and felt that fever, it meant something to me. It meant I was finally getting some of those mom skills I’d always craved. It meant that maybe, just maybe, I could start feeling just a bit more confident in my ability to parent my children and deal with challenges as they arise without using Google or my own mother as a crutch.
While I would never, ever wish such a horrible virus on my precious daughter again, I can’t help but feel that a small amount of good came out of that episode. And while I know I have a long way to go to reach “knows what she’s doing” status, I’m comforted by the fact that I’m a tiny step closer.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.