“What if I mess up,” a new mom asked several years ago? “What If I do this all wrong? My parents are hardly examples I want to follow. My sister and I basically raised ourselves and she’s a mess. I think I’m OK, but some days I wonder. What’s the best thing I can do for my daughter?” She stared at me like she had just Googled and was waiting for an answer.

I smiled and took a deep breath and pretend waved across the room to buy myself a moment of thinking time. “You’re already way ahead and you should be very proud of yourself,” is all I could think to say at first.

“How is that possible,” she squinted like it would help her understand?

“You are aware and desperately want to do things right. That’s a wonderful place to start,” I said.

“Oh. I guess you’re right,” she smiled and stood a little taller.

“If you ask 10 mothers you’ll get 10 answers about how to do things the right way. There’s an overload of new mommy information in the Internet world and everything seems to contradict everything on what’s best. No wonder you feel overwhelmed,” I reassured her. She seemed to relax a bit.

“What to feed her when and how to organize shot schedules and naps is something you’ll have to sort through. Really that’s the easy part of being a mom,” I said. She looked at me in disbelief.

“It gets tougher,” she asked with frantic look.

“It just changes as they get older,” I answered.

She looked at her watch and said, “I have to go pick her up so could you tell me just one thing to hang on to?”

I was really scrambling now. Why did she think I could spit out wise sounding answers like an ATM? Somehow I knew that, “Do the best you can and hope and pray for the best” wouldn’t satisfy her.

“OK. Here it is: always remember she’s watching you.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s not enough? You are the central person in her life right now and you can wield a hefty load of influence so take advantage of it. If you want her to be nice, be nice. If you don’t want her to over react, remain calm. She is going to mimic you so be keenly aware she is always watching and listening to you.”

She thought for a minute like she was tucking the idea away, thanked me, gave me a hug and left. I hoped she would figure it out. There’s a reason for the saying, “You are turning into your mother.”

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