The Slow-Ripening: Fruits of Mothering

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This is an excerpt from The Slow-Ripening: Fruits of Mothering by, Emily Watts.

Appearance is shaky ground when it comes to forming judgments. And if you are using outward appearances as the basis for assessing your success as a mother, you are on particularly shaky ground because those appearances can change so quickly.

Case in point: I am at the grocery store with my three-year-old daughter. She has the pint-sized grocery cart and is pushing it along beside me with my regular-sized cart. We are quite a picture, the two of us shopping together, me initiating my little girl into the mysteries of the grocery world. I can see it in the approving expressions of the shoppers passing us in Aisle 7: “Isn’t that darling? What a lovely child. What a good mother.”

Then we turn into Aisle 8, which is where the Oreos reside, right at the three-year-old’s eye level. She chooses a package of cookies from the shelf and puts them in her cart. I pluck them out of the cart and return them to the shelf with a cheery if somewhat terse, “Not today, sweetheart. We’re not going to buy those cookies today.”

Well, perdition hath no fury like a three-year-old deprived of her Oreos, and she immediately flings herself to the ground and begins screaming. And I can see it in the disgusted expressions of the shoppers passing us in Aisle 8: “What a brat! Why doesn’t her mother control her? Why would anyone bring a child like that out in public?”

Well, which is it? Angel child, or demon spawn? Am I a good mom or a bad mom? All too often, people will form that judgment depending on the moment in which they catch me at my mothering.

I want to grab the tantrum observers as they pass by and tell them that this never works. I never buy Oreos under coercion. I am a sensible, intelligent mother, with appropriate boundaries. But they have made their judgments based on what they see. Appearances. They can indeed be deceiving.

Here’s a challenge, though: Don’t the scriptures say, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (see Matthew 7:17; 3 Nephi 14:16)? They do. What they forget to remind us is that sometimes fruit takes a long time to ripen.

Think about this. Have you ever bitten into a fruit that’s not ripe—a hard strawberry or a green melon or something like that? It’s gross. All you really want to do is spit it out. If you were judging the fruit based on that appearance at that time, you might think the fruit was not good. But if you waited until the fruit was ripe and then tried it, you would see how delicious it could be.

An important thing to understand about raising children is that children are the slowest-ripening fruit there is. Those precious fruits of our mothering take a long time to mature, and what’s more, they all ripen at different rates. So it’s unproductive and even dangerous to base our feelings of mothering confidence on where the fruit is at any given time.

(Emily Watts, The Slow-Ripening Fruits of Mothering [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013], 8–11).

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