Mothers: A North American Field Guide
While out without her children.
A hatchling mother (birth to six months) will exhibit unique
characteristics. She may, while standing in line at the grocery store,
gently bounce a 25 pound sack of potatoes on her hip, to keep it
entertained. She may, upon hearing someone else's baby cry, quickly
cross her arms over her chest to stop the involuntary milk let-down
reflex. She is likely to have mastered the ability to pick up objects
with her feet, without interrupting the ritual baby dance, perfected
in the first six months of new motherhood; dark half moons under the
eyes, and a spit-up stain down the back of her left shoulder.
A nestling mother (6 to 12 months) can be picked out of a crowd by
looking for a woman who double ties her shoes, smells faintly of diaper
wipes and apple juice, and has one arm much stronger than the other.
She will jump to catch any falling object seen out of the corner of her
eye, and will have it in her hand before she is aware of having reached
A fledgling mother (12 to 24 months) will exhibit a singular vocabulary,
rich in two syllable words. A seemingly intelligent woman will suddenly
want to use the potty or show you a boo-boo. She will be the one looking
around anxiously when someone else's child calls, Mommy! The truly
devoted one will answer "right here!" before embarrassment can win out
over instinct. At the end of each day, she falls exhausted into bed and
A juvenile mother (two to five years) can also be easily recognized.
Some tell-tale signs are a cartoon-character bandage on her finger, a
ketchup-colored hand print streaked across her sleeve, and legs that
haven't seen a razor lately. She will be the one with the grateful, silly
smile on her lips when the stranger beside her has a 2-year-old clinging
desperately to one leg screaming, "I want it!" When driving down the
highway, you can recognize her as the one who appears to be talking loudly
to herself. Closer inspection will often reveal one or more full car seats
in the back. She's probably singing The Wheels on the Bus with gusto.
You will recognize the mature mother (6 to 13 Years) as the one who crosses
to the opposite side of the mall and quickens her speed, when a toy store
is spotted. Her grocery store cart will contain three packs of
family-sized hot dogs, a case of spaghettios, and four boxes of cereal with
three gallons of milk. Savvy in the appropriate value of a lost tooth
when placed beneath the pillow, she is also the one who will be able to help
when a stranger asks, "Does anyone have a tissue?" This mother only appears
to be by herself. Look closely: her child is probably 10 steps behind her,
trailing in anguished embarrassment, trying desperately to appear alone.
In using your field guide, it is important to remember that a mother can only
be spotted during special seasons of her lfe, and once mature, she will
gradually blend back into society. Her migratory routes through Toys-R-Us
and K-Mart will cease, and the basic functions of speech and concentration
will slowly return.
The final challenge she faces is the difficult and emotional task of convincing
her brood to leave the nest. Depending upon the migratory habits of her
offspring, this may take anywhere from 18 to 36 years.