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
	for it.

	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 
	goes night-night.

 	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.

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