What Is a Mother to Do?

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I slept horribly and woke at 4:30 in the morning.  Eyes barely open, I began baking muffins at 5 am — letting the methodical and mindless whisking of the ingredients comfort and sooth me while my mind went back again to last night.

After dinner, Audrey brought up the sleepover that she had mentioned sometime ago.  And I said no I don’t want you to go. She argued that I had agreed to it earlier and I retorted that I changed my mind. I reasoned with her that she’d be too exhausted to do anything the next day and she had so much on her schedule.  Audrey got very upset and teary, and said that she had it all arranged with her friends.  I became angry and told her that she didn’t know her priorities.  Audrey shouted a promise is a promise and I muttered something like if she chose to be a failure in life she could do whatever she wanted.  Immediately I regretted but it was too late.  The words have already left my mouth.  Audrey went up to her bedroom and after a few minutes I went up to talk to her.  There was an angry sign on her door that read: “Sleeping!  Stay away!  My failure in life is contagious!” I felt awful but decided to respect her wish. 



Audrey got up earlier then usual too.  All silent and sullen.  I went to hug her and she pushed me away.  I apologized and she walked away.  I repeated my apology and told her that I loved her a dozen times before she finally relented to let me give her a hug. I got her the muffins and told her to pour some milk for herself while I got dressed.  When I came back from my bedroom, Audrey had fallen asleep at the breakfast table.  My heart broke when I saw her sitting there, head resting on her folded arms.  Like me, she had slept very poorly last night.  Even though she posted the sign for me to stay away, she was expecting me to knock on her door. 


Never go to bed angry, a very wise friend once said.  I went to bed feeling like a terrible mother.  And she went to bed feeling hurt and angry. Both of us had very little sleep.  Now that the tension had finally eased, at least to some degree, she was relieved and dozed off.

My girls are excellent children most of the time though they have their issues now and then, but who doesn’t? So often I don’t know what is the right thing to do with them. As a matter of fact, I feel clueless.  How do I prepare them for a world that is ever changing, and with increasing speed?  I lean toward tradition when there is nothing else to rely on. There is a proverb in Chinese: 以不变应万变— answer all changes with non-change.  Be steadfast, I tell myself.  But to exactly what?

Perhaps I should just leave them be and hope they will find their passion somehow and pursue it wholeheartedly without anyone nagging them.  That’s the only way to be happy, isn’t it? — to pursue one’s passion and to create one’s meaning.  But what about Ivy League universities?  Isn’t Ivy League the goal?  I see my husband, with his prestigious training, working long hours everyday, always behind schedule, always exhausted.  He is one of the best doctors in the city, but he seems to be losing his passion for the profession because of all the changes occurring in medicine which require him to be more of a scribe than a physician, to do more documenting than doctoring. Do I want my children to be grinding all the time so they can go to their next elite school and the next after that?  Then what?

I don’t have the answer.  Sometime ago, I wrote down a quote from some  pre-Socratic philosopher, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”  I suppose I will have to let the unknown challenge me but not frighten me.  I will let its mystery drive my search and not daunt me.  Perhaps when and if I find the answer, it will no longer matter.

Perhaps to love them, house them and feed them is all that’s required of me.  And feeding them healthy, nutritious and delicious food is something I know how to do.  This is a comforting thought. 


Recipe In the End

With that thought, I went grocery shopping with Angela, who didn’t have school today.  When I saw her reaching up the shelf in the baking isle, I thought she looked very mature, which scared me.

It seemed only yesterday that she was a three-year-old who couldn’t stop asking why.



1 1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup oat bran

2 bananas

1 grated large apple

1 grated medium carrot

1/2 cup raisins

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp xanthan gum

3 large eggs

Baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes.

The muffins are very moist without any added oil because of the almond flour.

18 thoughts on “What Is a Mother to Do?

  1. I have a sixteen-year-old too, and she is the sweetest thing I ever lay eye on. However, there is one thing I worried, that she is losing sleep. Her schedules are always full, specially in weekends, when she really needs some rest. Maybe that’s new normal for teenagers? What are us to do?


  2. She is so cute~Actually my mother is your super fan. That’s why I knew your name when I was a little girl. I like reading your blogs, especially the stories happened between you and your daughters ,which makes me remember my mother.


  3. Such an honest, touching post. As a mother to a toddler, I grapple with what is the right thing to do all the time and your posts show me a glimpse of what’s to come. I’m sure you and your beautiful daughters will continue to find the right way with love.
    And the muffin recipe sounds delicious!


  4. Joan. I think all loving parents go through the same agony. I know I do. The constant that doesn’t and must not change is the love. That, I can see you keep constant. As parents we have to make the hard decisions. Audrey will eat the muffin and remember the love that goes into the home. As adults we often have to be the ones to swallow the pride and make the first move. God knows I wish I could get it right more times than I do. But we do our best to give our children the most and best choices in life. Something most of us did not have when we grew up.
    And yes I get scared when I see my 15 year old daughter looking beautiful and sexy but then like your daughter – look at their mothers – of course they will look like that – Then I go form scary to proud. Love them and don’t stop loving them. We all share the same thoughts.


  5. Hi, Joan, 你是一个好妈妈. 你的女儿们美丽而优秀. Be proud! 我女儿今年9月生日18 岁. 她出身和在美国长大. 离家前, 我非常不愿意她Sleepover, 也有过矛盾. 现在她在Boston, 还是会有不同意见. 但我真是十分想念她. 好好享受现在的好时光!


  6. Joan, 可怜天下父母心,和你好有共鸣,爱也需要能力, 管教也需要方法吧, 我也总是很焦虑,我的两个女儿13岁和10岁, 自从大女儿生病后,我开始学着放下,即使她们不完美, 即使她们平庸, 我也会永远爱她们。


  7. know exactly how you feel. I have a 12 year old boy in 7th grade. Feel like we are over emphasizing the impact of parenting. A child eventually grows into his/her own being. Growing up in Shanghai in the 70s & 80s, my grandparents raised me with no textbook parenting guidelines. I AM OK today, surprisingly:)


  8. Every mother’s struggle, parenting is the hardest job… All we can is to try our best at that moment. Hang in there, you are not alone…


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