As a pediatrician, I spend a good part of my professional life encouraging parents to trust their instincts and set boundaries with others. We all want a community of people who will support us non-judgmentally as we learn our way in parenting. It turns out this is easier said than done. The unlikely event of skinning strawberries taught me trust like this is possible.
Once I became a mother myself, I was surprised by how many people questioned my parenting choices. Aren’t I supposed to be an expert on kids?!? Unsolicited advice and criticism can come from anywhere – relatives, social media, or strangers at the grocery store! Nothing is off-limits, from feeding to discipline and everything in between. Finding a community of people to support you is a daunting task.
My middle sister often watches my children, and I have always been grateful that she loves and delights in them. She has proven herself capable time after time – first as a mother herself, then while caring for my kids. One day, in particular, stands out as the moment I knew she would do anything for my children. She would support my decisions as a parent. She was the person I would entrust them to if the worst should happen.
It started like other playdates. My husband and I dropped the kids off. We left diapers, extra clothes, lunch food, and some strawberries from nearby Spencer Farm for a snack. I told my brother-in-law the strawberries needed to be washed and sliced up.
I enjoyed the next hours with my husband – I even got to finish a meal while it was still hot from the oven for a change! When we arrived to pick the kids up, my sister gave me a rundown of the day. It all seemed routine – play, naps, snacks, skinning strawberries…wait, what?!?
“They both played and ate their lunch well. And don’t worry – I skinned the strawberries for them.”
“You did what to the strawberries?” I asked, taken off guard.
“I skinned them and cut them up, just like you said,” she replied. “How do you skin a strawberry?” I asked, still perplexed.
She explained that she peeled the outer seed-studded part off with a paring knife. To be clear, this was a large container of tiny, squishy, extra-juicy, fresh-picked strawberries, not the big firm ones from a grocery store! My jaw hung open.
“Why would you skin strawberries?!?!” I finally choked out with a little laugh.
“Well, that’s what you said to do… I did think it was a little strange but thought maybe they couldn’t eat the tiny seeds on the outside,” she said.
To this day, I don’t know exactly what I said to my brother-in-law. Or how that became ‘skinning strawberries,’ a task I would never have dreamed up. But somehow, this is the message she received. I know that it’s a memory that still makes me giggle years later.
More importantly, it’s the moment I realized that no matter any personal differences, I fully trust my children with my sister. My sister and I may not always parent our own children the same way. But she will clearly go to any length to care for my kids the way I desire, even if that means a task as far-fetched as skinning over 40 tiny strawberries for snack time. As unlikely as it seems, the simple and unusual act of skinning strawberries taught me trust.
We all long for a community of people who will support us without judgment. Those who will respect our parenting choices, even if they make different ones in their own home. I don’t have a simple recipe for finding these special people. I’m still figuring it out myself. But I do know one thing – if someone will skin strawberries for you, then that’s someone you want in your corner. I was lucky enough to find this person in a family member. If you haven’t found that person yet, keep looking. You never know when they will pop up.