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How 3 generations of women created a clothing busines that celebrates textiles—and tradition

What does it take to go from business idea to lady boss?


This new column features an entrepreneur, who happens to be a mom, each week—walking us through the process of how you too can take your ideas from dream to reality.

If you missed our last article featuring Lorene from Glitter and Spice, a teething jewelry company with wicked growth, on how testing and prototyping helped her hack her success, you can read it here. This week, we’re discussing the third step every entrepreneur needs to make on her journey: Building a supply chain.

This week brings something special: Two generations of lady bosses, a mother and daughter, working together to create a business that’s uniquely theirs.

Cynthia Bennett, and her daughter Meera Bennett, have created Devon’s Drawer, a children’s clothing line that combines old school whimsy with high-quality craftsmanship, while honoring the working families their company employs.

With looks like that, what’s not to love?

Cynthia has a long personal and professional history with textiles; she learned the art of clothing design from her mother, great-aunt, and grandmother, and has a degree in Costume History and Textile Arts.

Her daughter Meera works on marketing and communications within Devon’s Drawer.

Devon’s Drawer (named after Cynthia’s grandson, Devon), began four years ago when Cynthia went home to take care of her own mother.

It was there Cynthia discovered a closet chock full of the most beautiful clothing. There were wool dresses from the 1950’s and 60’s, sequined cashmere sweaters made in Hong Kong, and custom made dresses made by local dress makers. The fabric, the textures, the quality of craftsmanship stunned her. It was a type of beauty that was missing from the current world of throwaway fashion.

And it inspired a children’s clothing company based on the values of timeless quality (and adorable styling.)

What began as up-cycling items for her grandson has grown into a brand that values quality over quantity, and clothing that tells its own story, woven through the very fibers of the fabric.

And from the inspiration of Cynthia’s mother’s wardrobe to dressing little Devon—That’s three generations represented in the business, if you’re counting.

Isn’t that magical?

Today, Devon’s Drawer is carried in a dozen retail locations across North America. The brand is cherished for its beautiful fabrics, unique cuts, and commitment to ethically produced products. This year their sales are projected to grow by 40% over last year—powerful stuff, especially considering the business began with zero startup capital.

I chatted with Meera and Cynthia about how and why they created the brand, and the work that was involved in creating a supply chain they could be proud of—

What does Devon’s Drawer do/make?

Cynthia: We make children’s clothes and we use natural fabrics to do so.

Meera: My mom does all the design, and I’d say she does most of the grunt work. I help with the branding and communications. But my mom’s clothing line was really inspired by her family. She had to fly home about five years ago because her mother was sick. She started finding all these beautiful baby clothes –

Cynthia: No! It was her clothes! In her closet! Not baby clothes.

Meera: Right. So then she started using them as inspiration for making clothes for my son, Devon. Now I have two kids: Devon, and then Emily who just turned one. But back then it was just Devon.

Cynthia: I had already decided a long, long time ago to design clothing for women. But it got really complicated, really quickly, and I couldn’t find the balance. Meera was a young baby at the time and it was really hard. After a couple of years I just couldn’t find a way to make it work. At that time I lived on Saltspring Island, which was two ferry rides from Vancouver.

Meera: Mom was a total back-to-the-land hippie.

Cynthia: And, Vancouver didn’t even have a design scene back then, so I was literally doing this on my own. And I had NO idea what I was doing. So at that time I said, “I’m choosing motherhood.”

These days there’s a lot more information out there for starting a business. As well, I was really young, and back then I didn’t have the “Why?” at that point.

Did the two of you start the business together?

Cynthia: Well Meera was the one who kept telling me that I should be doing this. She was there from the beginning, along with my other kids, but she’s really come into the foreground in the last year. She’s worked hard to create a warm voice for Devon’s Drawer that had been missing.

When your company

needs to grow, what do you look for in a good fit employee?

Cynthia: Somebody has to really get what we’re doing, and

they have to have the right skillset. For example for us, we make wool coats,

and sewing woolens is a dying art because most people these days like to make

clothing out of knits. They also have to LOVE the stuff. They have to take pride

in their work, and want to share in our success. We are looking to create a

real connection with our employees.

We are looking to create a real connection with our employees.

We spend a lot of time together so we have to not only enjoy

each other’s company, but also work efficiently together.

Communication both verbal and written is actually huge as

well. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s not. With things being so fast

moving, and me travelling often, understanding each other becomes a priority.

Meera: The other thing I’ve really noticed with those who

you’ve created a long-term working relationship with, mom, is that you guys

really build a community with Devon’s Drawer. They’re really invested in your

success, and you’re likewise invested in their success. You’re both building

each other up.

Cynthia: Absolutely. Community is really important in

everything we do. Our employees are part of our community. It’s not a one-way

street.

What are all the

components of your supply chain, and how does everything fit together?

Cynthia: For me, the biggest focus is the actual fabric, and

I spend a lot of time, more than I should, on sourcing fabric. Because for me,

that’s where the inspiration for the pieces comes from.

My background is in textile history actually so where the

fabric comes from is a priority for me. So if I’ve got someone who’s doing

organics, I have to know where it comes from, who grew the cotton, and where is it

being processed, all the way through.

I like to work with people who have more vertical supply chains so I feel confident about the fabric.

To me that’s key. It’s the basis of what we do, and in fact,

“the Why” of what we do. The textile industry is one of the biggest polluters

of the planet. I could go on about this topic but I won’t.

I spend a lot of time on buttons, too. Where are they from?

What country? If they’re made of shells - how were those shells collected?

Meera: Were shells are happy? Did they have friends?

Cynthia: And sometimes plastic is a better option! It’s

true! I spend a lot of time trying to balance it all out.

Meera: You spend endless time sourcing fabric mom, but I

feel like once the fabric gets to you that your supply chain is fairly tightly

integrated. You have the fabric arrive in LA, have it dyed in LA, then it goes

to your factory, also in LA. And then they ship it from the factory.

Cynthia: Yes. There’s also a couple of other things that

have to come together before the pieces head to the factory for manufacturing.

First we have the patterns. The idea for the pattern goes from me to the

pattern maker, and then we test out that piece. Then, it gets graded – which

means sized. Once that’s completed then everything gets cut, again here in LA. Meera’s

right; once everything’s here in California, it does all get done in a two mile

radius. It’s a huge unique point for us.

Meera: It’s really important to us to have pieces that are,

as much as possible, made close to home.

Cynthia: It’s funny; it’s sometimes like a game of

telephone, you know the children’s game? Every time you let go of something and

let someone do something for you, they add their own little bit. So I’ve kept

it really tight because I don’t want things to vary to any large degree. Like,

a quarter inch difference on a collar, on a kid, makes a huge difference.

What would you say is the biggest difficulty in creating and sustaining your supply and manufacturing?

Cynthia: It actually has a lot to do with confidence. I need to have confidence in my work, all the way through the process, and not give up on my vision. Several times I’ve had the thought, “Oh they must know more than I know.”

So my biggest difficulty is believing in myself, while not being stubborn. It’s a fine line.

What process do you take to vet your suppliers and manufacturers?

Cynthia: I look to see what work they’ve done. And instead of going on what they say, I call up their other customers and ask them about their experience. Because people tend to tell you whatever they think you want to hear.

I want to know if they were reliable, if they were on time, and equally as important, how did they treat you, as a contract? How was their communication, and how organized were they?

I have to make sure they’ve worked with people that I respect.

Meera: And I know one more thing you really look for is having everything made in America as much as you can.

Have you ever had any major manufacturing disasters?

Cynthia: We had a problem with one of our coats last year and didn’t notice until one of our stockists mentioned that there was something wrong. I really respected him—the store owner—and he sent the coats back. We looked into them when we received them back and the sewers had sewn the collars on a quarter of an inch off. That makes a huge difference on a child’s coat.

My production manager wanted to know if I would continue to do business with that particular store and the answer was, of course, yeah! He spent a lot of time going back and forth. He really worked through the issue with me. Those are the type of partnerships I’m looking for. He’s basically at the end of my supply chain, but so essential to our success.

How important would you say confidence is in creating a product line and starting your own business?

Cynthia: It’s really, really important. And there’s a really fine line between confidence and vanity project. I can’t tell you which we are yet.

Someone said to me recently, “That sounds like a wonderful creative outlet.” And it’s not. It’s not a creative outlet, it’s a business, that happens to be creative.

The confidence I have in my design is there. The confidence I have in developing a business is there. But I can’t do it alone, and that’s where community comes in.

My kids are the closest I have to remembering what I said when I’m feeling less confident. They remind me of where I am going, and what the company is about.

Meera: As an entrepreneur, you will get told “No.” over and over and over again. But sometimes people say yes.

Mom: As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly creating your own world.

How does being a mother impact the way you run your business?

Meera: It’s made me much better at multi-tasking. Although sometimes I worry that I’m too good at it and I’m doing too many things at the same time – not putting enough attention on any one thing. I feel like I’m doing a lot of things off the side of my desk. Which is good and bad!

And the other thing is, that being a mom has given me a lot more sympathy towards other moms that I’m working with.

I understand if people don’t get back to me right away for example – I get it.

Cynthia: I’ve been a mom for so long now! I remember when I was at Meera’s stage, multitasking all the time. I found that now I really enjoy doing one thing at a time. I got so into multi-tasking at one point that I almost couldn’t do anything unless I was doing ten things at once.

Now because I don’t have kids at home any more I’m finding it really great to be able to focus on one thing at a time.

I also have a lot of empathy for people who have working families. I know what that’s like.

Is there any one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring lady bosses?

Meera: Mom and I were talking about this question before the interview and kind of laughing about it.

Because if we can do it, I think literally anyone can.

My mom made all of our clothing growing up, so she already had the skills. But she had zero start up capital. She had an idea of what she wanted to do, but she had no money to do it. So she got very clear about her vision that she wanted for the business early on. She had to!

So I think anyone can do it, but you need to have a very clear vision of what you want. There’s going to be so many things that could potentially sidetrack you.

Cynthia: I agree. Having a very clear vision, and maybe, don’t quit your day job until you have to. At one point you’re going to be so crazy busy that you can afford to let that job go. But at the start you’ll need some way of funding your vision.

For me, it took a long time to come to the “Why.” I’m not talking about superficial things. I mean really - Why do this as opposed to anything else? Knowing that early on is important.


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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

BUY


This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Dana Dewedoff-Carney has a beautiful family. On paper, she's a mom of three. But in her heart, she has five children. She's had two miscarriages, one last year at five weeks, and another this past summer.

"I lost our son in June. I was 14 weeks pregnant, but he had passed away at 12," she tells Motherly, explaining that she and her husband had already named their boy Benjamin.

He never got a chance to live in this world, but he is changing it. His mama is the force behind Project Benjamin, a photo series that is going viral and changing the way people talk about pregnancy and infant loss.


Dewedoff-Carney started Rise for Women, a New Jersey-based organization dedicated to empowering women and connecting them with the resources they need to thrive. Rise for Women was born out of a painful time for Dewedoff-Carney. She was a single mom of three, and she was struggling, although from the outside she looked fine.

After launching Rise for Women Dewedoff-Carney created the hashtag #StruggleDoesNotHaveALook, which took on a whole new meaning this year after she and her now husband lost their babies. She came up with another hashtag, #TheyMatterToo, to remember them, and invited other moms to join in a photo session.

Each mother had her portrait taken with a chalkboard bearing a phase that someone told her after her miscarriage.

In Dewedoff-Carney's case, a doctor who perhaps meant to be kind told her the baby she lost "was the wrong baby." Other women in the photo series were told they could always adopt, or that they should be happy with the children they already have. Dewedoff-Carney says sometimes people don't realize how much their words cut those suffering a loss.

"I know people are not saying these things to be malicious and hurt us, but if they could just be a support and say, 'I am so sorry for your loss, I'm here for you,' that is so helpful," she explains.

Experts agree. Jessica McCormack is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice at The Self Care Path in Burr Ridge, Illinois. She says parents who've suffered a pregnancy loss don't need people to try to offer solutions or minimize their grief, but just to validate it.

"You aren't trying to fix their emotions, you are simply stating, 'I hear you, that was so hard for you, this really sucks right now.' No need to fix, no need to tell someone it will be okay. It's a time to just give a hug and tell them it's okay to feel how they feel. This often creates comfort just by knowing someone is there for you," she tells Motherly, adding that it is totally normal for parents to struggle after a loss.

"It's a completely normal experience to have a bunch of grief, sadness, depression, anxiety, shame, guilt and jealousy of others with healthy successful pregnancies," McCormack explains.


For Dewedoff-Carney, that's exactly what Project Benjamin is all about. She says too often conversations about the feelings one has after a miscarriage or infant death are happening behind closed doors or in private Facebook groups. She hopes her photo series will help people realize they're not alone, and that the woman down the street (or on Instagram) who seems to have it all may be suffering herself.

By having a very public conversation about pregnancy loss, Dewedoff-Carney and her fellow moms are hoping more people will understand what they're going through, and not try to minimize it.

Ashlyn Biedebach is a Registered Nurse and founder of By The Brook Birth Doula. She says "when a woman suffers a loss, at any gestational age, it is truly a loss, not just of a baby, but of hope and an idea of the future."

Biedebach suggests if parents who've suffered a loss encounter loved ones who don't seem to be recognizing their baby, they try to give them some grace, but that doesn't mean you have to pretend it didn't happen.

"Well-meaning family members may intentionally choose to move past painful experiences, even if you are still deep in the grief of the loss of your baby. Bringing up your loss in a gentle way, or having an intentional conversation with those who are moving on can help, but also talking with a counselor, too."

As a therapist, McCormack agrees. "Since it's roughly 1 in 4 women that have a pregnancy that ends in miscarriage, women need support," she tells Motherly, recommending that women who've had a loss talk to their OB-GYN or family physician and ask if there are any support groups in their community.

If your doctor doesn't refer you to a support group you can find a therapist yourself. McCormack suggests women simply search the psychologytoday.com therapist directory by entering their zip code along with the keywords "miscarriage" and "fertility." The therapy doesn't have to be just for mom, either. Sometimes dads need to talk, too.

"I also encourage couples to go to therapy after something like this, as men tend to feel lost and uncertain as to how to process their own feelings while supporting their partner," says McCormack.

Both McCormack and Biedebach agree that talking about this kind of loss, whether in person or over social media, is important. Biedebach says, for some parents, honoring their baby through a social media post is their way of remembering and recognizing their importance. McCormack notes that a social media post can also be a good way to invite a larger quantity of people to support you in your time of need.

"It also reduces the stigma by bringing to light that it is completely normal for women to experience something like this," she explains.

That's Dewedoff-Carney's goal, and while she can't travel the county photographing mothers herself, she's inviting anyone to join the conversation by taking their own photo, sharing their story and using the hashtags #StruggleDoesNotHaveALook and #TheyMatterToo. Since her photos went viral, women have been commenting and sharing their stories publicly, and it's brought Dewedoff-Carney to tears.

"They're naming the children that they lost," she explains. "They're doing that, they're speaking their truth, and they're letting it out."

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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The other morning, I took my clothes off before stepping into the shower. In my little bathroom, I stopped to check out my mom-of-two body in the mirror. My breasts drooped. My stomach stretched flat until below my navel. There, protruded my kangaroo pouch where my uterus stretched twice for two healthy babies.

Then, my eyes glanced lower to the scar from my first birth—my C-section. The swooping line had faded. The right side seemed darker, but the left side turned light. The scar almost smirks at me now.

While in the shower, I cleansed my scar gently with a lavender loofah. Although the cesarean occurred over six years ago, I always wash it softly. A sense of sadness washed over me—I don't want my scar to fade. My scar reminds me of determination, redemption, and love.

Yes, it was years ago when the doctor took his utensils and sliced me open, but for some reason, I felt like the scar would always look like it was painted on.

My C-section story mimics one of far too many women. I felt like I was bullied into it. I had only labored for 18 hours and was dilated to a seven. "Trust me," my obstetrician said, "I've delivered hundreds of babies. You're not built to have this baby naturally." True, I'm only five feet tall, but I didn't really buy into the lie he was trying to to get me to believe. "Just give me one more hour," I begged, "I'll progress."

"I have eight other babies to deliver tonight," he said.

He wasn't lying.

"A C-section is a routine surgery," he continued.

After more pleading on his part, I finally gave in. The nurse wheeled me into the OR and I delivered my first baby at 9:33 pm on June 12, 2012. The recovery, the breastfeeding—everything about early motherhood—pushed me inches close to depression.

When I went back to see my obstetrician for my six-week check-up my doctor looked at my incision to make sure I was healing okay. "Wow," he said, applauding himself, "who stitched you up? That is one clean incision." From those arrogant words, I made up my mind: My next birth will be a VBAC.

And almost two years later (and working with a new provider), I gave birth to my daughter. I had her vaginally. My strong-willed daughter decided to thunder into this world five days late. And her birth was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

From start to finish, her labor lasted 50 hours. It was two days of agony, doubt, and full-blooded grit. After pushing for over two hours, I remember looking up at the white clock. I wanted to give up. At that point, I had labored for 49 hours. There is no way I'll be able to mentally recover from another C-section, I thought. Sorrow filled me. I didn't have any will left within me—I didn't think I could push anymore.

I was wrong.

I thought of the arrogance I encountered with my first obstetrician. He took my will away from me. He took my right to a natural childbirth. He even took some of my joy.

But I also felt like I let him.

So, the second time around, I made the decision to push—harder. In a way, that doctor empowered me to speak up for myself and believe in my determination. After another hour—three hours total of pushing—the time had come. At 3:54 on June 25, 2014, my daughter was born via VBAC. Her ferocious cry woke my spirit. As her black hair laid on my chest, we sobbed together—a determined mother and daughter.

So, now that my scar is starting to fade, I feel sad. This scar represents my own grit. My own tenacity. My own stubbornness. Things I now pass down to my daughter. I was not going to allow someone else tell me how my next baby was going to be born. My joy belongs to me. I took control of it, as much as I could.

I used to feel a little ashamed of my scar. To me, it represented my inability to speak up for myself. It represented my weakness. But now, my scar represents strength. So, now that I notice it is starting to fade, I feel like I want to tattoo it on permanently.

I look forward to the day when I'm changing my clothes in front of my daughter and she asks, "Mom, what's on your belly?" I'll tell her, "This scar is where your brother came from—and where our unified courage was birthed."

I hope this scar stays dark just a few years longer. Because it means that I can tell my daughter about her birth story—one where we defied the odds together—as a team.

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On a typical day, my 18-month-old daughter will ingratiate herself with the kids whose mothers thought to bring brightly-colored shovels and Fisher Price dump trucks to the park. I will inevitably come over and make sure to ask if it's okay that my daughter is playing with their toys. The mother will chirp, “Of course!" She will then turn to her brood. “We're sharing our toys with the baby!"

I will retreat to my post. I will watch vigilantly for signs that my daughter may be about to put a pile of gravel into her mouth or launch a handful of the tiny rocks in the air. I will watch as she explores the playground. I will also watch her take a tumble, the other mother jumping to her rescue before she's even landed.

“Oh, honey. It's okay. Your mama's right here." she'll croon, her eyes searching desperately for the child's mother, for me. My daughter, now hysterical, will be in this woman's tentative arms.

I will walk over and take my red-faced child, who will wrap her legs around my waist and bury her face in my shoulder.

“Thank you so much." I will say.

“Oh, it's no problem. I didn't see exactly what happened, but luckily I was right here."

I will return to my perch. My gaze will be fixed on my child but my mind will be fixated on the scene that has just played out.

In the small act of responding to my daughter's fall, this other mother has undermined me—which likely wasn't what she was intending to do, but still, is exactly how it made me feel. She's assumed that the right action was to go with her instinct, to rescue my daughter. Wrapped up in this assumption is the idea that I would've rescued her myself if I had been paying attention—that I would have prevented the fall in the first place if I cared.

I want to tell this woman that I do care, that my aloof exterior belies an infinite reservoir of caring. I want to defend myself and explain what kind of mother I am. I want to tell her that I am a wonderful mother, too.

I'm not the mother who brings a sippy cup of fresh juice and a Tupperware full of cheese cubes and sliced grapes to the park. Random fruit squeeze pouches from our last plane trip litter the bottom of my diaper bag, but this does not make me a bad mother. Of course it doesn't. And it doesn't make Tupperware-Mom the World's Best Mother. We're equal, but different.

I'm not the mother who rushes in when my daughter falls. I rarely get into a child-sized playground structure with her. This does not make me a bad mother. From a distance, I'm vigilant. Could her head fit through the slats in that fence? If she fell, how far would the drop be? How soft would the landing be? Is that structure designed for a toddler or a bigger kid? If I don't need to be next to her, I observe from afar.

It would be so much easier to be by my daughter's side at all times, holding her hand, spotting her as she climbs her way through the park. Though I ache to protect her from every danger, I force myself to hang back. How will she learn what's safe if I'm always protecting her? How will she know how far she can jump if she never falls short?

I want my daughter to love to play for its own sake. I may stand quietly off to the side, but as she zooms down the slide, her mouth open wide in a jubilant smile, my heart rejoices.

This is the kind of mother I am.

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