Life of an MD: A Mothers Day Story

  Happy Mother’s Day

By Dr. Kaplan 



Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms I know and don’t know.  Being a mother is a tough job, even in the best circumstances, so I believe we all deserve this day to honor us.  Hopefully, we are all getting a little TLC from our partners, or our kids, or, well, somebody.  I know plenty of you are out there making the day nice for your own Moms or Mom-in-Laws and also doing what you always do- working, caring for your kids, and families and friends and homes.  So if that’s the case, stop for a minute and give yourself a special pat on the back, a minute to breathe, a moment of gratitude for who you are and what you do.

I am grateful today for many things.  I am grateful for a beautiful, sunny, cool morning, and my dog curled next to my leg while I type, and the fact that my amazingly sweet and gentle and kind husband is out doing the grocery shopping without me as a mother’s day gift.  We usually do the shopping together, but he knows that it’s not my favorite activity.
I am grateful that my son will be graduating college in 2 weeks, and coming back to Philly so that we might see him a little more frequently.  He’s been in school 5 hours away.  I am most grateful that I can say I’m grateful that he’ll be back here.  A couple years ago, our relationship was volatile enough that I would have said it would be better for there to be some distance.  But we’ve worked through a lot,  All of us- my husband, my son, my daughter and myself, have put in the work to understand the ‘hot spots’ in our relationships- those tricky issues of dependence and independence and needs and wants and limits that define the relationships between parents and young adult children.  Best of all, this young adult child is coming back to Philly with a job, and we have all agreed that we are all better off if he shares an apartment with a friend rather than living at home, even if it means some subsidy from Mom and Dad.
And my daughter.  I am grateful for the fact that she is thriving at college, and that she has grown into herself, into the quirky and fabulous young woman she is, who believes in herself and, as my husband puts it, ‘marches to her own saxophone’.

I just finished watching a documentary called ‘Bully’ (available on Netflix)- a painful film to watch, but one I recommend to any parent with a child in elementary, middle or high school. The fact of bullying in our schools, on the Internet, on cell phones and in our neighborhoods, is real, and I know it all too well.  My beautiful, talented daughter was a victim of bullying  in middle school and the beginning of high school.  At first, we thought it would stop, or if she could ‘toughen up’, she could make it stop.  We talked to the teachers, the school administration, even the police.  Ultimately, we pulled her out of 9th grade and moved her to a safe place- an alternative school we felt was as bully-proof as was possible.  We were lucky to have the resources to do this, and that such a place existed close by.
A lot of damage had already been done, and it took a while for her to start coming out of her shell.  But slowly, she did, and she developed friends, and rediscovered her creative passions.  Now she is two years into a competitive design program in college  and loving it.  She has developed a resilience that belies all the hurt she suffered, but I believe that it was an example of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.  The problem with this is that it could have killed her.  We just got lucky.
My very best Mother’s Day gift was the video she made, just because she wanted to, to ‘pay it forward’.  She made a suicide prevention video that is posted on YouTube and Vimeo, and as I watched it, I cried tears of both pain and joy, realizing that I had a part in raising this extraordinary human being.

I do have a lot to be grateful for this year.  It hasn’t always been easy, and even now, there are often bumps in the road- kids at 20 and 22 still need their parents, and there are sometimes late-night phone calls with an anxious or tearful adult child at the other end, or mildly alarming texts, or moments when I just have that mother’s intuition that something isn’t right.  I can’t fix things for them anymore with a bandaid or a kiss or an icepack.  ‘Little children, little problems, big children, big problems?’   Well, not always.  Parenting will always bring pain and joy.  But we signed up for it 22 years ago, and it’s not a job you can walk away from.

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Rosalind Kaplan, M.D. is a general internist specializing in women’s health issues and medical management of eating disorders. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and did her residency at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. She is currently an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine and the Director of Temple Health Women’s Care, a multidisciplinary practice for women.