Jewish World Review May 3, 2002 / 21 Iyar, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

I Nudge, Therefore I Am | There are two things I do well as a mother. The first one is nudging. I never intended to nudge when I became a mom. It just happened naturally, kind of like breathing, sleeping and eating the last chicken nugget off someone else's plate instead of throwing it in the disposal.

I nudge, therefore I am: Stand up straight. Did you wash your hands? Put on your seat belt. Don't lean on the table.

Nudging is a maternal requirement in the same way we are required to say insane things like, "Don't come running to me when you cut your toes off!" and "Don't look at me that way when I'm talking to you. Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

Last week the family went out to dinner and, as soon as our food arrived, I began nudging the youngest. She has a decent diet, but her food palette under the heading of fish has never stretched beyond tuna salad and salmon croquettes.

"Honey, you should try some of your dad's shrimp. Go ahead honey, you'll like shrimp. Someday you may be out with your friends and everyone will be ordering shrimp. What if you're invited to a friend's house and all they serve is shrimp?"

Mothers nudge in the best interest of the child. Mothers nudge new foods, new experiences and new challenges because we are concerned about our children's growth. Mothers nudge because we have a strong belief that our children will go farther, fly higher and spread their wings wider than we ever did - as long as we nudge them to get off the ground.

You think Steven Spielberg's mother wasn't pushy with the family movie camera? You think Stravinksy's mom never nudged him to "practice, practice, practice"? Surely Einstein never would have become a mathematics genius had his mother not nudged him to master fractions.

When our son was in middle school, I nudged him into wrestling. Two weeks into practice he announced he was rotten at wrestling and never going back. "You can't quit," I nudged, "We aren't raising quitters. Surely, the coach has commented on how you're progressing. What does he say?"

"All the coach ever says is, 'Get up off the floor, kid! Get up off the floor!'" OK, so well-intentioned nudging can sometimes backfire.

Meanwhile, back at the restaurant, honey finally takes a piece of shrimp. What an overstatement. Honey takes a pinch of shrimp. Technically, it's mostly batter but perhaps a smidgen of shrimp might be detected under a high-powered microscope

Sixty seconds after honey has been nudged into tasting a bit of shrimp, she says the roof of her mouth itches. No, her mouth is burning and her throat is feeling tight. Her bottom lip that the shrimp gently brushed across is swelling before our eyes and looks like it belongs on the face of Mick Jagger. Honey is allergic to shellfish.

Our other daughter, who was once nudged into taking a babysitting certification course that taught lifesaving skills, has taken something out of her purse and is holding it in her hand. It is a CPR instruction card. She's ready to slap her sister on the floor and start pumping if needed, I'm ready to start screaming and issue a full confession on the perils of nudging. My husband is nowhere in sight, without the slightest nudge, he knows to run and get the car.

The cost of nudging? Thirty-five dollars for dinner we didn't get to eat and $137 for a flying trip to the Immediate Care Center.

Two days later, the kid still has hives scattered across her stomach. I feel rotten. This is the risk you live with when you dare to nudge.

Oh yes, the second thing I do well as a mom?

Carry guilt.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman