Archive for April, 2008

Mommy Dearest

April 29, 2008

My child hates me.

Okay, maybe she doesn’t hate me, but I am certainly not her Most Favorite Person Ever. That title goes to HBF, aka Daddy, who can do no wrong. (Last night, at bedtime: “I love Daddy” “Of course you do, sweetie. Do you love Mommy?” “Nope. I love Daddy. And medicine.” Don’t ask.)

Me, on the other hand – I’m persona non grata. On a good day, she tolerates my presence with a polite firmness that makes perfectly clear that she has boundaries and that I am to respect them (NO, Mommy, just me and Daddy gonna play outside. NOT YOU. THANK YOU.) On a bad day, she wants me as far away as possible, and tells me so in the fiercest of terms. (GO AWAY MOMMY. GO. A. WAAAAAY!) Sometimes, she pushes at me with her little fists and furrows her wee face into a scowl and issues her command that I retreat in a terrible little voice that is somehow at once deep-throated and high-pitched. More than once, she’s thwacked me with her Toadstool (aka Phallic Lovey), as punctuation to her commands. More than once, she’s thrown her entire little being into the effort of getting me away from her now. More than once, she’s growled and scowled and faced me like an enemy.

GO. A. WAY.

MOMMY.

NOW!

And, you know, even though I know that toddlers go through these phases, and even though I know that her behavior is probably even more understandable now that I’m in the late stages of a pregnancy that has taken me away from her – in spirit if not in body – far more often than has been tolerable for me, even though I know that of course she still loves me, even though I know all of this, it hurts, and the pain of it cuts deep. She scowls at me and tells me to go, go, go away don’t stay here go away I don’t want you here BECUZ and throws her wee body against my legs in an effort to just get me away and it’s like a million tiny knives cutting through my skin and into my bones and it takes every ounce of emotional energy that I have left to not burst into tears right in front of her.

Do you want to give Mommy a kiss?

NO.

Do you want to give Mommy a hug?

NO.

Can Mommy sit down next to you?

NO.

She’s not like this all of the time, of course. She’s been quite happy to go out for coffee with Mommy on occasion and go to the bakery with Mommy and go buy treats with Mommy (which, you getting the picture here? If Mommy shoves cookies or candy or mock lattes in her pockets, Wonderbaby is quite happy to have Mommy nearby. Otherwise, not so much). But these remain exceptions to the general rule, which is Mommy go away. And that breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart because now, more than ever, I want to just snuggle up with her and really revel in these last days of exclusive togetherness. I want her to be Mommy’s girl for just a little while, so that when her baby brother comes (she now pats my tummy and refers to him by name, loving him, it seems, a lot more enthusiastically than she loves me) all I’ll need to do is grab her hand and whisper Mommy’s girl and she’ll know that ours is a special love and that we’ll always, always have it, just between us. But she doesn’t want that right now. She wants her dad. And she wants Mommy – slow, belabored, distracted Mommy – out of her face.

And that hurts. It really, really, hurts.

I almost didn’t write about this – because, in part, I’ve been something of a cranky-assed downer of late, and am getting sick of my own bitching, but more so because I feared hearing anything, from anyone, that might suggest that this is not normal, that I must be doing something wrong, something to make her justifiably angry with me, something to make her want to keep her distance. Something beyond just being pregnant and distracted (which, if it is the pregnancy? Is bad enough, because whither our mother-daughter relationship when the baby comes, and I’m even more distracted?) Something wrong with me, something bad about me, her bad mother. And I just didn’t think that I was up for hearing that, even as the gentlest suggestion.

But if it is me, I need to hear it, because I need to change it. And if it’s not me – if lots of children go through this – then I need to hear that even more. Because I need some peace.

Mommy fought the Law but the Law won.



Fear And Loving In The Mother ‘Hood

April 28, 2008

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never in my life felt more more fearful, more anxious, less brave, than I have as a mother. From the moment that the lines on that stick turned pink the first time around, I’ve been afraid. My pregnancy with Wonderbaby, Wonderbaby’s birth, Wonderbaby’s life thus far, the second set of lines on the second stick… I have lived and continue to live through these with the sharpest sense of fear, of awareness that there is so much to lose now, of myself, of all that I love, of all that I live for. I carry my heart around outside my body now – soon I will carry its beating, bloody weight times two – and because of that I am vulnerable in ways that I never thought possible. Because of that, I am afraid.

I do not mind this fear.

Not so much, anyway. Because the trade-off – for love, for love, for love and for so much heart-bursting, belly-aching joy, more than seems possible or even bearable – is worth it. But it’s hard to explain, this schizophrenic state of mind and heart and soul wherein the greatest of all loves and joys is accompanied, always, by the deepest of all fears. Wherein the greatest confidence is coupled with the deepest anxiety; the greatest pride, coupled with the deepest humility; the greatest bravado and ambition, coupled with the deepest insecurity. A condition of ongoing paradox – of heroic paradox, but paradox nonetheless – which is, as I said, so difficult to explain.

But Rebecca explains it. Rebecca, who most of you know as Girl’s Gone Child (and who I know as much-beloved, much-admired, oh-so-proud-to-call-her-friend FRIEND) (that was a disclaimer, by the way, to let anyone who reads this know that yes, I am entirely biased when it comes to Rebecca Woolf, but that that bias is based not only upon my deep affection for and shrieking fangirl devotion to her, but also upon my critical esteem for her as a writer) (where was I? oh, right…) Rebecca explains this paradox beautifully, perfectly in her book Rockabye, in the most beautiful narrative prose that traces her journey from unexpectedly pregnant wild child to wild child with child with heart-scraping honesty. Heart-scraping honesty that lays bare the kind of deep-seeded fear and anxiety that accompanies nearly every moment of pregnancy and motherhood while making perfectly clear the fierce hope and love that accompanies that fear. Heart-scraping honesty that allows for a vivid and visceral expression of the exhilaration of motherhood, of the feeling – both terrifying and thrilling – of being flung into the abyss with no bungee cord, only the hope of soft landing, or flight.

I can’t do it justice, of course. She writes the experience of exhilarated fear and fearsomely fierce love and hope (“There’s no such thing as messing up if you go with your heart”) through the story of her own unexpected pregnancy and unexpected motherhood and all the unexpected moments in between and beyond. It’s what’s called momoir, I suppose, but it’s so much more than that. It’s more like Fear and Loving In Los Angeles: A Savage Journey To The Heart Of The Maternal Dream, which is to say, it’s more like a great wave-speech ode to motherhood, a beat-epic-meets-gonzo-storytelling-meets-The-Confessions-subverted, all wrapped in love and hope. Which is probably the only medium though which such a story, the true fear-and-love-addled story, of motherhood can effectively be told.

And I admire her telling of it so much that there’s no space in my heart for the even slightest smidge of envy – which there should be – because if anything, her work here is just the best possible evidence that this kind of storytelling – our kind of storytelling – is amazing and heroic and that the world needs so much more of it.

XOXO Becs. Thank you for this.

Fear is just a four-letter word for BRING IT ON.

(You can find more reviews here this week, and you can purchase her book – which, really, you must, and you know that I would never, ever say that in this space if it weren’t 110% TRUE – here. You can also read the first chapter here, at Smith Mag. Which, you totally should. Then buy it.)

(I’m really sorry that I keep closing comments. I’m just super emotionally and physically exhausted and kinda not up for dialogue. Which isn’t fair to you guys, I know, but it just is. I just want to close my computer and sleep more.) (You could always go visit Rebecca’s blog and talk about turning fear into awesome writing there. Or, again – shameless charity plug – check out the muscular dystrophy links that I included in my last post. Every little bit helps, yanno?

I’ll be back to my happy chatty self soon, I promise. xo)

A Portrait Of A Mother As Hero

April 26, 2008

Something – someone – that I haven’t written about it in a long time: my nephew, Tanner. He’s dying. He has an aggressive form of muscular dystrophy – Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy – and it’s become painfully clear over the past few months that his is a more aggressive form of an already aggressive terminal disorder, which is why I haven’t written about it in so long. It’s too painful. He can no longer walk, at all. The muscles in his legs have deteriorated to the point where they are no longer able to carry him forward. His lungs and his heart are going to fail him in this way, too, but there’s no wheelchair for the lungs or the heart.

He’s only eight years old. This is all happening much too quickly. For us, for him.

His mother is my sister, my only sibling. If you’d asked me, say, twenty years ago whether I’d admire her as grown-up, I would have stuck out my tongue at you and called you stupid. I would have said no, because she’s a stupid stupid-head and she took my favorite top and she’s going to be a stupid-head forever. Or something like that. We loved each other, but we rolled like that.

My sister, formerly-known-as-stupid-head, is now the mother of three children, one of which a dying child, and I don’t know how she does it. Like, head-shaking, utterly-baffled, completely-beyond-me, oh-GOD-pass-me-another-drink don’t know how she does it. I don’t think that she knows, either. But she does it, somehow. She keeps on doing it, because it’s the only choice she has. She can’t give up. She has to keep going, for Tanner and his brother and his sister, and for herself.

She runs. She runs faster and harder and longer than anyone I know. She keeps running long after others would have stopped, long after other legs would have buckled, long after other hearts would have near burst. She runs for Tanner, to raise awareness of his condition, to raise money for research, to raise his name upon a sweaty t-shirt so that the world can see that there’s a kid called Tanner out there and he’s special and he’s loved and please never forget kids like Tanner.

She runs because Tanner can’t. She runs because he’s running out of time, and because, in the face of being able to doing nothing to stop or slow the passage of that time, it helps, a little, to run headlong into the wind and speed through time and make time her bitch, if only for the hours and minutes it takes to run a marathon. To feel her own legs weaken and her own heart and lungs strain to bursting in their confrontation with time and speed and the inexorable spinning of the world toward destinies she has not chosen.

She is, as they say, just a mom. But she’s the most extraordinary mom, in my eyes, because fate keeps pummeling her heart and she keeps saying fuck you fate and then keeps on running and running and running and running for her boy and for herself and for her family and for anyone who ever felt overwhelmed by life and love and the all-too-swift passage of time.

And that persistence, that determination, against all odds – whether it’s expressed in running or writing or just hanging-on-by-the-fingernails coping – that’s motherhood at its most heroic. That’s heart.

And I am in awe of it.

My sister, finishing the Boston Marathon this week. A portrait (in miniature) of awesomeness.

********

I’m closing comments for this post because a) my heart is a little raw after writing it and I’d like to just let it sit for a while, b) because I’d rather you take that extra second to click over here or here and learn a little about MD, or maybe, if you’re so inclined, make a donation.

(Posted as part of PBN‘s Portraits of Mom Blog Blast)

Evil Mom-Blogger Haters Sent Me Into Labor. Sort Of.

April 25, 2008

False labor. What the hell is up with that, seriously? It’s, like, the meanest trick that the gods have up their sleeves – save, say, giving a pregnant woman who is racked by both anxiety and extreme morning sickness walking pneumonia and her toddler an eye infection two days before they move house. Maybe.

False labor is worse than that. It’s worse because not only is it physically painful – the contractions feel pretty damn close to the real thing, which, you know, is not good – it is out-and-out psychological torture. You never know when they’re going to hit, and when they do, you don’t know whether it’s the real thing or not until they begin to subside. So it’s this recurring experience of

ouch-OUCH-OUCH-OOOH-OUCH- isthisit?-isthisit?-OUCH-OOOH-isit?-isit? …. ouch-ouch-nope-ouch-maybe?-nope-nope … gawd … THIS SUCKS.

It’s even better when it happens, like, six times in the middle of the night while your legs and feet are cramping themselves into something approximating badly contorted crab claws. And what’s even more awesome? My doctor tells me that although the false contractions (which, she says, could be caused by stress. HA) might signal an early labor, they might also continue for some weeks! Which: GREAT. Shoot me now.

So I’m exhausted. Mentally and physically exhausted and pretty desperately in need of a very dry double vodka martini and maybe a flock of scantily-clad manservants to hand-feed me the olives while I slurp the liquor. Because, you know, that’d help a bit.

But seeing as that’s probably not forthcoming, maybe I’ll just go crawl back under the covers and not sleep for a few more hours.

HBM (aka CNEZPMB): Portrait Of A Woman Nine Months Plus Pregnant and Hating It.
(Seriously.)

*******

If I had more mental energy, I’d be participating in this week’s Friday Flashback party, for which the topic is, First or Most Memorable Early Movie Memory: Discuss. I’d have something to say about having been terrified by Darby O’Gill and the Little People, or about being forbidden by my parents from seeing Grease, two experiences that scarred me for life. Travels into the darker reaches of my childhood memory, however, just might bring on more contractions, though, so, yeah, not up for it. Feel free to jump in yourself, though. (See an example at OTJ, who brings up Escape From Witch Mountain, which, omg, SEMINAL WORK OF CINEMATIC ART AIMED AT FANTASIST CHILDREN.)

(Also, if you’re feeling all participatory and Earth-friendly today, you might go do this, too)

Crazy Narcissistic Exploitative Zombie-Pimp Mom-Bloggers, Unite and Take Over

April 23, 2008

Nothing makes a mom-blogger prouder than to open the online editorial page of a major newspaper and see a picture of her daughter with a hyper-linked headline that asks “Is Blogging About Your Kid Exploitation?”

Of course it is, you say to yourself. And then you print the article and fold it neatly – you know, for the scrapbook, and also maybe for tax purposes – alongside the stacks and stacks of hundred-dollar bills you’ve collected from the enterprise of exploiting your daughter. The stacks that you make her wrap in wee elastic bands and load into the stroller basket to take to the bank. When she’s not busy posing for the pictures that you post on your exploitative ‘GET UR LIVE TODDLER SHOW RITE HEER” blog, that is. Or amusing herself in the corner with old vodka bottles while you spend the better part of each day telling the Internet stories about her. You know, for the cash.

I knew what that Globe and Mail story was about when I agreed to be interviewed for it. And I knew, too, that allowing them to photograph Wonderbaby and I would make us a focal point. I also knew that when I said, in the interview, this is going sound totally inappropriate, and probably needs a lot of explanation – it’s just that I can’t think of a better word – but in a way I think of her as my property, yanno? that the ambivalent preamble would be omitted when the quote was – inevitably – used. (Actual quote, minus preamble: “In a way I think of her as my property, my work of art… She’s a work in progress that I’m involved in. To that extent, I have some licence to be public about having her as my muse.”) I didn’t have a problem with that. I was prepared to stand by that. I knew that I would have to stand by that, because I knew that I’d get shit for that.

And I did. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the force of the shit being flung.

In the comments to the online article, this was the tenor of the response:

“Is it just me or is this poor little kid doomed from the get go?”

“Isn’t this just another form of pimping?”

“At 6 her daughter will likely hire a lawyer and sue her for half.”

“Parents that sit and blog are actually NOT paying attention to their children. You know the old saying ‘where are the parents.’ Well their (sic) right here in front of you honey, but they are zombified in front of a screen.”

“If this is the way this woman views her child, I hope she saves up whatever money she’s earning from her pathetic blog to pay for her kid’s therapy later in life.”

And my favorite (regarding a quote from Wonderbaby, cited in the title of the article) “Who would teach their child to speak like this?”

(Memo to ‘Dennis sinneD from Calgary’: if you know any two-year olds who can not only construct complete sentences, but articulate those sentences with perfect diction, then you live in some alternate parallel universe where said children quote EB White at five years of age, attend Oxford at seven, and publish their collected essays on the rise of the English novel at ten. Which is to say, NOT CALGARY.)

Anyway. OUCH.

The comments are stupid, I know. And, simply, wrong: I’m not some shameless mom-pimp, whoring out an online kiddy show for pennies from Google ads. I’m a writer. I make money from writing; it’s my job, my contribution to the household income, the means by which we’re going to send her to university and pay for her wedding and help her buy a house and just generally take care of her and her sibling. But it’s also a labor of love – I didn’t start writing to make money, I started because I love it. And I started writing about – mostly – being a mom because, in addition to loving the writing, I found solace and comfort and release and community in it. And so did others – readers, and other writers, who shared their stories with me. And so I kept writing, and so I keep on writing, and so I will keep on writing, until I have no words left. The money is nice, but it’s incidental to my love for the practice of writing.

Most of what I write is not Wonderbaby anecdote. I’m not simply keeping a play-by-play (or, more accurately, asskick-by-asskick) record of her life. I’m writing what is, in part, a living memoir of my experience as a first-time (soon to be second-time) mother. She’s a big part of that – the biggest part, in most obvious respects – but there’s a lot about that experience that holds her at the periphery. A very, very close periphery, but still. My motherhood is a work in progress that involves her closely, but it is, also, a work that is more mine that hers. When I said in the article that she’s my muse, that’s probably as close to the truth of the writing matter as I could get. She is the source of my identity as a mother, and my primary inspiration as a writer – but the story that I tell about the experience of motherhood – the experience of womanhood after having children – is not, strictly speaking, her story. It’s mine. Mostly. (The issue of public/private distinctions as these pertain to the quote-unquote institution of motherhood, and the idea of children as any sort of ‘property,’ are subjects for another post. Soon.) (I’ll just say this: the word ‘property’ – from the Latin proprius, meaning one’s own – doesn’t necessarily refer to chattel. Rousseau and Mill took ‘property’ to refer to the broad spectrum of things – including happiness, self-respect, family – that one might hold dearly as ‘one’s own’)

And in any case – even if one does regard my personal blog as simply one long exercise in narcissistic storytelling about life with Wonderbaby – what of it? As this blogger pointed out to me in a private conversation, why does so-called lifestyle writing in print not prompt people to generalize those writers as narcissistic nutbars or neglectful parents or – most pleasantly – pimps? Memoirs, autobiography, lifestyle op-ed columns – these have been around for a very long time, and while some such writers, I’m sure, are called narcissists, most of them have probably not had the unique pleasure of being called crazy, zombified pimps. (Most of them, however, have – from Rousseau to Sedaris – historically been men. There’s something about so-called lifestyle writing or memoir by women – online or off – that inevitably provokes hysterical name-calling and foretellings of the decline of civilization. This has everything to do with the historical consignment of women and family to the private sphere, I think, but again, that’s a subject for another post. I can only skim the surface here.)

There’s something about mothers lifting back the veil of the family that upsets people, that leads people to accuse the mothers who dare do such a thing of neglecting their maternal duties, of exploiting their children, of exposing their children to the dangers of the public sphere, of being bad. But that’s precisely what makes mom-blogging – to overuse a deservedly overused phrase – a radical act. We’ve always been told to not lift the veil. We’ve always been told to stay behind the veil, no matter what. We’ve always been told that the sanctity and well-being of our families depends upon the integrity of that veil – upon modesty and privacy and keeping our struggles and our victories to ourselves. Which has, over the course of the history of Western civilization (and that of other civilizations, of course, although I cannot speak to these with any authority), kept us isolated from one another. Kept us silent.

I choose not to be silent. I choose to tell my stories, tell – while she is young – her stories, tell the stories of she and I and our family and our place in this world and to pull meaning from those stories and to speculate on those meanings and to reflect, out loud, on what it means to be a mom in this day and age and other days and ages and all the days and ages to come. I choose to use my voice, my fingers, my keyboard to make myself heard. I choose to write. If that makes me appear, to some, a crazy, narcissistic, exploitative zombie-pimp who whores her child out for the sake of a few bucks and the self-indulgence of storytelling, then so be it.


It’s worth it. It’s so worth it.

******

Wee update: The writer of the article contacted me and asked if I wanted the offensive comments removed from the Globe and Mail site. I said no – apart from the name-calling, they’re expressing an opinion that I chose to engage with (because I think that it’s stupid and in some cases offensive, but still) and in any case, I’m not much on with censorship, unless it’s me doing it on my own site. Still… was that the right decision? Letting comments that refer to me as ‘vile’ and ‘zombified’ and ‘pimp’ stand for eternity on the interwebs? Or does open discourse require a bit of personal discomfort – perhaps more than I’m used to – sometimes?

Seconds

April 21, 2008

In four weeks, give or take some days, I will give birth. To a baby. Another one.

At this point in my first pregnancy, I was totally prepared for the arrival of the baby and for any and all potential natural disasters and had already moved on to alphabetizing the boxes of teas in the tea cupboard. I had purchased and assembled (okay, had husband assemble) a stroller (carefully selected after extensive research) and a crib (examined and re-examined and re-examined again for possible defects and potential baby-head-mangling gaps.) I had outfitted the crib in organic cotton linens and stocked the dresser with impossibly tiny onesies and receiving blankets and diapers and diaper ointment and baby jammies and wee socks and booties and even some of those creepy little fingerless cotton mittens that I never did use. I had stocked the bookshelves with baby books, and put pictures up on the walls, and put little stuffed toys on the daybed. If that baby came early, I was ready. If that baby came late, I was ready. If a tornado hit and shut down the city and we were suddenly faced with an extreme diaper cream shortage? I was ready. If the ice caps melted and the streets flooded and we were suddenly forced to float south on a crib made bouyant by a thousand Pampers Swaddlers and some teething rings? I. WAS. READY.

This time? I am not ready. Not even close.

I have one new onesie for this child – one – and that was a gift. I haven’t even gone through Wonderbaby’s baby things – the stuff that I didn’t give away in the weeks and months during which I was convinced that I would never go through that new child thing again, HELL NO – to see if there is, by chance, one or two onesies or pajama sets that are not a) pink, or b) irretrievably shit-stained. The bassinet is in storage, as is the infant car seat. The BabyBjorn was given away, loooong ago, after Wonderbaby rejected it. And the nursery? Looks like this:


Those are bins of laundry – washed, yes, but unfolded, because who has time for that? – in the foreground. And a vacuum cleaner. And while there are books and magazines on the bookshelf, they’re all old New Yorker magazines, Penguin Classics paperbacks and Martin Amis novels. Not a single work of Margaret Wise Brown to be found.

I tell myself that it doesn’t mean anything, my inattention to the details of preparing for the arrival of this child. I tell myself that I’m slacking because I learned from the last one that all the organic cotton onesies and stocks of diaper cream in the world can’t prepare you for the onslaught of mess and noise and love that a baby brings. I tell myself that what’s different this time is that I know that money can’t buy me baby-love. Or peace, or quiet, or security from fear. I tell myself that I’m not nesting, that I’m not feathering the nest, because I know that the feathers don’t matter. That only my love, and his father’s love, and his sister’s love matter.

But still I worry. Isn’t there a fine line between acknowledging what doesn’t matter, and not caring? Mightn’t I be perched on the slippery slope of devoting less care and attention to this child? This second child?

When I first found out that I was pregnant this time around, I was gripped – along with the joy – with fear and anxiety and ambivalence. I worried that while I was providing Wonderbaby with a wonderful, wonderful gift in a new sibling, I might also be depriving her of me – my love, my devotion, my attention, all of these things, undivided. I don’t worry about that anymore. She has been and will always will be given enough love and attention and adoration to last lifetimes. Now, instead, I worry that I am bringing her brother into a life where everything that he is offered – love, attention, adoration, onesies – is divided. Handed down. Seconds. Even if what he is being handed down – even if what is divided – is in quantities that can only be measured by infinities, doesn’t it matter that these are still seconds? That whatever he has – kisses, hugs, baby socks – will have been had by his sister, literally or figuratively, first?

That my love for him – although perhaps more the sweeter for coming from a calmer, more mature place – will not be my first, most intense love?

I will love him – DO love him – to the height and depth and breadth my soul can reach, etc. There will be no gaps or shortages in that love; there will be no further distance that that love could travel, no greater height that love could climb. It is, and will be, complete.

But it will always be the love that came second.

Does that matter?

Falling Out Of Trees

April 18, 2008

When I was about seven years old, I hurt another child. I’d like to say that I didn’t mean to, that it was an accident, but it wasn’t, not really.

It was the kind of thing that happens in an instant: there was a small group of us climbing trees in the woods behind our houses, and I was in a higher branch, and this girl grabbed for my hand to pull herself up to my branch and I just let my hand go slack so that her hand slipped away and she fell and she hit the ground and she cried. It wasn’t very far, and she was fine, but still. I made her fall. And I meant to do it. I have no idea why. It was just momentary impulse of meanness, acted upon. And I’m still shamed by it.

The other day someone asked me whether there were any stories that I wouldn’t share about Wonderbaby and I said, oh of course there are, blah blah blah, but in that instant another question occurred to me: are there any stories about me that I wouldn’t share? And more specifically: are there any stories about me that I wouldn’t share with Wonderbaby? And the little story that I told above is the one that came most immediately to mind.

That it was that story that came to mind gave me pause for thought. Why that story? There are all variety of stories from my childhood and youth and, well, every phase of my life, of which I am not proud. Stories that reveal me as selfish and self-absorbed and possessing unsound judgment and uncharitable and unpleasant and, in some moments, unkind. But those stories – the time when I was thirteen and stole a Twix bar, the time(s) that I snuck out my bedroom window to go to nightclubs, the time that I told my sister (untruthfully) that she was adopted, the many times that I have, in fact, had spare change and yet said that I didn’t – I wouldn’t be afraid to share with my child, assuming she were at an age to appreciate the nuances of the story as I would want to tell it. Which is to say, I wouldn’t be afraid to use those stories as (as much as this term pains me) ‘teaching’ stories, as means of demonstrating that being good (whatever that means) doesn’t mean being perfect, that human beings do let others down sometimes, that we let ourselves down sometimes, and that sometimes those are the greatest hurts of all, the little hurts that we inflict upon ourselves and others, even if we don’t mean to, even if we only do those things because we want some things too badly or because we’re too hurt or afraid or lost in our own miseries, big or small, to do the right thing.

(Even, yes, sex stories, assuming that she’d want to hear them – which, speaking as a daughter, I’d expect she wouldn’t. But those stories – about good and bad choices, risks taken, risks averted – can be, I think, as important to open parent-child discussion as much as any other kind of story. Not until she’s, like, married, though.)

But the story about the time that I just acted on a moment of meanness – of unbidden, unjustified, inexplicable meanness – that story, I don’t know how spin didactically. There’s no moral there; that is, none that I can explain to myself adequately enough that I would be able to explain it to my child. That everyone carries a little seed of meanness in their hearts? That children can be inexplicably cruel? That sometimes we do wrong things without even knowing why? These seem banal lessons, in the context of that little story. I was just mean for a moment. I still feel badly about it. Is the lesson that guilt and shame can follow an action forever? Ugh.

So I just don’t want to share that story with her, ever.

The one other story that I don’t want to share with her, that I don’t want to have to share with her: this story. A story that contains no seed of meanness, but one that pains me – sometimes shames me, sometimes – nonetheless. The story about how she was not the first, about how my own mother’s heart broke with mine in making a choice that I still regret to the very bottom of my soul and yet do not regret at all, the story that I still don’t know how to tell to myself, a story the moral of which I still haven’t sorted out, may never sort out. I will only tell her that story, someday – a very long someday away, never away, I hope – if I need to. If she needs me to. If it’s something that she needs to hear from me, discuss with me, I’ll share it. But I fervently hope that I never need to, that she never needs to hear that story, both for her sake and my own.

Because that story, like the other, defies my analytic and didactic skills. I don’t know what lessons they contain, I don’t even know what lessons I want them to contain. One has no explanation; the other beggars explanation. Why did I do it? A million reasons, and none at all. They are stories that are, in very different ways, inscrutable to me, the owner of the heart that made them actual. And so they hang there, in the tree, like the reddest of apples, waiting to be plucked or to fall, their taste, their toxicity, something that I can’t control. Which makes them the most difficult stories – the most dangerous stories – for me, as a parent, to even consider telling.

Which makes them also, perhaps, the most important stories. Were I ever to be brave enough to pluck them.

*******

Friday Flashback prompt this week: What memory/story from your youth (or childhood) – if any – would you never share with your own children? Why? And if there’s nothing from your history that you wouldn’t have them know, why is that? (Note, as always, that you can play around with this – is there some story that you want them to know, but only when they’re much older? Something you’ll only share when/if they ask?) Already up: posts from IzzyMom, and Mamalogues

From The Bottom Of My Squished-Up, Fetus-Kicked Heart

April 17, 2008

Apparently, it was Blog Reader Appreciation Day yesterday. As might well have been expected, I missed it.

I’ve been a terrible blog citizen these past months. I still visit and read blogs – old ones, new ones (all the new ones that spring up like so many lovely flowers in my comments inbox, actually. Am like bumblebee; cannot resist the nectar of new stories…) – but I’ve rarely commented. It’s not that I’m not moved or inspired – words simply can’t express how much those stories move me – it’s that there have been just too many days since last fall, since the first difficulties of the pregnancy, since the anxieties that followed, since the subsequent relief turned to exhaustion, that I’ve felt unable to participate in the discussions. I read the posts, and then spurn the comments section, because I think, I haven’t the energy to jump in here, to make my voice heard, to cry or laugh or rage or love more than I have already done in the reading, I just can’t do it. And so I click away, making a mental note to e-mail the writer, or to Twitter their link, or something.

I rarely do.

There have been a great many days since last fall that I’ve considered shutting down this site entirely – retiring the personal stories and anecdotes and confessions that have so sustained me – and limiting my online writing to the paid gigs and other projects that this blog made possible for me. Just because I was so tired, and because I felt that I wasn’t holding up my end of the bloggy social contract. I crafted numerous posts like this one, apologizing, explaining, and then tucked them away in draft, not wanting to turn my feelings into an exercise in public self-flagellation. (I asked a dear friend over the weekend, how does one talk about not wanting to talk? how does one say sorry for that? *should* one say sorry?) And so I just kept returning to this space, my space, for the comfort and release of storytelling, of sharing, knowing that you were always still here, reading, listening, no matter what. And so I will keep returning, because I need this.

Yesterday, I received a card in the mail from Muscular Dystrophy Canada, thanking me and what they termed ‘my supporters’ for raising the third highest amount of money for MD in the marathon/charity walk last September. My supporters. My family’s supporters. You. All of you. Those of you who contributed, those of you who walked with me, and those of you have just always been there, listening and caring. All of you, who are so, so, so much more than just ‘supporters’ or ‘readers’. All of you, friends. Sounding boards. Welcoming shoulders, warm hands, open hearts.

I cried when I read the card, from gratitude, and from a keen sense of having not expressed that gratitude enough. I’m so fortunate, and so not sufficiently demonstrative enough in my gratitude for the good fortune that you all have helped me create and sustain. I want to promise that I’ll be better at it, that I’ll be a better friend, that I’ll comment everywhere, always.

But I can’t. I really am doing the best I can, and times are getting more challenging ’round here, and I may in fact become worse with this before I become better.

I just wanted you to know that I think about these things. That I think about all of you. That I way-so-more-than-appreciate-you. A lot.

xoxoxoxo

(Am closing comments because this post is just for you. I want you to just read it, and not concern yourselves with reassurances or back-pats or oh-no-thank-*you*s. I’m just laying this very small flower at your feet and stepping away. It’s yours. That is all.)

Ooooh, She’s A Little Runaway…

April 15, 2008

The other day, Wonderbaby tried to run away from home. For the second time.

I fully expected that at some point in our family life, she would make a runaway attempt. I made my own first attempt when I was about eight years old. I can’t for the life of me recall the reason, but I’m sure that it was a response to some grave household injustice, and I studied The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, closely, for days in planning my escape. I gave up my plans when I got to the end of my driveway and realized that I had no idea how to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada. But, yeah, I was eight years old. Wonderbaby is 28 months old. And she hasn’t even read The Mixed-Up Files yet, so how’d she know to layer her clothes and be strategic about what she stuffed in her backpack?

And why has she done it twice?

The first time was week before last. She got tired, apparently, of being bossed by Her Bad Grandma – who was staying with her while I was off doing some jet-setty momblogger shiz (which is to say, learning how to braid hair and catch my prolapsed uterus in a bucket) – and so gave Grandma an ultimatum: you go Gamma. Or I go. And when Grandma informed her that, no, she would not go home, Wonderbaby said OKAY I GO GAMMA YOU NO STOP ME and went to her room where she retrieved her backpack and open her drawers and began emptying them of her gear. Once the backpack was filled with toys and clothing, she proceeded – according to HBG, in a fit of high temper – to layer clothing upon herself, beginning with a variety of pants and shirts and finishing with her full-body-SPF-protection swim-slash-sunsuit and a pair of tights that she couldn’t quite get over her layers, much to her rage.

She then – backpack pulled firmly over shoulders – tromped down the stairs and put on her rain boots, all the while shouting YOU NO FOLLOW ME at Grandma. There was further hissy-fittage when she discovered that her coat wouldn’t go on over her overstuffed backpack, until she settled upon throwing a sweater over her shoulders like a cape and pulling a fuzzy snow hat – complete with ear flaps – over her head. At which point she reportedly told Grandma, again, a voce alta: I GO FIND MAMA YOU DON’T FOLLOW ME GO AWAY.

And headed for the door.

My mother, bless her heart, fought the urge to just let her go, although it was more, she said, out of fear of what the neighbours would think of a shrieking, be-hoboed toddler marching down the road than out of any real fear for Wonderbaby’s safety. And to Wonderbaby’s credit, she did eventually calm down and, with Her Bad Grandma’s patient help, put her things away.

Thus was averted a career of boxcar-riding and panhandling for Wonderbaby. Until a few days ago, when she tried it again, with me…

Wonderbaby, in full runaway regalia (multiple layers of clothing, mismatched boots, awkwardly tied, mittens, tiny suitcase in one hand, bag of diapers under one arm, Toadstool shoved in waistband of one of many layers of tights and pants): BYE MAMA. I GO NOW.

Me, exhausted and newly retired (in my own mind) from motherhood: Okay, sweetie. Bye.

WB: I GO NOW FIND BETTER HOME.

Me: Okay.

WB, turning and walking away: OKAY. YOU DON’T FOLLOW ME.

Me: I won’t.

At which point she tromped down the stairs and rattled at the handle of the (locked – I know my daughter) front door. A few moments later, after much exasperated huffing and dragging of miniature luggage back up the stairs, she reappeared at the playroom door.

WB, putting down bags and affecting her most serious look: I no go find better home.

Me: Okay.

WB: Okay.

(Sweet, sweet silence for a few minutes.)

WB: YOU GET ME MILK AND HONEY NOW. AND TREAT.

(Pause)

TWO TREATS.

(Pause)

OR I GONNA GO FIND BETTER HOME.


What was it that I said at the end of my last post? Oh, right… AM F*CKED.

Sammich, With Bevvies, To Go (A Urinary Tale)

April 14, 2008

“I no go pottie”

“That’s fine. If you don’t have to go, that’s fine.”

“I fine. I no have to go.”

There’s a loud rip as the diaper is torn and yanked out from between her legs, and then a thud as it lands at my feet.

“I no need diaper.”

“I would rather you wear a diaper.”

“No.”

“Then you need to wear your Dora pants.”

“No. I fine. I put pee-pee in toilet.”

Fine, I think. Whatever. I’m too far exhausted to wrestle her into a diaper, and far too mentally and emotionally spent to invite another tantrum. And isn’t there some sort of toilet-training method that involves just letting your kid run around naked and piss on the floor and it’s all like attachment-potty-training or some such shit? Whatever. I GIVE UP.

Five minutes later, I notice that she has a small plastic cup – a bath toy – clutched between her knees.

“What are you doing with the cup, sweetie?”

“I just HOLDING IT. I FINE. YOU DON’T TAKE IT AWAY.”

Whatever.

Two minutes later, my attention – heretofore entirely occupied by the critical task of figuring out whether to hoist my massive, belly-heavy self to its feet and down to the kitchen for more chocolate, and risk distracting the hellion from her concentrated effort to balance wooden fried eggs between wooden slices of bread and create the perfect fake fried egg sandwich, or to just stay safely and comfortably put – is captured by the sound of a single stream of rain hitting an empty plastic bucket.

It’s not raining. And we have no buckets.

Wonderbaby has abandoned her toy kitchen cum sandwich station and is standing with chubby naked legs spread, both of her little hands clutching the plastic cup directly beneath her nether regions, and is peeing into the cup. She waits for the stream to run its course, and then waits another moment to catch the drips, and then marches blithely past me, out of the playroom and into the bathroom, where – as I continue to watch, in stunned, immobile silence – she carefully pours the contents of the cup into the toilet and flushes.

“I PUT PEE-PEE IN TOILET MAMA. I ALL DONE.”

Then she washes her hands, and leaves the cup in the bathroom sink. She returns to her post in the playroom, where she puts the wooden slices of bread stacked with wooden fried eggs on a little wooden plate, dashes some imaginary salt from the toy shaker over it all, and hands it to me.

“There you go Mama. You need my cup? For juice?”

Does one laugh, or cry? SERIOUSLY.

Am f*cked.