I really hope this woman will excuse the fact that I borrowed her picture for my column on motherhood. Yes, yes, I know it’s a little soon for a Mother’s Day post, but I was reminded this morning of my own attempts at motherhood and I felt moved to write about it now.
This woman, beautifully appointed, her face lovely, and shining with calm and composure, with a loving child clinging to her, has always been my ideal of motherhood. I always envisioned that I would be a calm saint–perhaps with flowers in my hair–a perfectly appointed outfit on, sweet music filling the air, while happy children frolicked at my feet, wearing expressions of pure joy. The real thing is not so much.
I mean, think about the whole thing for a moment. We are responsible for bringing replacement humans into the world and somehow, without instructions or a guide, we are expected to get the whole motherhood thing down and in the meantime, not mess up the little darlings that we are raising. I thoroughly enjoyed my children (and still do) but I’m the first to say that motherhood is a mystery of the universe and I am fairly certain that no one does it perfectly! But, inevitably, someone will come along, while your child is having a tantrum, or creating a scene or even just puking up the candy they overate and say something bracing like, “You got this.” Well, I’m here to tell you that not only do I not “got this”, but also, that expression has always driven me crazy by its vague reference and extremely bad grammar!
It isn’t that we don’t have people willing to help with this project, you know. Everyone has a theory on how you can better raise your children. “You should not let them watch so much television,”–please, I would have let them watch murder mysteries just to get five minutes of peace locked in a bathroom. “Too much sugar will make them grow up to be crabby people,”–I figure that they have a head-start on crabby watching my attempts at motherhood, they may as well have the sugar too!
Instead of setting women up for some idealized version of parenthood, it might be better to just admit that motherhood is a swamp full of quicksand and if we managed to navigate any of it successfully, it was sheer dumb luck or God taking pity on us! It is unlikely, however, that we will make it out of the mire without at least some of the mud clinging to our shoes. In my opinion, it is a miracle that my children are sane and functional people, because they went through quite a bit of quicksand with me as a mother and there was never a moment where we danced through the meadows, weaving daisies into a chain and experiencing perfect harmony.
Even when motherhood reaches the point that mine has, there are still pitfalls that can trip you up. I must constantly remind myself that their choices in life must meet their vision, instead of mine. Just because I think they would be an awesome prime minister of New Zealand, they may have something entirely different than political fame in mind. (Although, it’d be great if one of them would be President and I could stay at the White House). It’s also hard for me to see those mimes about how they should drop in anytime (I like to sit around in my underwear and they might object to that), check out my refrigerator and cupboard at will (the little darlings might eat all of my Ho Hos) and stay as long as they like (if they make me miss Blue Bloods, I’ll be mad). I love to spend time with them, but honestly, shouldn’t they be allowed to do other things that they like?
There is one thing I think all children owe their parents, however. They should listen, over and over, to all the stories their parents want to tell. I don’t care if I’ve told the story about my older daughter cutting her own hair at the age of four or the younger one stirring the toilet and soaking her good clothes with it at the age of two, my children should wipe that blank, deer-in-the-headlights look from their faces and listen again!
So, while I love the picture of the mother and daughter that I selected for this column, I am suspicious of the calm and in-sync picture they present here. I am willing to bet that Mom has done as many things wrong as I did and that the daughter may feel like strangling her mother rather than hugging–at least once in a while. And while we are at it–I will bet she “don’t got it” all of the time, either!