Friday, February 18, 2011

A good mother should be (a Bad Mom installment)

My fingers tingle the need to type.
That energy tugging, tugging my nerves,
demanding of my brain:  give me the words.

Someone there is in me
that refuses and negates
Shall I keep on hating her, keep getting what I get?
How to love that ugly?
(she is afraid)

Yesterday, my daughter (three and a half) was showing me her giraffe, which she had just discovered. She said "It's mine, it's mine forever."

What is it in me that needed to say to her, "Well, it's yours for as long as it lasts."

She looked up at me seriously.

"But I want to keep it for always. For when I'm a grown up."

And still, I persisted.

"It's not likely to last that long, sweetheart," I said, off-handedly.

Her little eyes welled up with tears.

"But I need to keep him! Forever!"

I could not let it go.

"Nothing lasts forever, sweetie. Everything goes back to the earth or sky or water. Everything."

Her eyeballs were getting red, the corners of her mouth turned down. She shook her head.

"No, not everything. Not me."

"Yes, love. You, me, everything, everyone. Nothing lasts forever."

And suddenly I saw it hit her, and I realized that it was too fast, too brutal a revelation. She understood exactly, precisely what I had said to her. She had not known impermanence until this moment, and I had thrust it on her suddenly and cruelly, carelessly. My heart cracked - I felt it crack. I had inflicted a sacred wound on this innocent spirit, as a mother inevitably will in spite of all.

I swept her up in my arms and carried her from the table, to our spot on the stairs where we talk.

"Oh, it's hard! Don't worry. If you take care of your giraffe, you might have him for a long time. I had a teddy bear when I was a baby, and I took care of him and he slept with me until I was 30!"

"But he didn't last?"

"Oh, sweetie, he did last for a very long time."

"I want my giraffe to last forever."

"I know. Me, too. Wouldn't it be great if everything we love could last forever? And all the stuff we don't like, that stuff can go away, right?"

"Right. But do you know? Mountains last forever."

"That's great thinking, but it just seems like that to us. They do wear away, or get changed when the earth moves."

"No. That's not true."

"You don't have to believe it for it to be."

You see, even then, I couldn't let her have it. She came up with MOUNTAINS in her search for forever, and I barely praised her before telling her she was wrong.

I tried to tell her, "We don't need anything to last forever," but she was wriggling away, already finished with this conversation.

Parenting is certainly a strange and interesting process. I'm learning so much. And I'm sure I'm missing half of it.

(Beliefs I hold: A good mother should be kinder than I am. A good mother should be more patient than I am. A good mother should be more selfless than I am. A good mother should be more present than I am. I am a pretty good mother. It's not good enough for them. I am improving.)


  1. this one broke my heart a little as it spoke directly to me & my perfectly imperfect parenting. groan...my love why do we have to be so hard on ourselves? Where did that need come from to tell the truth at that moment?

  2. You tell that difficult truth in that moment because your heart is telling you it is the way to protect her. Motherhood is chock full of those moments, ideas, and lessons --- you do your best and you learn as you go. Not having kids myself the more I read the more I am in awe.

  3. "I had inflicted a sacred wound on this innocent spirit, as a mother inevitably will in spite of all."

    Omg, what a truth that is!

    Like Liz said, this one "broke my heart", and like Kim Leatherdale wrote, I believe you (we): "...tell that difficult truth in that moment because your heart is telling you it is the way to protect her."

    And it's SO hard to know which/what/when...I KNOW that one of my (now adult) children carries the feeling of being less-loved because I would back away when she went into mini-hysterics (at school functions), while I would practically cradle & rock her sibling through similar reactions -- and yet, I still believe that I was giving what each needed, based on their personalities...sigh.

    Quoting Kim Leatherdale again: "I am in awe." - this (parenting) is damn hard stuff!

    p.s. I think a good mother is one who questions her own actions/reactions - who wonders (with love toward self) about how she is affecting and effecting her children, someone who notices and cares (as opposed to the "my way or the highway" approach or blithely marching along). I think you, dear woman - are a good mother!

  4. Heart-wrenching! Your loving introspective shows what a wonderful mother you are for your children. I wish there was a timeline to guide us parents when we should use the knowledge we have ... and when we should just be satisfied with the knowing. The right timing would have saved me so much heartache with my own kids. But ... you don't know until it's over ... in the end their resilience and openness allow them to survive us and reach for their own dreams! Chin up ... it DOES work out in the end ... my kids never cease to amaze me with what great adults they have become ... in spite of all the wisdom I shared with them!

  5. A good mother loves her children and does the best she can.

    There are no right answers. I have always felt that a mother's most important job is to teach her children to survive in the world.

    Although I have to tell you that I, too, had a teddy bear like that. And I still have him in a box upstairs. He is worse for the wear but he has not disintegrated yet.

    Will he still be there when I am 80?

    Maybe forever is a relative term.

  6. Ditto what Mrs. Mediocrity said...

    Forever is a hard one to let go of.

  7. Oh my heart. My daughter is the same age and unfortunately, has already learned impermanence. Through your words I could feel the ache of holding innocence in my arms and watching it go, just a little bit.
    And yeah, ditto what Mrs M. said. We do the best we can.


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