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.)