Her Bad Mother

Friday, April 3, 2009


I have moments when I lose the thread of the story that I tell myself about why this is so important to me. I tell myself that this - this story about searching for my long-lost brother - is a story about helping my mother. I tell myself that this is for her, and for him. I tell myself these things, and I stumble over my lack of conviction. It is these things, of course. But it's more than these things. I want to find him for me. I'm not sure why.

I never knew that I had a brother. His absence from my life, such as it was, was unknown to me. I never felt the loss, because I did not know it. It's wrong, perhaps, to even describe it as loss. His absence from my mother's life made it possible for me to exist. Had she stayed with his father, as was her plan, I would never have been born. We were never fated to share a life, he and I, so how can his absence from my life be understood, be felt, as a loss? (Also, oh god, loss. My heart aches for not being able to parse its experience of loss in a manner that makes such loss comprehensible. My heart, it aches, and is confused.) My brother was not lost to me. He was never mine in the first place.

And yet: I'm haunted by the moment, in the telling of her story, when my mother said "your father would have adopted him." They were friends, she and my father; the circumstances surrounding her giving up this boy brought them closer. My father offered to stay with her, and with him, and make a family. But it didn't happen that way - my mother didn't know that she could change her mind about giving up her son, and so the wheel of the fates turned and the boy went to another family and was lost forever to mine. Is it this that haunts me? The idea that he could have been my older brother, that my life might have been the same in every respect save for the presence of a brother? No, because - if there is one thing that Lost has taught me - history does not unfold that way. Keeping my brother would have set my mother on a different path in a different life, regardless of whether or not my father was with her on that path. It would have set her on a different path in a different life. A life without me. So am I haunted by the idea that, but for the grace of the fates, this boy, this lost boy, might have had my life? Is this why I want to know him?

I don't know. I'm still sorting this out. All I know is, I keep turning this Dharma wheel, hoping that it will project me into a time and place where I know my brother. For better or for worse.

UPDATE: I'm shutting down comments on this post. Apparently, not everyone in the world supports public adoption searches - which, fine, but some of those not-everyones are unable to express their opinion about that in a manner that is civil. My heart's too vulnerable around this. I'm putting the comments away, to keep private, for myself, and closing further commentary. Anyone who needs/wants to get in touch with me about this, please use e-mail.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The World According To Mom

A few months ago, my friend David asked me if I thought that it would be possible to travel around the world via blog. "Like Around The World In 80 Days," he said, "but on the Internet. Around the world in 80 clicks. 80 mom-blogger clicks!" "I don't know," I said. "But it sure sounds like a cool thing to try." "Cool. And if you could visit, virtually, moms around the world, what would you want to talk to them about?"

This was my answer (more on our "Around The World In 80 Clicks" project after the post, below)

Once, when Emilia was 8 or 9 months old and we were socializing at a local playground, another mother asked me this question: "don't you just love being a mom?" She meant it rhetorically: of course I loved being a mom. How could anyone not love being a mom? Becoming a mom means entering a state of existence wherein you are always, at some level, deeply fulfilled. It means being adored by tiny creatures who delight at the sound of your voice. It means love, giggles and ice cream and rainbows. It also means crouching in damp sand at playgrounds and wiping snotty noses and shitty bums and worrying constantly about whether or not you remembered to restock the diaper bag and, also, refill your Ativan prescription.

"Sort of," I replied. "Some of the time."

My memory on this might be fuzzy, but I think that she physically recoiled.

Of course I love being a mother. But it's complicated. I love being a mother to my children, but there's a very great difference between loving being a mother to one's own children and loving motherhood generally. I mean, I love being married to my husband, because I love him, but I can't imagine marching around saying that I love being a wife. My attachment to my married state has everything to do with him, and pretty much nothing to do with the institution of marriage itself. Motherhood is a little different, obviously: some women really do love motherhood as a practice, as a craft, as a way of life. I don't, not so much. I'm actually kind of bad at it. I struggle with the quotidien responsibilities of motherhood: I dislike cooking, I'm constantly running out of diapers, I'm terrible at managing schedules, and I regularly send my child to preschool in mismatched socks. I hate playgroups, and my house is a mess. What I am good at, as a mother: love, and good humor. I adore my children, and they delight me to no end. We have a lot of fun; we laugh a lot. Sure, the baby sometimes ends up with paper towels shoved down his pants in lieu of a diaper, but still: he's happy. We're all happy. And I'm happy with that. I love that.

So if someone were to ask me that question today - don't you just love being a mom? - I'd answer in much the same way - sort of/some of the time/some of it - but I'd also, depending upon how nervy I was feeling that day, say this: why don't I tell you, specifically, what I do love about being a mom? And then - if, that is, my inquisitor had not gathered up her children and fled my toxic presence - I would provide her with the following list:

1) I love that there are always cookies in the cupboard, and that I can claim plausible deniability if someone asks if the cookies are mine and whether I intend to eat them all myself.

2) I love that birthdays and holidays are major events involving ridiculous amounts of sugar and gift wrap.

3) I love that, for at least some months following the births of my children, I had really epic breasts. They're gone now, but still. For a while I had the bustline of a stripper, and that - feminist correctness be damned - was kind of cool.

4) I love seeing the world through her eyes:

5) And his:

There are, of course, a thousand and some other reasons that I could give, reasons that range from the poetic (the way that it feels when tiny hands get tangled in my hair) to the profane (there's always somebody on whom to blame the farts), but then this list would go on forever, and that would very probably undermine my claim to be ambivalent about the condition of motherhood.

In any case, the whole point of this exercise was this: to consider a standard entre-mamans question from my own perspective, and to invite other mothers - mothers from around the world - to do the same thing and share their answers. In part because I'm looking for some affirmation that I'm not the only mother in the world who ordinarily raises her eyebrows at such questions even as she secretly begins composing answers, but also to find out what it would be like - how the conversations would run, what we would say, whether we'd exclaim in agreement or goggle over our differences - if we hung out in the sort of fantasy playground or playgroup that included mothers from all over the world and asked each other that stuff and got to compare notes. And then maybe had a drink or something.

Which - thanks to the Internet - is possible! Maybe! Except for the drink part!

David and I - in partnership with Global Voices Online - are launching an experiment to see if we get a global conversation going between moms who blog. We want to see if it's possible to travel the world and make friends, virtually, solely on the Vernian voyage power of the momosphere. We want to see if we can pull together a global playdate in 80 clicks.

Here's how it's going to work: this post that you're reading? Is the departure lounge. I'm going to link to a couple of other mom bloggers here in Canada, and to a couple of mom bloggers from other countries around the world, and they'll write their posts, sharing 5 things that they love (or maybe what they don't so much love - this playground doesn't force conformity) about being a mom, and then they'll tag a few more bloggers from their own country and from other countries, and so on. And you're more than welcome to join: just write a post of your own (5 things that you love about being a mom) and find someone to link to and tag - someone from your own country, if you like, but definitely someone from another country (Google is a good resource if you don't know any; google any country name and 'mom' in their blog search function) (be sure to let them know that you've tagged them!) - and link back here and leave a comment and we'll add you to the 'itinerary,' which David will compile and post and update as the tour proceeds.

Are you in? I hope you're in. This is going to be fun. No passport necessary.

So, to get started, why not see a little more of Canada by visiting Redneck Mommy in Alberta, or Sherina from Chaos Theory in Quebec. Then, travel a little further and visit Chocoholic Madness, a soon-to-be mom in the United Arab Emirates, and Fine Little Day in Sweden, and Indian Mommies (there's a tremendous blogroll of Indian moms here!) in India, and, also, Beth, who used to live in Burkina Faso but now lives in France.

(What are you waiting for? GO!)

(Oh, and? If you don't plan to blog it - or even if you do, and just want to run some ideas through the mill here - what do you love about being a mom?)


Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday: Now With More Unicorn!

I promised myself that I wouldn't start this week with another weak salute to my hatred of Mondays. I mean, what's more banal than hating on Mondays? Seriously. Welcome to my boring.

But then I woke up this morning - and by 'woke' I mean, got out of bed after not having slept a wink - and my inbox was full of wondrous and terrifying things and really, how is one supposed to rally one's creative energies to write meaningful, thought-provoking prose when one is confronted by e-mail from one's mother with the subject heading GRANDMA AND VIBRATOR?

1) My mother's newfound enthusiasm for blogging is starting to frighten me. Because, you know, it's not bad enough that she reveals unflattering details about the little tyrant that I was when I was five. She also has to send me e-mails with video about grannies and vibrators (VIBRATORS) and say can I post video on my blog? Because I have a story to go along with this!

Which, upon reading, caused my inner child to curl up into a little ball and weep.

2) Sometimes, you find stuff laying on the ground in your local schoolyard and despite the fact that that stuff almost certainly has grotty, grotty teenager germs - and god knows what else - all over it you simply can't not pick it up. And photograph it. And upload it to your Flickr account.

3) Speaking of awesome: if you want awesome for your blog, you need to check this out. SWEET.

4) Speaking of more awesome: this post? Is - alongside the Shakesville post that inspired it - BlogHer's BlogHer Of The Week post. Which is awesome not because I am awesome (although I am that, sometimes), but because that post was the catalyst for the most community-affirming discussion about reproductive choice that I have ever seen, anywhere. Pro-choice, pro-life: it didn't matter. Every commenter was respectful, even kind, in considering both my thoughts on the subject and the thoughts of all the other commenters. It provided indisputable proof that discussion on controversial topics needn't be combative. It demonstrated that this community really understands civil discourse. It made a lot of the residual ill-feeling from that other controversy just melt away.

It was - what's the word? - awesome.

5) What is not so awesome: my custodianship of the Basement. I recently discovered a batch of submissions from December that I missed and therefore didn't post. AM SO SORRY. I need to learn how to use spreadsheets or something because, really, my lack of life skills sometimes gets in the way of being awesome (or, in the case of the Basement, providing a space for others to be awesome.) Also, I suck.

(They're all going up this week. And next. Daily posting until we get caught up.)

6) What is always awesome: UNICORNS.

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