Her Bad Mother

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Because it's all about me. And her. But mostly me.

Still somewhere over the rainbow, waiting for right moment (departure of Air Canada flight, Friday afternoon) to click heels and go home. Where, hopefully, sleepful nights (and other nice things, like husbandly company and, um, blogging) will resume.

But will miss this Oz, despite the challenges of our journey here...


I did not think that travelling and spending time with family would have such a negative effect on the blogging.

I thought that travel, and the visit home, would provide so much fodder. There would be so many stories. So many photos. So much to record and share and dissect. But I got derailed. First, by simply not having regular access to the necessary technology/connections/what-have-you. Secondly, but more thoroughly, by becoming overwhelmed by the weight of my stories, made heavier by the thoughts and feelings provoked by family.

I was tempted to beging this post by saying that I have never been more personal, in this space, than I was the other day, posting about my conflicted feelings over posting about my conflicted feelings about family. But that would not have been true. I have discussed my struggle with post-partum depression, and the professional challenges that I faced because of that depression. I have written about my discomfort with my post-partum body. I have written about my resistance (now well overcome) to singing songs about vaginas. (Sorry, vulvas. Vulvae?)

If anything, I have shared too much. But I have shared about me, and about my daughter, and my husband, and the family that we three are. I have avoided, for the most part, saying much about friends and family. I have avoided doing so because I have felt - do feel - that I do not have the right to tell their stories. The only stories that I tell here are my own, and those of my daughter. The stories of the family that we are, and are becoming. There have been and will be times when loved ones will appear in these stories, but these are only appearances, carefully situated within the context of the stories that are mine. Their own stories are just that, their own, and so theirs, and only theirs, to tell.

My struggle in my last post was not whether or not to reveal personal details about members of my family - that was never at issue. It was whether or not to frankly discuss the feelings - the anxieties - provoked by my family. Part of the difficulty here, obviously, is that in admitting to such anxieties I am already revealing much - possibly too much - about my family. And this was where I got blocked. I needed and wanted to express and record - to write - my worry about my family, and in particular about my parents. My concern that they be well and happy and healthy and whole. My anxiety that they might not be. My helplessness in the face of their struggles.

But expressing this anxiety, these concerns, reveals my family as imperfect, my parents as vulnerable. And perhaps it is not my place to tell stories that reveal that much about them. Perhaps it is unfair, to my parents and to my family more generally, to put it out to the world that my family is flawed. So flawed that I have spent many a night awake, racked with worry about its well-being. About my parents' well-being. This may be unfair because in admitting to this worry, the world - or that very small share of the world that reads this blog - is compelled in some way to view my parents in the light of that worry. As (merely) the objects of my concern and anxiety, rather than as the wise and kind and wonderful people that they are. The whole beings that they are.

But my worry is my worry, and is part of my story - this story that I keep harping on about - and is part of my coming-to-terms with being a parent myself. Part of the process, for me, of figuring out what it means to be a mother has involved figuring out what it means to be a daughter. Am I to my parents what my daughter is to me? How do I see my parents? Love my parents? Will my daughter see me and love me the same way? And - what does it mean when the current of care changes between children and parents? When children begin to worry more about their parents than their parents worry about them? How, when and why will WonderBaby worry about me?

I know, I know - one might say that it's too early to be fussing about this. But I don't think that it is. I am a daughter right now, and a parent right now, and I have I'll Love You Forever on the bookshelf right now. Right now I am caught up in all of the emotion of new parenthood and old childhood and the clash of these storms creates a beautiful but startling lightning.

I write through the storm.

So: I love my parents. Desperately. They are wonderful, beautiful people who gave me a wonderful, beautiful childhood. They will forever be wonderful, beautiful people, to me and to their family and to all who know them. And they both of them make the world a better place for being in it. But they have their struggles, as all real human beings do, and I worry. I worry because they are not together, as they should be. As, in a different, better, easier world, they could be (I know, this is the lament of every child of divorce. But in their case it is true true true true. Oh, the bitter sweetness of this truth.) I want to take care of them, to make sure that they are both happy and healthy and without cares. They would both insist that I am not to worry. They would say, will say, that they don't want me to worry, that I needn't worry, that there is nothing to worry about. My mother, I'm sure, will read this and protest out loud, to herself and, later, to me. But this is a daughter's story about her parents and worry for her parents.

So this is personal. My story about my parents. It's only my story. But it's real. One day WonderBaby will have her stories about me, and I will want her to feel free to fully explore those stories, regardless of whether or not I agree with them. I will never want her to worry about me or her father, never want her to be sad for either of us, for any reason. I want her always to see us and feel us as powerful, happy, whole. But I also know that that's not possible, that one day, inevitably, she will see our vulnerability, and be frightened. For herself, and for us. And when she does, I hope that she finds a place to put that fear and understand that fear.

I hope that she tells that fear, as a story. And that in telling it, understands it, and accepts it.

That's what I'm trying to do.

There will now be a temporary moratorium on morose posts, effective immediately. The final Tour Report will be lighter fare, involving discussion of the definition of the word 'dude' and penises. And dolphins.
Good times.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is absolutely true that things totally change once we become parents ourselves. How we view our parents and the world around us changes.

I hope you can find a resolution for you worries.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Right now I am caught up in all of the emotion of new parenthood and old childhood and the clash of these storms creates a beautiful but startling lightning." That's so well said. I think what you are feeling is a normal evolution in parenting, it just may be harder for some who feel conflicted about the realizations they face. It's good that you are processing these things. Keep writing, even if you choose to just save it. You will work it out.

5:34 PM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

did you guys go to the aquarium with out me and the Girl Friday???

Just remember if you are in the environs of Granville and Broadway any workday time this week, you got my email.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

Thanks for putting all this down.

It will help those who read it and I hope it helped you.


6:44 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:41 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Somehow messed up there - I didn't want to delete my comment - just make a correction... sigh... I'll learn how this works eventually...

Original comment:
Once again an excellent post and thank you for sharing. I will respect the moratorium and I look forward to the dude, penis and dolphin stories.

7:44 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

Glad you're back!

9:01 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

This work is important and difficult. Good for you for pushing through it this way.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Yeah, there are so many dilemmas here, that is true. You captured them all really well. Good luck working through it. I think we all need it, huh? :-)

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The shifting of identities as one becomes not only a child but also a parent makes fertile ground for a variety of struggles, both internal and external.

If my parents were still alive, I suspect I might be grappling with things similar to yours.

Looking forward to the "dude" post. Is IS my favorite word, you know :)

Welcome back!

10:04 PM  
Blogger the mystic said...

I know what you mean. It's very difficult to write about my experience as a mother without also writing about my experience of having been mothered.

And in my case, a lot of it wasn't so great, but improved vastly as time went on and I have a GREAT mother now, so how much do I make her feel beaten up over what she failed to do when I was a child?

Very difficult thing to balance.

1:58 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Writing through the storm is a good thing.

I often struggle with this same question. "Love you Forever" has the power to make me cry, mess with my head, and I'll admit, mildly creep me out all at the same time. Being a parent and a daughter is overwhelming some days.

We learn from our parents. From both the good and the not so good. And then we take what is uniquely our own perspective and love our kids with all we've got. That is exactly what you are doing. With grace, humour, insight and love.

Now I am eagerly awaiting the definition of the word "dude" and more on penisis and dolphins. Sounds a bit scandalous...

5:54 AM  
Blogger Jezer said...

I think it natural to fuss about WonderBaby's worry for you in later years. We have found ourselves in a new position--sandwiched between our parents and our children. We're brand new at being moms, and old hats at being children, yet we find that our new mother roles have drastically changed our roles as daughters. It's sometimes frightening to realize that our parents have felt for us what we feel for our children (hello, Guilt City!), and that our children will feel for us what we feel /felt for our parents.

And I can't wait for the rest...Duuuuuuude!

8:24 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I have struggled with the same exact thing recently. I took down a post about a friend who had suffered a tragedy and my feelings toward my friend. I took it down because even though the media printed her story in all its gory detail, I didn't want to add to her pain. It wasn't my story to tell. I have often thought of revamping that post so that it reveals only my feelings towards her and not what befell her and her family. It's something I struggle with.

It's so weird, but Binky over at 8 Hours posted yesterday about something that reminded me of my friend's tragedy as well, and now you, the very next person on my blogroll, remind me of the same friend, with a different facet of thought. It's amazing to me just how NOT ALONE I am in my thoughts.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a nicer person than I am. I love my parents, but I do not worry about them. I came to grips with their faults and frailties long before I had children. I want them to be happy and healthy, but I cannot change them or influence their actions.

That said, I hope you and yours are well. Peace out, dude.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Just think of this all as pruning back the deadwood, so the new stuff can grow

4:55 PM  
Blogger Namito said...

You know,for some-one who feels blog-challenged, this is some particularly insightful and powerful writing.

"Am I to my parents what my daughter is to me? How do I see my parents? Love my parents? Will my daughter see me and love me the same way?"

This to me is a "wow. If I hadn't had a baby I would never have understood this part of my parents" moment. When I bacame a mother, my point of view suddenly took a 360, and I look back on my life and imagine how I would feel if my Impling made some of the choices I made along the way. Then I try not to panic. I hope, (and I believe) that my girl's love for me will be very different that what I feel for my mother. And I want her to feel, every day, how much I love her.

It's very gutsy writing, Bad One. Sometimes the best work isn't the stuff that falls trippingly off the tongue.

That being said, I'm very interested in reading about penises. And dolphins. Dude.

9:19 PM  
Blogger josetteplank.com said...

I agree with Paula.

"You know,for some-one who feels blog-challenged, this is some particularly insightful and powerful writing."

You write from the heart dealing with topics that poets stumble over.

Thank you, always, for sharing your journey with us.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've only recently started to realize the mortality of my mother. She's always been so strong and independent, and now I see minor health problems creeping in and it scares the hell out of me.

And it is weird to be stuck in this middle place, a parent with her own child to care for, and yet still a child to another person, and that person is the one who shaped your entire definition of parent.

10:45 PM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

We have been really light on posts lately since p-man and I can't agree about suitability of the posts. Have I mentioned, tag teams suck? I had to languish a draft I was pretty happy with because it was too self-conscious and 'ungrateful' ... it was about the grandpeople and somewhat related to the old childhood you coin here.

So very very well said. Safe home.

11:50 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Yeah, for me the worry started earlier, at 18, when things began to go wierd in our family. But even for my husband, whose family are the Cleavers, he has started to see his parents as old people and worry about them, too.

It's inevitable that as we get older and frailer and more vulnerable, our children will see it, if we've done our jobs right, and care and worry about us. It's tough, because we are so wrapped up in so many things already, to add another worry, and it's hard to think that they won't be there for us one day. We want them to just be okay. But they are people, and the fact that we worry is a good thing, really. It shows that they made you a caring, loving, compassionate woman. I bet you want WonderBaby to be the same.

Take care and talk/write it out all you need. We get it, we really do, and it helps to get it out, I think.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly I will sound like a paranoid schizophrenic in saying that you've stolen my thoughts and my soul. These are issues I grapple with to an almost obsessive degree (perhaps not in my blog, as I am new to blogging, but in my thoughts).
Another issue I grapple with is the idea of the parent/child relationship as being inherently inequal, and therefore exploitative. The idea that substantial and permanent injury (to greater or lesser degree, of course) is simply a *part* of childhood. Yikes!

7:10 PM  
Blogger ms blue said...

We put our parents up on a pedastal and when a new light is shined upon them, it can cause all kinds of emotions. It's is your natural daughter duty to worry about the people that you love. Remember that your parents have made it this far and just having your love makes the world of difference.

I spent the Friday afternoon in Terminal 1 having a photo session of my daughters with their Grandma. She flew back home today. I wish I would have run into you!

1:40 AM  
Blogger ms blue said...

whoops sorry about the typos. i must get more sleep.

1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really amazing! Useful information. All the best.

8:48 AM  

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