Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


It's late when you return home. You pay the babysitter, who slips out the door and rides away on his bicycle into the warm night. You make yourself some tea - ginger peach, with ice cubes to stay the heat - and sit in the darkened living room, listening to the quiet, wondering how late the husband will be, thinking about how tired he will be in the morning.

Thinking about how tired you will be in the morning.

You take your tea and climb the stairs. The child was fine, the babysitter said. She cried when you left and protested his accompanying her to the park, but very quickly decided that the swing was the thing, and that it didn't matter who accompanied her there. They had had a good evening, he said. She'd gone to sleep easily.

You stand outside her door, and listen to the soft whirr of the fan above your head. She'll be sprawled across her bed - yes, her bed, the crib having been disdained for more sophisticated comforts - her feet pressed up against the safety bar, her arms thrown back above her head, one set of chubby fingers clutching her lovey. Long legs, long torso, long toes; her body is so much less a baby's in sleep, her limbs stretched in full extension, a dancer frozen in mid-flight. Her face, though. In repose her cheeks bloom like cabbage roses and her mouth settles into a soft round O, a perfect little berry. You would want to nibble those cheeks, were you leaning over her, brushing soft blond wisps back from her forehead. You would want to run a finger over her impossibly pink lips. You would want to breathe in all of the baby that remains of her, breathe it in and hold it in and never exhale.

But you don't, you won't, because she is sleeping and because this is not your time to be with her; this is night-time, sleeptime, dreamtime.

You go into your bedroom and sit down on the bed and sip your tea, cool now from the ice. The cat winds its way around your legs, flicking its tail against the back of your knee. You think about getting ready for bed.

You didn't say goodnight to her, of course. The babysitter would have said goodnight. She would have asked for you, though. You know this. You can hear it, almost, if you shut out the sounds of the night: the lilt of her voice, the little trill on the last syllable of 'Mommy,' the question hanging in the night air. Mommy?

You want to go in. You want to go in and climb into bed beside her and pull her to you and kiss the top of her head. You want to rest your hand on the swell of her belly, feel the rise and fall of her breath. You want to breathe her in. You miss her.

You don't know why, but you miss her.

Sitting on your bed, you feel the whole of your future spill out before you like so much ribbon, unfurling onto the floor, a mess of loose tangles. You feel the unfolding distance, the lengths that will stretch between you, even as she remains within arm's reach. You feel the future quaver in your heart, that quaver that will come when she insists that you no longer call her baby. When she asks to be left alone. When she shuts the door against you and hides away in that room, holding her mysteries tightly, pressing them against her chest and shielding them from your view.

That moment will come. You know it. You will smile bravely, if uncertainly. You will accept her distance. You will understand it. Will you hate it? You don't know. From here, from the vantage point of this moment, it seems unbearable. You're pretty certain that you will hate it.

But she's here, now. So close.

You set down your tea and turn out the lights.

You tiptoe down the hall, silently, and ease open the door to her bedroom, silently, silently. You reach out in the dark and feel the curve of her back. You hear the whisper of her breathing, small sweet sighs.

You climb in beside her, and pull her to you. Quietly, quietly.



Always, yes.


Blogger Avalon said...


2:27 PM  
Blogger Niksmom said...

Exquisite...and oh so true! I canno go to sleep at night without having first gone to watch and gently caress my son's downy cheek as he sleeps. It just makes everything right in my world.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Tara (aka AbbysMomma) said...

Wow! Did you read my mind? Though you put it much more eloquently than I could. :)

2:39 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

What are you doing to me, man? Don't you know I'm enough of an emotional wreck already? Yeesh.

2:43 PM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Somewhere between That Feeling and Today, Bossy began holding her own sleep too dear.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

That was beautiful (as always). I love watching my son sleep. It's so peaceful.
I'm a little frightened about him growing up also. People at work are all talking about sleepover camp (with older kids) and every time it stresses me out. How will I ever deal?

3:05 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Beautiful. And you won't hate it when they start to pull away. Because they still come back, in waves, as long as we're okay with their need to be alone. My oldest baby girl is almost a teenager and this made my heart ache. In a good way.

3:07 PM  
Blogger sandy shoes said...

Lovely. Thank you.

I'm so afraid that when my girls do their pulling away, they won't want to come back... because I never did.

But: I am not my mother, and they are not me.

In the meantime, it's all I can do not to climb in the crib some nights.

3:17 PM  
Blogger becks said...


3:22 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

I don't know how to do that whole Blogger Perfect Post award or even if I can nominate you. But this was a perfct post. Absolutly beautiful.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Tuesday Girl said...

Perfectly said.

I think sleeping babies and kids are what gets us up for doing it again the next day.

3:30 PM  
Blogger painted maypole said...

Excellently put. I still call the May Queen "Baby," even though she is 4.75 years old. The time will be drawing to a close soon, I am sure, and I will mourn it.

3:33 PM  
Blogger painted maypole said...

Excellently put. I still call the May Queen "Baby," even though she is 4.75 years old. The time will be drawing to a close soon, I am sure, and I will mourn it.

3:33 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

Funny, my cardinal rule used to be "don't do anything to wake the sleeper." But now I take my chances, poke my head in her room so that I can see her sprawled and snoring.

You are so good at tapping into what's hidden in my head. While away for a few days, I thought a lot about whether she was asking for me, what she thought when I wasn't there to answer her call.

3:50 PM  
Blogger NotSoSage said...


I went through this exact thing last night. Thanks for putting it all down so coherently, that jumble of heartbreak and sweetness.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely and totally exquisite. Exactly what I think every night when I check on my son. Every chance I get to hold him in sleep, I take. He's three now and I know the rocking him to sleep times are so fleeting.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus woman. How do you do that?

You catch it. Always.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Aw, crap, HBM! You've made me cry again.

That was beautiful.

I miss my boys the same way. Every night after they go to sleep I have the urge to go in and hold them, while I still can.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

Amazing how grown up they seem, sprawled out in their beds, and yet the look on their sleeping faces is the same one they had as a baby. It surprises me every time I see it.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

You said it perfectly. So perfectly.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Jezer said...

So, so sweet.

People think that we cosleep because it is what Alex wants. The truth is this: after I put him to bed in his very own crib every night, more often it is the Mr. or I who scoops him up and brings him to bed, and less often it is he who cries out for us.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is another STUNNING piece of writing. Really.

7:53 PM  
Blogger AndreAnna said...

Beautiful tears.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Magpie said...

Lovely. And like Jezer said, it's one of the reasons we co-sleep. Not that she'll have it any other way...but I don't protest.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Oh, C.


8:49 PM  
Blogger Fran Loosen said...

That's the exact feeling I'm having about babygirl at this moment.


9:00 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

And my heart just flipped over in my chest. We think we have grand all sewn up uniquely and then we read our deepest emotions on someone else's blog. :)

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love, love, love

OMG! Love

Wonderful post C. Perfect is every way.

9:13 PM  
Blogger OhTheJoys said...

You are on a roll of the deep, deep loveliness.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

This post made me ache. In a good way.

9:43 PM  
Blogger S said...

Oh so lovely.

I know.

I'm sorry to say it gets harder as they get older.

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly...that was just...beautiful!

10:06 PM  
Blogger flutter said...


10:07 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

i did this last night, this very similar thing.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Two Shews said...

This took my breath away. Wonderbaby is one lucky girl.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

A post to savor. Simply...lovely.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

Chills. And sad. And happy too.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

today is my oldest child's 5th birthday and this hits home. So many emotions in me tonight and you described them so beautifully. perfect timing. Thank you for this. I'm going to go cry now. Achy, conflicted and yet happy tears :)

12:35 AM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

Ahhhh. I posted pics of my sleeping boys today, too. They are just so lovely when they sleep. So lovely.

1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to leave each stage behind, never to be again with that child. That's the curse. The blessing is that motherhood also moves on with new treasures awaiting us even as babyhood moves on.

Even though we moms know this, it's often of little help...

7:37 AM  
Blogger Mama V said...

ok..it's totally unfair that you can make me cry at my desk first thing in the morning. My coworkers think I'm nuts...
But thank you... I couldn't have put it better myself!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Aliki2006 said...

I so relate to this--this need to have your "baby" close while sleeping, to see her one last time before going to bed.


9:19 AM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

oh, I'm so so glad you climbed back in.

(wiping tears)

9:33 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow. That was lovely. I know those feelings so well.

But I only dream of writing them like that.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. You made me cry in my Cheerios.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Well. Ain't that the truth. It's me, too, right down to the iced tea and the cat. Only I don't go in -- I'm not sure why. I wonder, I guess, if it hurts more to give in, if I'm trying to steel myself for what's going to come later. I guess, too, maybe I don't want myself to neeeeeeeed her so much. Don't want to admit that I do. I do.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still go in to see my 11 and 8 year old boys, and I'm sure I'll go in when they're 21 and 18. It never ends...only changes.

Lovely post.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice.


12:18 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Yes. Just yes.

12:39 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I have been feeling so much of this lately, as she turns into a preschooler, gaining confidence in her new room of older kids, gaining inches and longer limbs.

I'm sure this is why teenagers have to be so odious, so that they can drive us away a bit.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Beck said...

That is too, too beautiful. Their absolute vulnerablity when they're sleeping is the most heartbreaking thing in the world.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know if you could be any more poetic. You not only live in the moment but you covey the sense of being in the moment. Reading your postings is a transcendental experience that, at reaching the conclusion of each entry, one feels that all is right with the cosmos and that there is peace and belonging and love.

Spalding Gray used to talk about searching for "the perfect moment"-- and one was left with the feeling that he never found it. You, on the other hand, seem to find them daily and convey them so exquistely.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Jenster said...

**sigh** I can relate all too well. My babies are 15 and nearly 13. But I still hug on them and kiss on them and giggle with them and they take it all in good naturedly. But oh for the snuggly days.

Beautiful post!

3:50 PM  
Blogger Ms. Skywalker said...

So perfectly describes the dilemma every night in my home.

But she's sleeping

But she won't be this sweet, this little, fit this well into me forever

But if you wake her, she'll be awake and then what?

I just so know I'm going to regret all of those nights 30 years from now.

But I still tiptoe back down the hall.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh my. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

I can't go to bed without first looking at my two sleeping. I love to see them sleeping, so calm and serene.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Mommato2 said...

Ohhh...I loved this post...so very true. I sneak in every night for stolen kisses from my 4 and 6 year old...they will always be my babies!

5:41 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

This is beautiful C. I think we've all been there but you captured it like few can.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My babies are 4 and 6, and I still miss them while they sleep. Beautifully written post.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

Well.... now that I'm crying. My daughter turns 3 next month, and what you wrote hits so close to home. She tells me everytime I call her "baby"..."Mommy, I'm not a baby, I'm a big girl!" and I tell her yes, but she will always be my baby no matter how big she is. She looks less and less "baby-like" each day.... I look at pictures and wonder..... where did the baby go???

7:09 PM  
Blogger Cristina said...

Ok, I'm totally crying now!


8:16 PM  
Blogger josetteplank.com said...


Simply beautiful.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Multi-tasking Mommy said...

SO well said, and I'm with you...I'm 100% with you!

10:07 PM  
Blogger Slackermommy said...

Beautiful! My children are 9, 7, 5 and 18 mos. I still have these feelings with my older ones when I watch them sleep. They are simply angels when they sleep.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was lovely and perfect and so true in every way. Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing that.

11:05 PM  
Blogger moplans said...

Perfectly described.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Beautiful sleepyhead.

I love seeing Q with his arms thrown above his head like that, fast asleep, free of inhibition.

1:49 AM  
Blogger Sidetracked Home Executive said...

*Wipes away the tears* That is so beautiful.

4:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This brought tears to my eye. I think the pregnancy hormones are finally gone, so it must just be beautifully written.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Ms. Smoochy said...

This was spellbinding and captivating... and my first good cry of the day.

Thank You.

You big poopy-head

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. You sure do paint a picture, HBM!

10:27 AM  
Blogger Lizarita said...

Thank you.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put. We have all felt that, haven't we? That's why *Love You Forever* is my husband's favorite child's book.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Karla Zamora, Digital Analyst said...

What a beautiful post HBM. Once again you have expressed so well how I feel. I too sneak in to see my Isa every night before I go to bed and the urge to pick her up and just hug her and kiss her is unbelievable.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

This made me cry. So true. So how I feel about my kids.

3:11 PM  
Blogger tallulah said...

That's why my sweet little Izzy comes up the stairs to our room at almost midnight....every night. I never protest.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NOTHING like going in and saying goodnight to sleeping babies. I can't possibly resist touching them, either.

Thank you for the sweet story.

6:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the hardest time coping when I can't be home for bedtime. For some reason it just seems wrong not to kiss my girls goodnight.

You expressed this exquisitely.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

jesus f**k woman!
(thank you)

9:58 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Amazingly lovely and perfect.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Joy, only you can make dirty claims about the Christ's sex life as a way of expressing appreciation, and do it with such *panache.*

(you're welcome)

9:16 PM  
Blogger poetmama said...

Moved me to tears, expecially the part about "the whole of your future spill out before you like so much ribbon." My daughter is 2.75 years and I am starting to catch glimpses of that future. You have such a beautiful way with words!

2:16 AM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

How do you do it?

10:36 AM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

Sighing and crying over here. Lovely.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Rachel (Crazy-Is) said...

Just last night I stood by my 18 month old's crib just watching. I go in there every night.

Last night, I woke her and spent just a few more precious minutes with her. Just me and her.

Beautiful post.

10:48 AM  
Blogger BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

This is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful posts I have read all year. Maybe it's because I have two daughters, maybe it's because my oldest is about to start kindergarten and I still look at her with awe and stroke her cheek and hold her close when she falls asleep.

This made me cry.

Just beautiful.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Grancie Nancie said...

My own beautiful daughter is 33 years now with a wonderful daughter of her own, and here I sit with tears running down my face and a hugh lump in my throat - remembering. You have caught it exactly - the moment and the memory. I thank my daughter for turning me on to your blog, and thank you for expressing your inner self so well.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Liza on Maui said...

this post is so sentimental...so touching...so lovely...so true....

6:19 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Wow. Your poetic post gave me goosebumps.

Keep writing!

8:16 PM  
Blogger Cyndee@Riezzee's Place said...

My "baby" will be 14 on Sat. Thank you for putting into words what all mothers must feel.

8:35 PM  

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