Her Bad Mother

Friday, April 18, 2008

Falling Out Of Trees

When I was about seven years old, I hurt another child. I'd like to say that I didn't mean to, that it was an accident, but it wasn't, not really.

It was the kind of thing that happens in an instant: there was a small group of us climbing trees in the woods behind our houses, and I was in a higher branch, and this girl grabbed for my hand to pull herself up to my branch and I just let my hand go slack so that her hand slipped away and she fell and she hit the ground and she cried. It wasn't very far, and she was fine, but still. I made her fall. And I meant to do it. I have no idea why. It was just momentary impulse of meanness, acted upon. And I'm still shamed by it.

The other day someone asked me whether there were any stories that I wouldn't share about Wonderbaby and I said, oh of course there are, blah blah blah, but in that instant another question occurred to me: are there any stories about me that I wouldn't share? And more specifically: are there any stories about me that I wouldn't share with Wonderbaby? And the little story that I told above is the one that came most immediately to mind.

That it was that story that came to mind gave me pause for thought. Why that story? There are all variety of stories from my childhood and youth and, well, every phase of my life, of which I am not proud. Stories that reveal me as selfish and self-absorbed and possessing unsound judgment and uncharitable and unpleasant and, in some moments, unkind. But those stories - the time when I was thirteen and stole a Twix bar, the time(s) that I snuck out my bedroom window to go to nightclubs, the time that I told my sister (untruthfully) that she was adopted, the many times that I have, in fact, had spare change and yet said that I didn't - I wouldn't be afraid to share with my child, assuming she were at an age to appreciate the nuances of the story as I would want to tell it. Which is to say, I wouldn't be afraid to use those stories as (as much as this term pains me) 'teaching' stories, as means of demonstrating that being good (whatever that means) doesn't mean being perfect, that human beings do let others down sometimes, that we let ourselves down sometimes, and that sometimes those are the greatest hurts of all, the little hurts that we inflict upon ourselves and others, even if we don't mean to, even if we only do those things because we want some things too badly or because we're too hurt or afraid or lost in our own miseries, big or small, to do the right thing.

(Even, yes, sex stories, assuming that she'd want to hear them - which, speaking as a daughter, I'd expect she wouldn't. But those stories - about good and bad choices, risks taken, risks averted - can be, I think, as important to open parent-child discussion as much as any other kind of story. Not until she's, like, married, though.)

But the story about the time that I just acted on a moment of meanness - of unbidden, unjustified, inexplicable meanness - that story, I don't know how spin didactically. There's no moral there; that is, none that I can explain to myself adequately enough that I would be able to explain it to my child. That everyone carries a little seed of meanness in their hearts? That children can be inexplicably cruel? That sometimes we do wrong things without even knowing why? These seem banal lessons, in the context of that little story. I was just mean for a moment. I still feel badly about it. Is the lesson that guilt and shame can follow an action forever? Ugh.

So I just don't want to share that story with her, ever.

The one other story that I don't want to share with her, that I don't want to have to share with her: this story. A story that contains no seed of meanness, but one that pains me - sometimes shames me, sometimes - nonetheless. The story about how she was not the first, about how my own mother's heart broke with mine in making a choice that I still regret to the very bottom of my soul and yet do not regret at all, the story that I still don't know how to tell to myself, a story the moral of which I still haven't sorted out, may never sort out. I will only tell her that story, someday - a very long someday away, never away, I hope - if I need to. If she needs me to. If it's something that she needs to hear from me, discuss with me, I'll share it. But I fervently hope that I never need to, that she never needs to hear that story, both for her sake and my own.

Because that story, like the other, defies my analytic and didactic skills. I don't know what lessons they contain, I don't even know what lessons I want them to contain. One has no explanation; the other beggars explanation. Why did I do it? A million reasons, and none at all. They are stories that are, in very different ways, inscrutable to me, the owner of the heart that made them actual. And so they hang there, in the tree, like the reddest of apples, waiting to be plucked or to fall, their taste, their toxicity, something that I can't control. Which makes them the most difficult stories - the most dangerous stories - for me, as a parent, to even consider telling.

Which makes them also, perhaps, the most important stories. Were I ever to be brave enough to pluck them.


Friday Flashback prompt this week: What memory/story from your youth (or childhood) - if any - would you never share with your own children? Why? And if there's nothing from your history that you wouldn't have them know, why is that? (Note, as always, that you can play around with this - is there some story that you want them to know, but only when they're much older? Something you'll only share when/if they ask?) Already up: posts from IzzyMom, and Mamalogues...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

From The Bottom Of My Squished-Up, Fetus-Kicked Heart

Apparently, it was Blog Reader Appreciation Day yesterday. As might well have been expected, I missed it.

I've been a terrible blog citizen these past months. I still visit and read blogs - old ones, new ones (all the new ones that spring up like so many lovely flowers in my comments inbox, actually. Am like bumblebee; cannot resist the nectar of new stories...) - but I've rarely commented. It's not that I'm not moved or inspired - words simply can't express how much those stories move me - it's that there have been just too many days since last fall, since the first difficulties of the pregnancy, since the anxieties that followed, since the subsequent relief turned to exhaustion, that I've felt unable to participate in the discussions. I read the posts, and then spurn the comments section, because I think, I haven't the energy to jump in here, to make my voice heard, to cry or laugh or rage or love more than I have already done in the reading, I just can't do it. And so I click away, making a mental note to e-mail the writer, or to Twitter their link, or something.

I rarely do.

There have been a great many days since last fall that I've considered shutting down this site entirely - retiring the personal stories and anecdotes and confessions that have so sustained me - and limiting my online writing to the paid gigs and other projects that this blog made possible for me. Just because I was so tired, and because I felt that I wasn't holding up my end of the bloggy social contract. I crafted numerous posts like this one, apologizing, explaining, and then tucked them away in draft, not wanting to turn my feelings into an exercise in public self-flagellation. (I asked a dear friend over the weekend, how does one talk about not wanting to talk? how does one say sorry for that? *should* one say sorry?) And so I just kept returning to this space, my space, for the comfort and release of storytelling, of sharing, knowing that you were always still here, reading, listening, no matter what. And so I will keep returning, because I need this.

Yesterday, I received a card in the mail from Muscular Dystrophy Canada, thanking me and what they termed 'my supporters' for raising the third highest amount of money for MD in the marathon/charity walk last September. My supporters. My family's supporters. You. All of you. Those of you who contributed, those of you who walked with me, and those of you have just always been there, listening and caring. All of you, who are so, so, so much more than just 'supporters' or 'readers'. All of you, friends. Sounding boards. Welcoming shoulders, warm hands, open hearts.

I cried when I read the card, from gratitude, and from a keen sense of having not expressed that gratitude enough. I'm so fortunate, and so not sufficiently demonstrative enough in my gratitude for the good fortune that you all have helped me create and sustain. I want to promise that I'll be better at it, that I'll be a better friend, that I'll comment everywhere, always.

But I can't. I really am doing the best I can, and times are getting more challenging 'round here, and I may in fact become worse with this before I become better.

I just wanted you to know that I think about these things. That I think about all of you. That I way-so-more-than-appreciate-you. A lot.


(Am closing comments because this post is just for you. I want you to just read it, and not concern yourselves with reassurances or back-pats or oh-no-thank-*you*s. I'm just laying this very small flower at your feet and stepping away. It's yours. That is all.)

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ooooh, She's A Little Runaway...

The other day, Wonderbaby tried to run away from home. For the second time.

I fully expected that at some point in our family life, she would make a runaway attempt. I made my own first attempt when I was about eight years old. I can't for the life of me recall the reason, but I'm sure that it was a response to some grave household injustice, and I studied The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, closely, for days in planning my escape. I gave up my plans when I got to the end of my driveway and realized that I had no idea how to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada. But, yeah, I was eight years old. Wonderbaby is 28 months old. And she hasn't even read The Mixed-Up Files yet, so how'd she know to layer her clothes and be strategic about what she stuffed in her backpack?

And why has she done it twice?

The first time was week before last. She got tired, apparently, of being bossed by Her Bad Grandma - who was staying with her while I was off doing some jet-setty momblogger shiz (which is to say, learning how to braid hair and catch my prolapsed uterus in a bucket) - and so gave Grandma an ultimatum: you go Gamma. Or I go. And when Grandma informed her that, no, she would not go home, Wonderbaby said OKAY I GO GAMMA YOU NO STOP ME and went to her room where she retrieved her backpack and open her drawers and began emptying them of her gear. Once the backpack was filled with toys and clothing, she proceeded - according to HBG, in a fit of high temper - to layer clothing upon herself, beginning with a variety of pants and shirts and finishing with her full-body-SPF-protection swim-slash-sunsuit and a pair of tights that she couldn't quite get over her layers, much to her rage.

She then - backpack pulled firmly over shoulders - tromped down the stairs and put on her rain boots, all the while shouting YOU NO FOLLOW ME at Grandma. There was further hissy-fittage when she discovered that her coat wouldn't go on over her overstuffed backpack, until she settled upon throwing a sweater over her shoulders like a cape and pulling a fuzzy snow hat - complete with ear flaps - over her head. At which point she reportedly told Grandma, again, a voce alta: I GO FIND MAMA YOU DON'T FOLLOW ME GO AWAY.

And headed for the door.

My mother, bless her heart, fought the urge to just let her go, although it was more, she said, out of fear of what the neighbours would think of a shrieking, be-hoboed toddler marching down the road than out of any real fear for Wonderbaby's safety. And to Wonderbaby's credit, she did eventually calm down and, with Her Bad Grandma's patient help, put her things away.

Thus was averted a career of boxcar-riding and panhandling for Wonderbaby. Until a few days ago, when she tried it again, with me...

Wonderbaby, in full runaway regalia (multiple layers of clothing, mismatched boots, awkwardly tied, mittens, tiny suitcase in one hand, bag of diapers under one arm, Toadstool shoved in waistband of one of many layers of tights and pants): BYE MAMA. I GO NOW.

Me, exhausted and newly retired (in my own mind) from motherhood: Okay, sweetie. Bye.


Me: Okay.

WB, turning and walking away: OKAY. YOU DON'T FOLLOW ME.

Me: I won't.

At which point she tromped down the stairs and rattled at the handle of the (locked - I know my daughter) front door. A few moments later, after much exasperated huffing and dragging of miniature luggage back up the stairs, she reappeared at the playroom door.

WB, putting down bags and affecting her most serious look: I no go find better home.

Me: Okay.

WB: Okay.

(Sweet, sweet silence for a few minutes.)






What was it that I said at the end of my last post? Oh, right... AM F*CKED.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sammich, With Bevvies, To Go (A Urinary Tale)

"I no go pottie"

"That's fine. If you don't have to go, that's fine."

"I fine. I no have to go."

There's a loud rip as the diaper is torn and yanked out from between her legs, and then a thud as it lands at my feet.

"I no need diaper."

"I would rather you wear a diaper."


"Then you need to wear your Dora pants."

"No. I fine. I put pee-pee in toilet."

Fine, I think. Whatever. I'm too far exhausted to wrestle her into a diaper, and far too mentally and emotionally spent to invite another tantrum. And isn't there some sort of toilet-training method that involves just letting your kid run around naked and piss on the floor and it's all like attachment-potty-training or some such shit? Whatever. I GIVE UP.

Five minutes later, I notice that she has a small plastic cup - a bath toy - clutched between her knees.

"What are you doing with the cup, sweetie?"



Two minutes later, my attention - heretofore entirely occupied by the critical task of figuring out whether to hoist my massive, belly-heavy self to its feet and down to the kitchen for more chocolate, and risk distracting the hellion from her concentrated effort to balance wooden fried eggs between wooden slices of bread and create the perfect fake fried egg sandwich, or to just stay safely and comfortably put - is captured by the sound of a single stream of rain hitting an empty plastic bucket.

It's not raining. And we have no buckets.

Wonderbaby has abandoned her toy kitchen cum sandwich station and is standing with chubby naked legs spread, both of her little hands clutching the plastic cup directly beneath her nether regions, and is peeing into the cup. She waits for the stream to run its course, and then waits another moment to catch the drips, and then marches blithely past me, out of the playroom and into the bathroom, where - as I continue to watch, in stunned, immobile silence - she carefully pours the contents of the cup into the toilet and flushes.


Then she washes her hands, and leaves the cup in the bathroom sink. She returns to her post in the playroom, where she puts the wooden slices of bread stacked with wooden fried eggs on a little wooden plate, dashes some imaginary salt from the toy shaker over it all, and hands it to me.

"There you go Mama. You need my cup? For juice?"

Does one laugh, or cry? SERIOUSLY.

Am f*cked.

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