Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Day! You are One.Tough.Mother.

It's been a long day.  I'm ending it by folding laundry.  It's a little after midnight and I'm folding it by one light on in Joe's room.  He's asleep.  He’s still got that ability to sleep deeply and untroubled.  He doesn’t wake with worry or stumbles to the bathroom because nothing works the way it’s supposed to
until the morning.  

I’ve set the counter, gotten the small chewables and pills to ward off streaming eyes and runny noses in three small piles.  I am tired, and I don’t want to do this.  But I’ve already pre-packed lunches.  I’ve located books and papers.  Looked over the calendar.  Maybe even written a note or two.  I think I’ve found what’s missing for everyone else.  So now is the time for this.  No one will talk to me, interrupt me, jump over the fresh folded piles, quiz me on what I would do with an alien invasion or ask me where keys have been left.  Laundry is an allergy that seems to span many ages and sizes of the men around here.  It's relatively peaceful.  Although I can think, my brain is still running in safety mode considering…all the things I didn't do today.  

This is my mothering.  This is what a mother does, at least this one.  And that word "mothering," is as active of an adjective as you can get.  And no two people do it the same.  One action, a myriad of ways--who else can claim such genius?  That's why there's a holiday to celebrate it. 

When I thought about what I wanted to say about Mother’s Day this year, because it’s been some time since we last talked, I
"Motherhood is still the biggest
gamble in the world. It is the
glorious life force.  It's huge
and scary--it's an act of
infinite optimism."
thought a lot about it.  And I want you to smile.  It’s tough going this mothering thing.  It’s tough.  And without your laughter, vague and somewhat hysterical it can sometimes be, you will not get through it.  So I’ve got some observations about mothering and before I go there, I also want to say this.  

I know this day can be hard.  So very hard.  If you’ve waited to become a mother, if that choice has been taken from you, if you’ve had to go it alone, if you’ve had a difficult time of it with the one you call mother, if the one you call mother has been lost to you…this day is harder than anything. 

So for you, I can say that you have been a mother to me and to many.  You have loved me and cared for me.  You’ve given when you’ve got nothing else left to give.  You’ve taken time that you didn’t have.  You’ve counseled, listened and nurtured.  You’ve done the work without the title.  I wouldn’t be here without you—none of us would.  Thank you.  Know that you are loved, thought of, and prayed for.  You know how tough this is.  This day is yours too.     

I used to think of myself as a fairly self-aware (insert painful buzzword) actualized person.  I’ve been to therapy.  I’ve seen my transgressions.  I am aware, most of the time, of my choices and while I’m still learning, I know myself well enough to know my limitationsAll that is utterly useless in the mothering.  My children have rendered me completely clueless.  They have brought out the best
and the worst in me.  They’ve cajoled me into things that I never would have done for anyone else, at any time, in this or another lifetime.  The more I get into it, the less I know about mothering.  Other than it’s Sacrificial. Huge. Angry. Joyous and Tough.  I’ve become more judgmental and had to check that judgment in the same thought.   

It’s made me simultaneously a better person and unlocked a load of snark in me that I didn’t think possible.  It has made me kinder; I like to think so.  But even with all of that, even with all of it, the biggest constant of mothering has been my surprise.  Here are a few that have come my way: 

Toilet seat covers are one of the worst things in all of mankind.  

We have sent cameras to Mars to ascertain life.  No one has figured out how to remove the middle piece of the cover.  No one.  You cannot pee through it.  It is waxily coated.  No, you do not want to know how I know this.  Actually, you already know why I know it because you know it too.  This never bothered me before being a mother.  Now, after three huge babies, my bladder is stupid.  And my urination dance would

put any potty training toddler to shame.  I’ve got serious moves.  And I have no time to carefully separate the middle, and gently place the two uneven halves on either side of the public restroom toilet seat that my mother assured me would fill me with diseases I’d never heard of and would never recover from.

But say I did.  Say in my intricate Irish stepping of keeping everything from flooding works and I grab the cover.  If said strips aren’t eaten by the automatic flusher—such a great thing isn’t it?  Should’ve gotten the team that invented that spectacular idea on the whole, “let’s readjust the design of this monstrosity called a toilet seat cover”—I gingerly sit on its edge and will that the moisture I feel isn’t the signifying omen my mother foretold of me getting Dutch Elm disease. 
a motherly

Socks are randomly eaten.  I don’t know where they go.  I suspect they keep company with the keys and missing homework.  I know I will find them, like a nightmare, mocking me with their ordinariness and my lack of foresight…or sight in general.

Keep Curious and Carry a Banana
Keep calm and carry a banana.  It’s potassium.  I think you need it.  But the truth is, Curious George draws me in with an unavoidable pull.  I don’t know why.  My jaw goes slack, and I think I drool a little.  Yeah, okay, I do drool a little.  I love that monkey.  Maybe because he mesmerizes my three children in like manner.  We all look like drunk zombies.  And it’s quiet.  It’s so quiet.  I think I take a lengthy active sleep watching rest.  Did I mention it is quiet?

Board games, particularly Monopoly,
are from Satan.  “I will teach them board games, I thought smugly, “that way they aren’t in front of devices.”  It will be team building!  It will be problem solving!  I am backed up by well-respected parenting articles!  No one tells you that a game will last 10000 hours.  That you will have to bail your own children out because they whine that they have no money.  That this is a preview of what is to come when they finally leave home.  Monopoly is a harbinger of doom.  Parental doom.  Once they get the hang of any game, however, for some reason it is incomplete if you do not play it too.  It doesn’t matter if you
never liked SorryNo, because you introduced the stupid game, you are now sorry.  And you have to pick up your sorry self and play it.  Again.  And again.  And again.  All because you thought Minecraft was so terrible.  The humanity.

JoAnn's is no longer a happy place

I once could cheerfully get lost in its crafty promise before my children became school aged.  In fact, I have pictures of Jake rolling around JoAnns stores all over Connecticut, threatening me with his whining and the detritus accumulated on his winter jacket.  But he was the youngest.  I no longer cared about the hawk-eyed stare from the angry older women.  I might have said, “hey good rolling around Jake!  There’s a couple spots of mouse droppings you didn’t get yet.  Go get ‘em!”  But now my friends, now, seeing those green letters means inevitable doom.  Because I am going there to get project materials.  School project materials.  Tiny stegosauri for a diorama—I used to love dioramas, school has killed it.  Foam poster board to sustain the weight of a volcano or water tower.  Popsicle sticks for a model of the Eiffel Tower.  Obscure scrap-booking stickers to illuminate what kind of industry a fake island has (oh sweetheart,
oh yes, that's right.
a minature computer
because precious decided
this city makes software.
that’s happening NOW). No.  No.  No.  I hate you JoAnn's, and that your coupons are always a day after I need materials.

I cannot keep arbitrary vegetation alive; this is a direct result of being a mother.  My father had a green house and a green thumb.  He sang to his plants.  He “communed with nature.”  I seem to kill all varieties.  This shouldn’t be a big deal except I’m a mother.  And woe is me when the plant unit comes in school.  My children all fail.  Nothing ever lives to see blooms.  It’s all my fault.  I know.  They get upset.  My response is that I keep them alive.  That has to be enough.  I think I had a choice, I explain, it was either them or the plants.  I chose them—they should be happy! 
The genius Erin Benzakein and
the blooms of Floret.
(Until there is a time I can somehow get this knack mastered, I will look at
Floret’s instagram feed and sigh.)

Bathroom locks do not work.  At some point, particularly after a cyst surgery, I've given up any hope of privacy.  It's not real.  So the door remains open to hear pleas of displeasure and to distinguish between mere crying and an ER visit.  That door hasn't shut in over a decade.  I've lost the will to close it.  It just boomerangs open.  A hidden spring only knowledgeable to children has made it so.  Ordinarily, this is okay.  But it has become particularly terrible when we lived in houses where our main bathroom was the one for guests too.  Maybe that's why we don't have too many--they are far too scarred now.  I won't even go to the boys' bathroom issues.  It makes me reach for xanax. (I'm only kidding...sort of.)

The lower right can be found at the
  Homesteading Housewife's post on motherhood.
The rest, well, you know.

So yes, it’s rough: the bladder issues, the school stuff, the games, the disappointments, the challenges, the sparks that aren’t ever completely stamped out of issues, problems, and dilemmas that seem to come up.  And as they age, my children have come up with their own justifications for ideas that are completely wrong and need careful unpacking before they become the faulty ground on which catastrophic decisions are made.  It’s tough.  You are a Magic 8
Ball that cannot predict the very pain or successes that you are trying to avoid or ensure.  That “is certain.”  For all these reasons and more…

You deserve this day
"Mom of the Year tee" available here.
Every purchase helps employ and send
inner city kids to college.
And you would look BOSS in this.

  • Because despite the exhaustion and your warnings, you locate the book, the assignment, the folder and place it in the backpack.

  • Because you clean the crap.  Literally.

  • Because you forgo your own lunch to make sure he has one.

  • Because you get into the picture instead of staying to the right of the frame.

  • Because you drive despite staying up all night doing the work you couldn’t get done while the sun watched over you, to make sure the practice is done or the game is won.

  • Because you watch it even though every fiber in your being says you should be elsewhere.

  • Because your love is stronger than your fear, you walk into the room, talk to the teacher, write the letter, and wait for the fallout. 

  • Because you pray for them, looking at their small faces so untroubled in sleep.

  • Because you know cake doesn’t taste nearly as good if it isn’t shared.

  • Because though you’ve never run a race, you’ve carried them miles and miles and further still.

  • Because despite your loss, you still choose love over resentment or anger or hurt.

  • Because you say “who’s there,” sing “wheels on the bus” and tell the same story for the thousandth time just to hear the laughter that rings from the backseat.

  • Because you say you’re sorry to her, because you know that she will stand taller and be able to own up to her own part in another’s pain one day.

  • Because you love fiercely despite not having been loved well or nearly enough.

  • Because you have been loved desperately, you understand the power of it to launch a thousand dreams.

So yes, you deserve this—Happy Day! You are One. Tough. Mother. 

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