The Mother Thing
This is going to meander. It’s more of a thinking-out-loud type post than really having a specific point. Can I call it a meditation?
So I got married. And suddenly, like the boy thing had hit, the motherhood-thing hit. I wanted children.
In retrospect this is vaguely puzzling. Look, guys, I was always awkward around babies, vaguely puzzled by toddlers and often outright scared of school age mons– er… children. So why the heck did I want kids? Who knows? Perhaps biological imperative. Perhaps insanity. I wanted eleven children.
I’ve had a mania for reading According To Hoyt for the last week or two—goodness, it’s almost like reading Chaos Manor or TOF’s Place, but more feminine in a way I can’t quite put a finger on but find highly appealing (my kind of gals!) and with WAY more folks commenting—and there are a lot of things that I have a very easy time relating to. Not a sensation I’m accustomed to. ^.^
I’ve always understood that kids are Important, especially babies, and they need special protection—but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of cuddling or entertaining them. Everything you do is Important, and I didn’t know what to do, so I saw no reason to volunteer to screw up. At the same time, I always knew I wanted a true mate and children, and knew that these weren’t contradictions; my mom was NOT the baby crazy member of her family. Both she and my dad were thought to be “confirmed bachelors” when they met and married, ended up having the second-most kids of any of their siblings.
Part of why kids are important is because they’re the debt you pay towards those who raised you, which in turn was a debt to those who raised them; you don’t have to have kids, but if you’re in a good position, you know it, and you refuse to… yeah, the whole Catholic “open to life” thing has many layers. The fear of I’ll screw this up was always a bigger temptation to sin than feeling I deserve what I want in my kids.
Oddly, pets or animal husbandry is a good…parable, story-that-gets-the-idea-across, example writ tiny, for the obligation to kids—to quote my mom, “cows don’t care if it’s Christmas, they still want to eat.” The babies don’t care if you only just got to sleep—they’re hungry, or damp, or scared, or bored, or just want to snuggle now. Toddlers don’t care if you told them eight times that they can’t have that, they’ll ask again because it might change the answer; toddlers don’t understand that the detergent is only added right before you add clothes, and that it’s five feet off the ground because it’s dangerous. They don’t understand that you’re pouring water in their eyes to save their eyesight, either, they just know they’re scared and hurt and don’t like it. (Incidentally, Arm&Hammer with Oxyclean is about the best horrible option for such an accident, and the ladies at the poison control hotline are saints.) They don’t understand why you’re yelling when they were just trying to help, doing what you do. (There’s a metaphor in there about helping without understanding what’s going on, but I leave it for someone who’s not on motherhood ATM.) Toddlers don’t understand that the baby needs to eat, they just know that Mom is paying attention to something else, and they love attention.
Being mom is a strange cross between being incredibly powerful and absolutely helpless. Everything in the girls’ world, I control—food, temperature, their diapers, their clothes, where they go… except for the stuff that I have absolutely no control over, such as their willingness to eat, the pain they feel, the eternal fear that they’ll just die and there’s nothing I can do. The lack of gray area isn’t fun. No wonder so many moms are cranky.
From the moment you’re visibly pregnant, total strangers feel free to tell you what you should be doing. Even if the clear evidence is that they really should reconsider their views and priorities, such as the guy with a tiny shrieking madthing publicly scolding you for publicly scolding your two year old, announcing that he’d never done such a thing. (It shows. I’m too polite to say such while you’re yao-yaoing at me, but it really does show.) You can’t so much a six pack for your husband, or wine for cooking, or order baked salmon with rum cake, without someone finding it good to lecture you about that being a poor choice. (Never mind that the know dangers of drinking while pregnant do not include, to keep it short, alcohol used before the stuff was COOKED. I did a bit of a rant on the fish thing, too…several times, I think, but here’s one.)
I really do appreciate the folks who respond to my trying to ride herd on the Princess by telling me that it’s not required, but I’m generally not trying to control her for them—I’m trying to control her because the teachers I respect the most have informed me that good manners get you further than a good education. I don’t want my daughter to think it’s alright to grab toys from strangers, or shriek when she doesn’t get what she wants right now. In general, yes, it is for those she’s afflicting at the moment—but my specific goal is for her to be the best person she can be. That requires some control, until she learns to control herself.
Gotta say, motherhood really makes the position of Mary hit a lot harder, and gives me a lot more sympathy for God the Father. I can’t explain it so it’s understandable, since I only came to the vague empathy from years of being Mom (more usually: momeeeeeeee) but I can grok some of the things God did that didn’t make sense when I was a kid. (Like the whole fruit-of-good-and-evil thing.)
In another way, it’s humbling because the Princess is constantly doing things that show she’s not in the least bit dumb, just doesn’t see things like we do. Such as pointing at a drawer and announcing “kitty.” Ten minutes later: plaintive mew from behind that drawer. Slick II, her year-old “kitten,” got himself caught behind it, somehow. Or this: Father Vietnam (as opposed to Retired Father 60s or Father Tolkien—yeah, my pseudonyms for our priests kind of bite. Be glad I don’t know the nuns well enough to make names.) says: “You’re carrying your mothers rose! Isn’t it pretty?” Princess: “NO! Is FLOWER!”
Fruit and brightly colored veggies are all apples, unless they’re classed as “oranges” with plastic Easter eggs; cats and dogs are interchangeable; horses are dogs but ponies are cows; all screens and glass windows are “mirror;” and a flower is not a “pretty.” Everything is dancing music—even my singing, or the hint of a beat in clapping. The Kiss of Peace is the second best part of Mass, second only to the responsibility of putting the offering in the basket.
I wish I could master her level of forgiveness—no matter how I scold, or yell, or scare her by snatching her away when she doesn’t know something is wrong, her first response is to reach for mommy or daddy, whoever is closer.
Even if she does pluck my lemon thyme leafless and pull the heads off all the pansies, then try to feed them to the Duchess.