Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day, 2009...

Motherhood can and will turn you inside-out. If you become a mother, your heart will always be a little on the outside though maybe not visibly so. It is infinitely more vulnerable, at the same time beating more fiercely than ever.

Motherhood has a way of taking every last character defect you have and serving them right back to you, slamming them at you like hard, angry little tennis balls. You have to duck to avoid getting hit by the things you don't like about yourself: your impatience, your unwillingness (inability?) to live in the moment, your insecurities. Every evening, slumped in the bathtub or brushing your teeth, you will vow to do better, to be brave and graceful and warm and gentle yet still somehow fun, and, an eternal optimist, you will believe it is possible if you just set your mind to it. But tomorrow morning you will step on a sharp-edged toy on your way down the steps, realize your son's backpack is not where it's supposed to be (it never is) and he will ask you in that tone that sounds like an accusation what is in his lunch box for the day. In a matter of minutes, you're back to that pathetic creature, slumped in the bathtub, making vows before your toothbrush.

Your hair is all over the place, you're cold and his nose is dirty, but then you notice his little hands, still somehow dimpled at the knuckles. This is reassuring. A little teakettle inside you starts to melt the ice as you wrap your hand around his, kissing his sweet little knuckles. He skips off to draw on the sidewalk, he runs back inside to fill his watering can, he eats a leaf of lemon balm, he looks up to the sky for spaceships. You watch him, still as mesmerized by this being as you were when he was all shiny and new in your arms, impossibly perfect and small, an amber jewel. He is almost seven now, or eighteen or thirty-two, but your child's still perfect and you're still mesmerized.

You remember the first time someone judged him as less than perfect. Maybe it was at his first checkup at the doctor's office and from his head to his chubby little feet, he was just in the twentieth percentile for height. Maybe it was your mother expressing disappointment that his newborn eyes didn't stay cobalt blue. Maybe it was a nagging voice inside you, one that noted in a clipped, unfriendly way that he spoke less than his peers, he didn't potty train as quickly, that you read at three, why couldn't he? You try to chase this voice out of you - find where it originates and silence it once and for all - but it remains hidden, jumping out when you least expect it, and you are subject to its whim at any moment. Just when you think that you are hopeless, though, that you were really foolish and arrogant to think that a flawed person such as yourself could pull this mothering thing off, a moment of grace occurs. His easy laughter, his startling insights, his wide eyes that, although not blue, take in the world at an incredible depth, helps to bring you back to the present, back to the person you want to be, back to loving this child as he is, as he's supposed to be. This shouldn't be hard. This is easy.

So you are a mother. You tell your child that no matter what, you will always love him. Despite the fact that there is not much you are certain of in the world, that things change and life spins us like skittering pool balls with little or no warning, this is something of which you are positive: you will always, always love him.

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