I'll have to confess that I'm not exactly looking forward to Mother's Day. I feel very uncomfortable being on the receiving end. I feel like a fraud on Mother's Day. Twenty years from now my kids will be in therapy trying to sort through the mess, just as I did and do.
If you had asked me when I was 25 if I was planning to have children, I would have laughed and felt the usual stirrings of impatience with people who felt they had to propagate. I didn't like children. The thought of small powerless creatures depending on me filled me with, well, rage. And I thought that was a pretty good reason not to have kids.
When I was 32 I had been around a few actual children and babies and discovered that I did not want to swat them. Usually. I still wan't planning on having any children.
I still wasn't planning on having children when I got pregnant. Being pregnant required an enormous shift in perception. I felt relatively good about the whole business.
As my children get older, I find that I am revisited by old and unpleasant emotions from my childhood. This is not good. I was furious with myself as a child. I made up alter egos to absorb my fury. Now I have actual children, and sometimes I feel that I walk very close to the line. My words can be cruel. Sometimes I don't like them very much, and then I burst into tears because I adore them.
I wish my mother were still alive. She wouldn't have any advice. Actually, she was wonderfully free of any parenting advice. DramaQueen was just over a year old when my mom died. My mother adored DramaQueen. She went through a hellish round of chemotherapy because she wanted to stick around to see her grow up. I wish she could have seen Firecracker. She would say, "Oh, she has the Akins temper!"
My mom raised five children. She had wanted children all her life. She couldn't wait to have lots of kids. She would be the first to say she wasn't a very good mother, and, well, she wasn't in many ways. There were some things that went very wrong, sometimes for reasons beyond her control. My brothers, who are much older than I am, lived through some really awful stretches when mom's behavior became worrisome enough that dad committed her to an asylum. But she was affectionate and had boundless love for her children. Although when she had delusions she could be mean and kinda spooky, she was usually gentle and kind. She made sure to call each of us every week after we were all out of the house. She was a very intelligent woman who had not had the opportunity to go to college. She would have felt at home in a seminary, I think. She listened to lectures on Augustine and peppered my husband with questions about Judaism. At her funeral her pastor said good-naturedly that she always pushed him into corners with her questions. Several women from her Sunday school class mentioned the same thing--that my mom thought of questions that never crossed their minds.
Mom's frequent refrain was, "I just don't know what to do with my life." This used to drive me crazy, but I find that I'm pretty much in the same boat. I've inherited her lack of drive and energy, her sensitivity to too much stimulation, her social discomfort, her disorganization and inability to actually finish anything. I have her questioning mind, but not one-tenth of her faith.
And I can't garden at all.