Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Musings On Motherhood

Motherhood is an experience that is virtually impossible (especially for me) to capture through the written word, as the experience is much too powerful and all-encompassing. The days I birthed each of my children, it just blew my mind (and still does) that I had taken part in something so incredibly extraordinary, yet so ordinary that it had been happening since the dawn of time, across so many species. I felt like I had tapped into this ancient universal force.

Now, don't get me wrong--I don't float effortlessly through each day in a flowing white gown and a flower in my hair, showering my children with nothing but patience, love and kindness. Just as Superman periodically became disabled by kryptonite, my flow of motherly love gets clogged by toys strewn about the living room, whiny voices, unfolded laundry, husbandy husbandness...the list goes on. And on.

But--I do have an innate, powerful appreciation for life and all the good that I have that I can only genetically attribute to Harold, my late grandfather. At any and every family gathering, Harold would weep out of joy for all of his family. All the women on that side of the family are the same way. When I was younger I would scoff at the teary-eyedness of my family, but that gene surfaced strongly somewhere in my early adulthood.

There are many children's books that I can't get through without my voice cracking, pausing in an attempt to keep my tears up in my eyes as my children patiently wait in my lap for the next page. I absolutely refuse to read I Love You Forever. Can't do it. Dog Heaven, which the wonderful veterinary oncologists sent us in the mail after we had to put my beloved 4-year old weimaraner to sleep is a definite, emphatic no. Yesterday during morning reading time in Jackson's 1st grade class, Jackson brought over a book for me to read him called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, about a young boy and his relationship with a woman who has experienced memory loss. I made it 2/3 of the way through before I was discreetly wiping away tears.

Songs? I've got a ton that do me in: 100 Years to Live by Five For Fighting, Elton John's Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters, James Taylor's Carolina in My Mind, Linda Ronstadt's Goodbye My Friend...

Life in general, but particularly motherhood, is so precious, and difficult, and life-changing. I have a hard time when I think my boys are growing up faster than I'd like, but then I remind myself that my job as a mother is not to have cute little children, but to raise strong, intelligent, productive members of society. Only then does my heart feel a little less tight.

This past weekend as I made the 4 minute drive to the grocery store, I tuned into my favorite radio show, This American Life. The week's theme was The Parent Trap, about parents who unwittingly set traps for their children. I caught the show mid-way through, but sat in my car, riveted, in the Safeway parking lot for twenty minutes as I listened to the story of Lucy, a chimp that a psychologist and his wife had raised from infancy as if she were their human child. As an experiment. This was the '70s, clearly before humans had the decency to introduce ethics into experimentation. The story of this poor child that was caught between two species was heartwrenching. You can listen to the show in its entirety here.

My friend Kami at The Fence wrote a post today about struggling to be the mother she wants to be, and it really resonated with me. She recently had a few wake-up calls that are helping to put things in perspective. I get a quick, slap-in-the-face back to appreciation anytime I think of the Bingham family. In late fall of 2006, I was a mother of 3-year old and a 2-year old. The Binghams had a four-year old daughter and a 2-year old son, and went out downtown for a cup of hot cocoa to celebrate fall one evening. As they crossed the street at the crosswalk, a drunk driver plowed them over, killing the mother and her two children. The unbelieveably terrible details can be read about through my link. The father had a few injuries, but his entire life was gone. In an instant. A nice young family, with their son wearing his superhero cape, out for cocoa? They were US; that could have been us so easily. For whatever reason, I, the mother of three little boys, get to be here now, and Rebecca Bingham and her two beautiful children are not. Dammit, I'm going to appreciate it, because my life can change in an instant and I would hate to look back and think, "Man, I had it so, so good and I wasted all those years bitching and complaining."

In her blog, Kami linked to a Mom-101 video that sums up the motherhood experience so wonderfully, I wanted to share it. I don't know how any mother could watch this with a dry eye.


  1. LOVED this!!! I am so glad I get your blog. You are a brilliant writer! I can relate to so many of your words. I want to repost this video. It shares such an important message. xoxo- kathryn

  2. Can you know NOW...with just your little ones, how much your own parents adore and love you? It only gets better although I have still, the fondest memories of you at age 2, eating ice cream ever so slowly to drive your brother crazy and of a torn and shredded "shmutie" that you would caress through your fingers as you sucked your thumb.
    Your depiction of motherhood is beautifully stated and that feeling will continue on throughout your life. Mine has!