Sunday, January 08, 2006

Maybe Not So Much With The Hallmark

I was rereading my post of Friday the 6th, and discovered, to my horror, that I actually used the word "wonder" both with a straight face and in conjunction with my children. The horror! The horror! Next thing you know I'll be descanting on how fast the boys' babyhoods have gone, and linking to sites which sell small, noseless china figurines with hydrocephalus. "Wonder," indeed. Hmph.

Now don't get me wrong; I have nothing against wonder itself, and there are definitely times when I do in fact find my children wonderful (often in the context of, "The mess in the diaper was wonderful to behold,"). But one of the reasons I started this blog--aside from being too lazy to write in a journal where no one would read my words, because where's the fun in THAT?--was to chronicle my own, actual experience of motherhood, separate from the often oddly rosy and/or domesticated vision of motherhood which seems to float around out there, or at least which floated around in my head before I had kids. I wanted--I still want--to write about the dailiness, the moment-to-moment, so that when I'm eighty and misty eyed with senility and gin I can conk myself over the head with my collected writings and knock some sense into myself before I start saying things like, "Oh, enjoy it while they're young, because [all together please] it goes so fast!" And, conversely, so that when I'm eighty I will be able to peruse my thoughts from fifty years ago and recognize that there WAS some good stuff going on amid the exhaustion and in-your-face of having tiny boys, good stuff that I could hardly see at the time (the time, you understand, being now; am I making this confusing enough?) because I was (am) so swamped with the intensity of both the boys' needs and my own reactions to them.

Ah, the good stuff. That's the thing. It's there, but it's different from what I'd expected it would be, and that's where my mea culpa for the wonder-writing comes in. I read and heard an awful lot about the wonder of it all before I had kids--the moment of bonding when you look into the bright eyes of your firstborn, the incredible love which [again, all together now] makes it all worthwhile no matter how tired you are, the rejuvenation of your jaded adult spirit thanks to contact with these little beings who see the world new, etc. But that's not how it's been for me, and I am willing to be that's not how it is for a lot of mothers.

How HAS it been, then? Well, ontologically overwhelming. There's so much BEING involved with small children, and what I'm good at is thinking, which is not the same thing at all. I'm not even that great at emoting; I'd much rather recollect it in tranquillity. So the quality of the love I have for my children has unsettled and even frightened me, because it's so animal, so straight-from-the-umbilicus, like a reflex which never gets above the cerebellum. It's a love which can give me great joy and great distress, but which is too primal and while the kids are tiny, too demanding, to engender thinner, more parse-able states of being like "happiness," and "wonder," and "enthusiasm." It's a love which has drawn me farther out of myself than I ever thought I could go, and one which has stripped me down to ugly truth. Oh, how ugly. There's nothing like love for absolutely epochal humiliation and facade ripping-away and show me where it warns you about THAT in What to Expect When You're Expecting.

So yeah, not so much with the "oh, my children make me tired, but they bring wonder back into my life, and every time they smile I forget all about the hardships," blah blah blah. That's the kind of drivel and cant which, I'm convinced, plays a part in mothers deciding to lock themselves away behind their public smiles, and act un-desperate when they cross paths with other mothers at music class or Toddler Storytime or the supermarket. So you can imagine how annoyed I was to find myself perpetuating this. As I said before, mea culpa.

Not, as I also said before, that there isn't some Good Stuff going on too. It's just that said Stuff feels to me to be something like grace--distressing, soul-making, embedded in the quotidian, really fucking slow--and while Flannery O'Connor could write about that with brio and nerve, I cannot. The best I can do is refuse to trivialize it, and as we've seen, often I can't even pull that off.

I can, however, change a diaper.


Anonymous MFA Mama said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. Really, I couldn't have, much to my chagrin. I think we all sort of commit the sin of omission in talking about our mothering because a) we want everyone to admire how very well we're doing and not feel sorry for our poor kids whose mommy is slightly nutty after the third day straight of being cooped up with rotavirus diapers and Noggin and b) we're afraid that if we start to tell the truth about how very soul-sucking it can be sometimes we'll end up embarassing ourselves horribly by either displaying an inordinate amount of emotion or revealing WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION or something along those lines.
Part of why I blog is that reading other HONEST mommy blogs has helped me to feel more normal and less of a failure as a mother because I do not spend every single moment radiating organic breastmilk and limitless patience, and I'd like to do that for other women. That and I'm a self-absorbed hermit desperate for adult interaction, even if it IS one-sided and for the benefit of total strangers from behind the veil of anonymity.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Nothing But Bonfires said...

You also use words like brio and cant. And make oblique Wordsworth references. I'm not a mother but those are pretty excellent qualities for a person. So presumably the mommying is going fine.

9:29 AM  
Blogger DoctorMama said...

You're too funny. Small, noseless china figurines with hydrocephalus!
I can relate to the fear of sap, though. My kid makes it pretty easy to avoid -- I love him to death, but good GOD it's like pounding rocks in the hot sun a lot of days. And he's in daycare full-time! I read people talking about the wonderful wonderfulness of motherhood and think, there are three possibilities here: 1) I'm a bad mother, 2) my kid is a bad kid, or 3) they're lying. None of which makes me feel particularly good, so I just skip over it humming "lalala I can't hear you!"

You could make some money selling those figurines, I bet.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous MFA Mama said...

Doctor Mama: they're called Precious Moments figurines and someone DOES make a mint on them. I know about them because a) my MIL tried to change Big Child's nursery theme to that and I caused an international incident by refusing because THEY LOOK LIKE THEY HAVE HYDROCEPHALUS and b) perhaps as my punishment from a just universe or perhaps coincidentally, Big Child had a harmless condition (not hydrocephalus, although we had to go through testing to rule that out) that made him have a HUGE head as a baby and people would say HE looked like a Precious Moments figurine to try to be kind, but, um, there's no nice way to say that someone's kid's head is waaaaay too big for their body so just don't try to talk about it, 'k? (he has since grown into his head)

7:20 PM  
Blogger DoctorMama said...

Well, I'll be damned. I'm shocked I've never encountered these, because they look just like HellBoy. AAAGH! Maybe people didn't want to mention it because they know what an insult it is ...

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Screaming with laughter here in Boston. Precious Moments indeed. oh, and then there are the Hummels. And then of course there were those wonderful "Love is..." cartoons featuring similarly hydrocephalic and--ok, medical people--what's the term for this? micronasalic? ano-nosia. Anyway--no nose to speak of.

I hope I was never too dewy-eyed about my own kid, or about motherhood in general. More anon--I have to get off the computer now since my ten-year-old needs to download something from iTunes before bed. Oy.

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Gee,
i'm dewey-eyed about all my kiddos and never had these negative feelings you expressed.

i did, however, have a mother that sounds a lot like you.
I love her, but we're not close and that saddens me.

I come from a family of writers, very accomplished (I might add), published and extremely talented, but here I sense writing to try to impress (who?) and using words to express your intellect rather than feelings.
it's so sad - i hope you children do well.
ease up -- learn to love -- it's wonderful! :)

11:13 PM  

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