Thursday, April 2, 2009

Trouble (Please Be Kind)

This is what we did the day I was a bad mother: Went to the park. Twice. Ate chicken salad for lunch, cookies for dessert. Had lollipops. Bought a dress for Easter Sunday. Took a nap in the redwoods by a creek. Story time at the library. Dinner with Daddy at the Indian food place where we sang Cat Stevens songs sitting at an outside table, the warm evening air heavy with jasmine and samosas. Trouble! Oh trouble, can't you see-ee-eee, You're eating my heart away, and there's nothing much left of meeeee... Trust me when I say you have not seen cute until you've seen a two year old girl sing "Trouble."
Our house went on the market yesterday, the day I was a bad mother. All day long Zoey and I were displaced persons bumbling from one event to the next while strangers walked through our home, trailing their fingers over our countertops. At the park I thought of these people who might sit on my bed. Mama! Mama! Zoey jumping off a purple polkadotted frog. Did you see me? But what I saw was this: business cards on my kitchen table. The look a wife might give her husband when she notices the way the dryer is vented. I saw chocolate chip cookies in my oven not meant to be eaten, the scent false security where really there is none. Who do I think I'm kidding anyway? The way I set the table before I left just like our realtor asked me to do. Three plates, three napkins, three placemats, one family, ours. Motherhood: I called it in yesterday, short and distracted. Discombobulated. Displaced. Zoey did not nap well under the redwoods, and later, she was cranky. Zoey! I called her a brat and then apologized. She ran away from me in the parking lot, laughing. Get in your car seat! Now! Yesterday I was somebody else's mother, the mother I quickly look at in the grocery store, half with sympathy but more so with scorn, Zoey's shoulder alarmingly small in my grip, my table set for a dinner I would not be serving.
Cry me a fucking river, right? We went to the park. Twice. Still--later, after Zoey went to sleep I stood above her in the dark and whispered yet another apology. Kissed her warm hair and resisted waking her up to watch her jump off a polkadotted frog. Yesterday I was weak, brittle, split between a house and a home, the fabric of my motherhood sewn from crinkly white hospital paper, each move a sound waiting for something. But today, today I will be made of silk, of velvet, of skin and eyes and present, yes, I see you. Today I won't look away. Trouble! Oh trouble, please be kind. When Zoey sings she warbles her voice and shakes her head back and forth, she feels it. She knows.

And I know this: There will always be trouble. Of one kind or another. But I need to be better. I need to be bigger. I need to be more. Mama? Watch this! Did you see me? I must look, really look, because I have seen HER face, and it's too much too much for me.


Mrs. Blandings said...

I called a friend weeping one day because I had been such a bad mother. Short, impatient, unaware. And she said, "You are not a bad mother, you had a bad day. If you were a bad mother you wouldn't know the difference." It's all part of it. They need to learn that every now and then we have bad days, we aren't ourselves, and the next day the people who love us love us just the same.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

You got me with this one. Especially today.

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

You are a wonderful mother, Susannah. That is so clear in everything you write. As a woman who grew up in a home with a stay-at-home mom, I can tell you-- Zoey will appreciate this time so much when she's older and all she will remember is her beautiful mother who sang with her at the picnic table.

Baking With Plath said...

Fuck, you're an amazing writer. I feel kind of guilty saying "fuck" on a post about motherhood. Sorry!

Zoey is so, so lucky to have a mom like you.

the sweet life with olives said...

ugh. one of those days huh? well if it's any consolation... and I am a firm believer that sometimes misery really does love company I kind of had one of them too. you know, all of us mommies have days like this, and in these uncertain and trying times they come more often than before... but even if you didn't need to sell you home, and had the perfect high paying job, and haircut and all the rest, well, there'd still be trouble sometimes. last year my hubby and i were really stressed and kept saying things like 'oh when this is or that happens it will be better' and my mom looked at us knowingly (and with pity) and informed us ever so gently that today is probably as good as it gets. she wasn't trying to be mean, just that as you get older, kids grow, as do we,health fades, moments pass and you look back on what seemed like a crap time and think it was the best of your life. unfair i guess, but i think it's pretty true. speaking of which my daughter just woke up crying. gotta run. chin up... this too shall pass:-)

Minxy Mimi said...

I know where you are coming from, but I also know you are human, you make mistakes, you get upset... life happens.
I truly love that song, I always have. Hope you are feeling better.

Anonymous said...

"...and the next day the people who love us love us just the same."

But they don't, not always. It's a nice story, but it's not dependably true. Sometimes bad behavior will change how much and how well people love you.

No one wants to believe in conditional love, but it's there. It's a fact.

JC said...

That's the great thing about life. Every damn day is a potential do-over. Most of the time, we don't lose who we truly are, we just misplace it momentarily.

The Lil Bee said...

Really beautiful. You're going to be fine. I know it must be so hard, but it doesn't make you a bad mom. I grew up hopping from apartment to apartment with my mom, dodging landlords and collection agents, and look--I turned out OK!! So you're going to be fine. xo

Anonymous said...

Unconditional love doesn't change forever, it may bend and struggle, but it always bounces back. Constant bad behavior may change how well people love you, but a bad day here and there is forgivable.

Vanessa said...

Please don't be too hard on yourself. When we're down or feeling stressed it's easy to take it out on others. But you are a good person, you are a good mom. It's ok to have weak moments. You're a strong ady.

Lolo said...

I don't know which has made me tear up more, your post or the comments left by your readers.

I'm going to print out "......If you were a bad mother you wouldn't know the difference." because I've had so many days that I wished for do overs.

I'll tell you what I've told my son when times are tough. "May this be the worst that you ever experience."

krista said...

i hate myself when i hear that tone in my voice. it might be slight, not discernible to the random stranger, but i can feel it in my throat. the exasperation, the fed-up, the tired.
and, oh how i'm stopped short by mrs. blandings' comment: "...if you were a bad mother you wouldn't know the difference."
so true.
so be easy on yourself but don't let yourself off the hook. know what i mean?
oh, and i'll try to do the same.

Michelle M. in KY said...

Oh Susannah...This post spoke so deeply to my heart. It oozed around my heart like warm honey, getting into every little crevice. I, too agree with Mrs. Blandings "if you were a bad Mother you wouldn't know the difference" - that's so deep and true and now I will remember it forever. I do NOT believe that every Mother lies awake at night rehearsing what she would have done differently - only the good ones. The ones who get "IT" and "know the difference". So, that speaks volumes. Even though we do not know one another, you are a good Mom, it is apparent from your tone and the way that you speak of Zoey.
There has been many a night that I stood above one of my children apologizing. Apologizing for something I said, something I did or didn't do, apologizing for ME. All of us want to be SEEN. The most important thing that we want and our children want is to be recognized. Some days, we all get it wrong. I think she will let you off the hook, but what's important is that you let yourself off the hook too. If you are like me, you will use this lesson to not miss the next "did you see me?" moment. Sometimes we try so hard to be present in every moment and we are human...sometimes we blink.
If anything good has come out of this terrible economic time, it's this... 1. We are realizing what's really important in our lives & it's not how many pairs of shoes we have and 2. We've learned how to be honest and have a dialogue about money/finances. I mean before now can you imagine people talking to their friends and saying I just don't know how I'm going to pay for groceries this week?
The honesty in your conversation is heart warming. Unfortunately, most (not the banker's, big-whigs, or Wall Street execs.) of us are in this together and I feel your pain.
Perhaps what we will gain is a freedom that comes with not having control over our situation.
I wish you good luck in your home selling. Thank You so much for sharing such deep, honey filled moments with us. It makes me feel that I am not alone.

Charlee said...

Lovely. I came back to read it again today. Your words continue to amaze. Thank you.

Maggie May said...

I totally get this post. This is the kind of thing I think about all the time= I have to be bigger, and More, for my kids.

Author said...

They won't sit on your bed. But they will use your toilet if you don't tie a pretty silk bow around the bowl making it very politely clear they are not to use it.