I’ve been talking to some mothers recently.
I called my own.
Such an odd experience, talking to a woman who is losing her memory but retaining everything else. The voice and the expressions haven’t changed. “Hello darling!” she says. She knows she misses me, but she doesn’t remember when she saw me last. She rarely forgets she has 4 children, but I’m not sure if she knows who I am, today. A few minutes into the conversation it becomes clear that she can’t remember what she just said, but that she wants to see me, whenever I can make time.
Her memory loss doesn’t prevent me from recognizing her as my mother but the idea is drifting.
I talked to my best friend.
We raised our children together, but she went on to have 3 more than I, meaning she’s got teenagers at home. I can’t remember what it was that prompted her comment, “Of course, that’s not something we need to share with the kids,” but I responded, “Oh, as I get older I feel like I have to get more honest with mine. That I protect them with truth, not by keeping quiet.” Or something like that. I was driving, so probably wasn’t speaking in whole sentences.
In fact, I’d just finished having a conversation with my son in which I explained to him my psychology, as best I can, around pieces of advice I give him. And then explained my psychology around telling him my psychology at all. Poor child. The standards of good care shift so much as my children grow up, and I have no model, no mother’s group, no data to guide my choices. I muddle along hoping that in a pinch truth and love are the right answer.
By the way, by truth I don’t mean full disclosure. Our kids are not our late night friends, for sobbing phone calls or confessions. I mean that whatever I do tell them, whatever advice I give, I make it as true and as free of my own agenda as possible. I suppose I mean we, and our.
I talked to some young women online.
Young mothers and mothers-to-be these days are forging their own course. As it happened, my generation didn’t set the template for the future. The answers we came to, so hard won – I’m going to use the word “forged” again – out of late nights, cracked nipples, pyjama standdowns and teenage disdain, those answers may not stand. Certainly they will not stand. I guess every generation needs to choose their own ways, and often will choose in reaction to those very things we thought our experience had revealed as truth.
I am a very cerebral person. I use logic to make my way through life. (Interrupted of course by emotions I can’t control, and the river of speech with which I am afflicted. Truth.) So I have thought a lot about bringing up my children and will continue to think about it for as long as I can.
But as time passes, time in which by default my mother ages and new mothers give birth, culture and frameworks shift. Duh, I guess, but always a surprise.
I anchor in the moment. I anchor in the blue of my son’s eyes, in the smooth skin of my daughter’s cheek, in their voices down the hall. Those might seem like superficial images, like the cover of a romance novel, but when I cast my mind’s eye over to them that’s what I see. There’s more of course, their text messages and plans, the spaces in which they live. And so on.
None of my thinking here is terribly brilliant, but even obvious stuff can feel like an explosion when it affects our particular lives.
They are short, those lives. Being a mother is one of the few inalienable loves. So I stay close to how I feel. From there I look back at my mistakes, my anxieties, my biases, my ignorance. I set my mind to work in service of my dear ones and report back when I must. That’s as true as I can get.
Have a wonderful weekend. It’s raining here, so we in the land of drought are glad.