Haven’t we all seen so many photos of snow and ice this winter? To say nothing of you, enmired in the real thing? Here in Northern California we’ve had spring weather, or at least spring-mimicking. But both my kids are in New Jersey. I look at this webcam.
Then I call my kids, one or the other, and I say, “Are you cold?” And while they may be cold, or irritated by having to drive in the snow and on ice, that’s by no means their primary concern. After all, they are mostly grown.
I could send them sweaters, or socks, or tins of fancy hot chocolate – fancy things always come in tins, don’t they – but probably the kids would rather have money. Because they are grown, remember, and know how to keep warm.
It’s possible I am a very doting mother.
If so, why? I am not particularly sweet, as a person. Was always known in the workplace for those character traits that require high levels of testosterone. Including upper body strength.
I was listening, recently, to some young women, talented, intelligent, creative, most with babies or toddlers, discussing the term, Mommy Blogger. They found it derogatory. I responded that when I hear the word Mommy, all I can think is that’s what my children called me when they were little. The word leeches all warrior spirit out of my body. I admire the ferocity of these young women, whom I see to be dedicated mothers, and I look back on how I came to be so in love with mommyhood, and so soft.
Sometimes I wonder if it all started when I persisted in my commitment to give birth without drugs. I know some people say labor doesn’t hurt that much, or not to be scared, or that there are ways to get through the process sanely, but in my experience, in all honesty, it hurt. Crazy hurt. Black out and don’t remember what happened hurt. Wake up the next morning feeling as though the entire world has changed, not just because you have an infant lying next to you, but because your consciousness has been wholly altered by pain.
I am not complaining. But maybe those 24 hours of labor effected my experience of being a mother more than I knew. 20 hours for my daughter, with contractions of progressive intensity, and 4 for my son, strong, fast, and quite brutal. I did in fact lose consciousness in the last hour before I started to push, with my daughter, and I did ask the doctor could I please just lie there, and do nothing, with my son.
When you go through something like that, you have to put yourself back together, after. And when you put yourself together cheek by jowl with an infant who cries when they are uncomfortable in any way, you put yourself back together in light of that infant’s needs. Quite literally constructing an identity which requires that child be OK, in the big meaning of the word, as much as is humanly possible.
Maybe at that point I disappeared. That’s perhaps too dramatic, but let it lie for now. We’re just considering. Musing. All sorts of things are possible.
I wonder to what degree my relationship to motherhood is a good thing for my kids. I don’t think I’d be able to consider any other way, just for myself, as my approach to my children comforts me like a drug. It’s one of the most important ways I know who I am. However, if it’s better for the kids, I can allow a change that I might in fact want.
I remodeled our house when my son was not quite 2. I was working from home then, and only part-time. So I oversaw the project, from architecture to finishes. You know, how you find yourself in a rock showroom somewhere admiring granite? Or trying to figure out just how transparent the glass block will be once installed as a shower wall? The use case, as we would say in software development, was a family rearing two young children.
I drew design ideas from 5 years of raising babies and toddlers, walking the hall with my daughter, taking her from mirror to mirror so she could wave at herself under every set of bathroom lights. Waking in the night to go lift her from her crib to nurse. Sleeping with my son wrapped around my head like a cat.
Once built, the house took on its own life. While it was constructed from my instincts, developed from listening carefully to the kids and the family rhythm, it was not of me once it became real. It was outside me. The kids grew up, I suspect, with me in the background. I put together a way of life for them because in those days whatever joy the kids felt, whatever comfort, I felt too. But I am not sure how directly visible I was.
And now they are off in the snow somewhere and here the sky is blue.
Everyone separates from their adult children, to one degree or another. Especially here in America, where the geography and the culture both support moving away. What I’m wondering is how other people’s children see their mothers. How many of us disappear into the structure of support that we build?
And how much does it matter that, once our support is no longer the primary structure, we reappear?