When writers feel pain they either write or they cave.
I’m finding it hard to write today.
Yesterday I wanted to cave. I wanted to cancel my plans and hibernate, go quiet. I wanted to turn off the hurt and curl up on the couch with my dog. But I’d made a promise to be someplace with friends.
The show must go on, they say.
Let me back up.
My father called yesterday. He told me my mother reached out for the first time in years.My step-father died and she wanted to connect. I haven’t seen her in almost two decades.
My father told me my mother wanted to first inform me of the wrongs the world and I have cast upon her.
My instinct gave me false hope. Every child wants to feel loved by their parents, but reality came as a hard slap to the face.
She probably needed money.
The last time I saw my mother was during my daughter’s first birthday. Mom left in a huff, disgruntled because my ex and I wanted to hold our baby as we sang the birthday song, cut the cake, blew out candles.
When they told me mom left, I stared in disbelief but quickly rearranged my expression. I’d learned over the years how to hide “mom pain.”
Still, it haunted me. It wasn’t the first time my mother distanced herself. We were estranged for years before the party and only reconnected a few months prior.
I wanted her in my life, wanted a mom to tell me how to parent a baby, wanted my daughter to receive the love I’d received from my grandparents, but what I really wanted, mom wasn’t capable of.
I thought about this all afternoon
Was it selfish to hold my baby on such a momentous occasion?
Was I selfish to keep my mother from her grandkids?
It was my step-mother who threw me a baby shower.
It was my step-mother who came every Monday to babysit my child from the month she was born.
It was my step-mother who gave my ex and I a few hours to ourselves while my daughter had colic/was fussy.
My step-mother who took my daughter to tot shabot on Saturdays.
It was my mother and father-in-law who babysat my first born and took her on adventures with her cousins. It was my father and aunts and uncles and grandparents who helped nurture my child, my friends and extended family who helped out/gave parenting advice. My father, step-mother and in-laws were at the hospital the day my baby was born.
Thus, I realized, my mother didn’t deserve to hold my baby the day of her celebration.
It was the village who helped raise my daughter that deserved to hold her that day.
My sisters-in-law, surrogate mothers, aunties, friends, and family who were there for my little girl, who has now blossomed into an incredible young woman, that deserved to hold her.
My mother’s anger poisoned our relationship.
Anger is a poison I try not to drink, one I’m trying to keep away from my children.
Parenting isn’t easy. Some days your kids hate you or ignore you or think you’re clueless. Sometimes your kids laugh at your music, your silly jokes, your individuality.
But sometimes they’re wonderful. They snuggle with you and your dog on the couch, they help you put on winged eyeliner because some things should be left to the experts. They blast rap music and hand jive with you in the car. They share their hopes and dreams and listen to (some of) your advice. They tell you you’re beautiful when you’re not wearing makeup or fancy clothes.
It’s hard for me to imagine ever not loving my children. It’s hard to imagine a mother not loving her own flesh and blood. It’s hard for me to imagine not being a part of their lives or missing out on their accomplishments and failures.
Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes I say things I regret. Sometimes I hear my mother’s words slip out of my mouth. I’m far from perfect, but I’m doing my best, always striving to be better.
I hope my children realize how fortunate they are for having a large/silly/supportive family. I hope they never know the pain of not being loved by the people that share their bloodline.
I hope one day my mother can release her anger and see what she’s missed.
She doesn’t understand it’s not about holding the baby or showing off for photos. Parenting is about the sleepless nights, cleaning vomit/wet sheets, wiping away tears, being empathetic when their hearts break, comforting them when they’re scared. It’s a dirty, depleting, sometimes thankless job. And it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
I’m glad I stayed out of the cave yesterday. I’m grateful for the friends that shared a night of music, bouncing, and laughter. I’m grateful I have this catharsis to share my feelings. I’m grateful for the friends who will read this. I hope anyone rejected by a parent knows they’re not alone, that they’re worthy of love and that they can still be a good parent.
I hope we all stay out of the cave.