Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother Issues

In a few days it will be Mother's Day.  Lest my mind wander and I forget that this special day is approaching, every night before bed and every morning when I awake Noah asks me, "Can you wait for me to give you your Mother's Day present?"  Another time he said,  "Are your fingers tingling to open it?" 

Early in the week Noah brought home the pottery that he made at school - 3 packages carefully wrapped in newspaper.  One he gave me right away, and I was so excited to open this:

Look at this beautiful cup!  Every surface gently prodded and smoothed and painted and glazed.  He was so excited to present it to me, watch me unwrap it, and when I drank out of it, which I did immediately after he gave it to me as we were just sitting at the counter for his after-school snack fest, he asked, "Does your drink taste better in that cup?"  And of course, it did.

Another of the three packages he gave to Matthew at dinner that night.  Amid the bilious sheets of newspaper, Matthew unwrapped this sliver of pottery:

Thank goodness Noah said immediately, "It's a boat!"  Matthew suggested that he might use it as a butter spreader, but I am not sure Noah heard this remark, and at least somewhat hope he didn't.

Someone said to me once when I was pregnant with Noah, and we did not know if I was having a boy or a girl, "One thing about boys, boys love their mothers."  And bearing Noah has shown that to be true.  While he seeks to emulate my husband in more ways than either of them might notice or say, Noah and I have do a very strong connection.

As Mother's Day approaches I wonder, as I often have, what Noah's Mother Issues will be when he grows up.  What they already are, really, because I know when children turn two that in some areas, things are set and what damage may occur, is done.  I think Noah is having a pretty great young life, and yet, I've already shared on this blog my intolerant perfectionist tendencies, and I have other equally unsavory shortcomings that no doubt have deeply embedded themselves into his innocent little framework.

I'm also more than willing to hope and plan on him being a happy, well-adjusted person in his life, but perhaps violence prevention work keeps me at times in the mindset of preparing quietly for the worse things in life to happen.

Thinking about myself as a mother inevitably leads to me thinking about my own mother.  And for shorthand, the things I was given in childhood that supported me and the things I was given that I must overcome.  It gets complicated here, and yet over the past few months I have came to better understand that this is how it is - the love and the thorns can be right up next to each other, even aside from how any one of us mothers does it our own way with our own skills and intentions...and to be sure, our limitations. 

So I have Mother Issues, yes, perhaps a whole subscription, but the longer I am a parent I know that this truth is widely read.  Tiredness, tension, or tirades look different, but whether it is a mother who loves or harms, supports or ignores, struggles or parents with a smile and flourish, there is no mother who is only one or the other of those things.  I wrote a poem for my mother some years ago and the last two lines ring even more true for me now that I am a mom:

Nurturing is too small, too constrictive a word
for the day-to-day mudpie life you’ve chosen with me.

Mothering is a mudpie life.  Should we choose to accept our mission, we mothers get into a lot of slop - some of it in play, some that splashes up, some that is slung.  In my family, both mothers and children can get some pretty good flailing in as we have tried to live with and without each other.  But it remains true that I love my mother.  So I bank on the hope that the divine love I feel from my little son now will remain.  I see it in my husband, who along with his three brothers and sister, still travel a wide orbit around their mother.  And I find my own ways back again and again, to that source.  So it is with more compassion than ever this year that I look ahead to Sunday, to spending the day with Noah, and to unwrapping his third precious piece of pottery.

I bought my mother a card yesterday and put a recent photograph of me in it, which Noah took.  

Because this is a picture in which I look (and felt at the time) happy and healthy, I wanted to write, "See what a good job you did?" but that felt too much like I was saying how good I look, so I ended up just writing that I love her.  That's what it comes down to anyway.