This blog is designed to introduce the idea of, and get feedback for, a book of essays I am working on called, "How I Killed the Tooth Fairy, and Other Tales of Flawed Mothering..." I am exploring the whole notion of trying to be the very best mother I can possibly be, and the inevitable mistakes that have accompanied these efforts.
As I've been writing these essays, I am realizing that I'm not just a flawed mother---I'm a flawed wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law and friend too (big surprise!) But there's a limit to the amount of self-flagellation I can publish (or tolerate), so let me just stick to the mistakes I've made as a mother. For now.
I have two sons, David, 6 and Matthew, 10, and one husband, 42, who prefers not to be named, so I will just call him 42. Sometimes I feel that I am just doomed---that there is no way that neurotic, selfish, moody and conflicted me can possibly raise my two sweet boys and turn them into decent, confident, loving and honest men. But I am trying.
Fortunately, 42 is a decent, confident, loving and honest man, so I figure that some of his goodness is bound to rub off on our sons. But since I am the one who does most of the day-to-day feeding/driving/scheduling/supervising/listening to and yelling at (thus the title of this blog, P-Rant), I worry that I will exact more influence over our boys than my husband will.
Have my mistakes already harmed my children? Do they see how compulsive I am? How tired? How hostile? How frustrated? Do they realize that even though I had the luxury of choosing to be an overeducated, underemployed, suburban Mom, I sometimes yearn to be the chronically overworked and underpaid, occasionally sexually harassed, urban journalist I once was?
Do my kids see that driving them a half an hour to school each day, and making an hour round trip to hockey practice, three times a week, is not the most fun I've ever had in a car?
Do they realize that this summer, I am damn glad, and positively giddy, that the 10-year old is going to sleepaway camp for five weeks, and the 6-year old is at day camp for eight hours a day, because I finally get time alone?
Yes, I think they do. I think my two boys are onto me, and they know I am not always into them, and in the process of loving them and raising them, I make mistakes. Lots of them.
Take Tuesday morning. David did not want to go to camp. He had had a headache the night before, and vomited. I gave him Tylenol, lay next to him while he fell asleep, rubbed his head and knew there was a chance he would not go to camp the next day. The next morning, he seemed fine. He really did. But he wanted to stay home. He said he wanted to be with me, but mostly he wanted stay home and watch TV and attend to his Webkins. To make his stay-at-home argument, he invoked the name of the sainted Miss Suzie, his kindergarten teacher.
"Mom," David said, " Miss Suzie says you're supposed to stay home 24 hours after you puke."
"No," I countered. "Miss Suzie says you're supposed to stay home 24 hours after you have a fever."
"Mom," David said, exasperated. "You just want to stay home and be alone. You don't want to be with me. You don't like me."
Well, he'd gotten the first part right. I did relish my eight-hour shift alone. And I was planning to go for a run with our dog Roxy, read my email, get my teeth bleached, make ceviche and marinate tuna and swordfish for a Fourth of July barbecue we were having the next night.
So I did what any flawed mother would do: I gave my son a cold can of diet Coke, told him to finish his bagel with cream cheese, take his vitamin and brush his teeth. He whined but obeyed. Then I covered him with suntan lotion and kisses, handed him his lunch, and put him on the camp bus.
I waited for the camp nurse to call me and tell me David was sick. She did not. So I spent the day doing what I needed (translation: wanted) to do. I wrote, I ran, I cooked. I went to the dentist. Then I sat on the front stoop of our house and waited for the bus. David got off the bus sweaty, cheerful and healthy. He let me give him a kiss and barely paused to say hello before running over to the neighbor's, where he spent two hours playing with three other boys from camp, eating Domino's pizza and acting out Pokemon moves.
I have to give credit to that diet Coke. It jump-started my son's morning. Of course, only a flawed mother gives her son a can of diet Coke for breakfast, but that diet Coke accelerated my son's recovery, I know it did.
Next topic: Can Botox make you a better mother?