The following post, came from a phone call I had with a dear friend who is going through a secretive, and very painful period of not feeling as connected to her son, as she always dreamed she would. I am going to leave out specifics, to protect her identity, but what I hope my post here addresses is more of a universal.
While talking to her I was struck again by all the silence and shame we have around idealized visions of what it is to be maternal, let alone “the perfect mom” (which we know doesn’t exist). What do we do with those feelings of disappointment when motherhood and our little angel aren’t what we were banking on? Is it just a phase sometimes? What happens when you fear it may be more of a life long disconnect?
This is the example I shared with her. I imagine many of us, have our own.
A few nights ago Marcel, Sam, and I were running a race on the little path behind our friend’s cottage.(OK it was to the outhouse if you must know.) I was carrying Marcel (2.5) and Sam (closing in on 6) was losing. To make it worse, he was not able to pass us-the path was too small…
You know where this is going? Marcel and I were pushed from behind, and hard, into the ground- and to add deep worry to injury, even as we hit the ground, Sam just kept running.
Marcel’s back was whacked on a log and had the wind knocked out of him. Both my knees were scraped bloody, and sizzled in pain. After being certain Marcel was not more badly hurt, my thought; Sam is ruthless, or worse.
I don’t know what hurt worse, that thought or my knees.
After grabbing Sam by the arms, and explaining how dangerous that was, and begging for some kind of why, and somehow not yelling, I regrouped, and sent him into his room without desert.
Everyone was freaked out. Probably he more than us. He had never physically hurt me before, other than a scratch, or a fat lip from a baseball thrown too hard. When I came in to help him get his pjs on he just crawled into my lap and sobbed. His way of letting go. He is so strong physically and can’t control it always. To him it was a game, to me it was an attack. That’s where I feel like I drop the ball in the good mom department.
He is competitive to a fault, was stuck, and maybe mad inside about Marcel being the baby, and in my arms, and maybe even that he is biologically related to me. Mad about leaving preschool soon, and going to kindergarten. Mad that he is not the best swimmer in the world, even after a day in the lake. Mad that there is no dad in this family unit, or just mad that he couldn’t get past me, plain and simple.
My friend’s dad, a retired elementary principal for forty years, said he thought Sam was trying to “be the little man” since I am not married/partnered. This is a hard role for him to manage, and he is acting out. I had never thought of that, and am not sure what to make of it, but considering my live in brother had been away for a few weeks, it makes sense in a way.
Bottom line: I am mother. Safe. Strong. Invincible. I should just fly out of the way when I am pushed, not fall!
My feelings of failing him in my rearing, not being the “right” mom, not being able to love ( that behavior) and always down deep worrying about what is going to happen as he gets older and STRONGER and could really hurt me come up often.
Then I remind myself that I am not alone. Gazillion moms with little boys-adopted or not-have struggles with their boys too. They doubt themselves too. They wish it were easier. They wish they knew what they could differently, to just get them to simmer down, or listen to the reuqest the first time around.
I deconstruct motherhood daily. I try to remove the layers that the Brady Bunch or the Cosby Show heaped on my young girl mind and what my own parents did not. Those moms never yelled, and always seemed to have agreeable, and reasonable children, without anger issues, or button pushing as their number one hobby, after tackling their brother when mom wasn’t looking.
On good days, I see myself as a champion of an at times very serious, angry, thoughtful, physically gifted and loving and if only-he-knew-how-loved child.
I’ll move mountains for him to be hopeful and seen on this planet. That is my understanding of why I am here for him most days. Marcel is a completely other story. He is a pat of warm butter melting on toast for the most part for the moment. That will shift, but temperamentally he and I are much better suited. I never knew that a parent could have a temperament that was not an ideal match for their child. You don’t learn that in high school, or college. There is so much that parenthood reveals only through experience. So much that I would have suffered so much less over if someone had just said; you may not be a great match temperamentally, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a tremendously powerful bond. It just takes more work, and its worth it.
Today we spent the day swimming at a lake. Hours and hours of it. Every once in a while I caught Sam looking at my grotesque boo-boos and looking away. Part of me wanted to make them go away, part of me wanted to yell--You know they sting!!!! Then the grown up in me, climbed up onto the dock next to him and did a giant cannon ball when he counted to three. When he asked out friend on the beach who made a bigger splash, he answered just right; It was a tie!