Because of my childhood, I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about all the things I would never do as a parent, all the ways I would be better. I had a determination to create the home life for my child that I wished I had growing up.
But by the time I finally grew up, I was exhausted.
I was never ready to be a mom but I became one at 29. There was no amount of healing or reading or time that would ever prepare me. But I tried. You were 19 when you had me – it is almost unfathomable to imagine.
Before my son breathed his first breath, when he was just a flutter in my stomach, I began to feel a tightness in my chest driven by a fear that I would not be up to the task.
It is a fear that hangs in the air daily.
Did you feel this with me? Or did the folly of youth and the protection of denial keep you from the brutal truths of our reality?
It’s so very hard to honor your mom and want to be better at the same time. It feels almost like a betrayal.
When there is trauma in early life, there is a lot more sorting and sifting through the rubble to find the gold. And then, once you have it, there is shaky ground and life-shattering earthquakes that make it hard to hold onto.
There are so many things you gave me that I have taken with me into motherhood – the books, the oatmeal, the inherited bravery. There are other things too, less ideal, that I have had to discard or transform or make my own. But I guess that is the case with anyone who becomes a mother.
I think a lot about passing things on – your tenacity and your strength but also your depletion and scarcity. The rage & impatience. And the things you didn’t choose to pass down, the things in your blood…the lack of oxygen in the air.
In retrospect, sometimes your love feels like vapor. I know it was there but it was hard to see… intangible, ghostly. You were there and you were not there. You were engaged yet remote.
Am I that way?
Can I not yet see it?
Will my children come to me someday with the exact same complaints?
Will all this shit be an ongoing family curse that can never be unbroken?
How long have these toxicities been exchanging hands? How many generations? I thought I would be the one to break the cycle but sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve given enough. If I have what it takes. Did you feel that way? Or did the love of early motherhood make you blind to the enormous task?
I didn’t take with me the denial you speak about – I had to shed it. It’s been a painful task. Sometimes I find myself envious of the denial that shielded and protected you.
Sometimes, I think it’s hard for you to truly imagine the weight of parenting in the present, without the crutch of denial.
Sometimes, all I can see are the failures and shortcomings and pains. I can see it in you, mirrored in me and reflected onto my children. I can see all the goodness too but I have to focus, I have to remain vigilant and ready to blot out the bad. The shit that seeps down like black tar into oncoming generations … I see it, all around my children, and I run to catch it before it drips onto them. It’s an exhausting game.
I hope we’ve both done enough to make it ok for them.
You did your best.
I’m doing mine.
They will do better.