Thursday, October 31, 2013

What does it mean to be a good mother?

Shit’s about to get real, y’all.  

This post may even be kind of depressing.  I don’t know.

I think and worry a lot about what kind of mother I am/will be.  I read an article a few months ago about parenting and it basically said that wondering these things puts you on the track to being a good parent.  

Then I start thinking about my mother and my childhood.

Hamburglar McCloud started smiling reciprocally recently.  Mr. Adventure is better at eliciting these smiles than I am (perhaps it’s the beard?) but when I got home from work yesterday, the wee babe gave me this amazing toothless grin that made me feel like the most special person in the world.  It was a way better feeling than the dogs running to the window when they see me pull in to the driveway, then to the door to dance around me and lick my hands when I walk in the door.  I love that fucking baby. 

So I wonder: did our stupid baby face smiles melt my mother’s heart?  At what point did she decide that it was okay to start hitting her kids?  I can’t imagine a time that I will want to pull a 4 year old version of my baby around a camp site by his hair, or hit a 14 year old Hamburglar over the head with a boom box or throw an 8 year old McCloud’s birthday cake at him and tell him I wish I had aborted him when I had the chance.  Was she always this way?  Or did something change that made her think it was okay?  When did it become okay in her mind to hit her kids with vacuum cleaner extensions or to put a lock on the outside of the door to lock them in their rooms and bolt the windows shut?  Did she really think it was okay to try to run her 16 year old son over with her car, a move that landed him in foster care, which was probably the best thing that ever happened to him?

There is a reason my oldest brother moved in with his girlfriend and her family at 16, my other old brother moved in with my dad the moment he graduated high school, I barely lived at home from the ages of 14-16 (16 is when she finally kicked me out without turning me in as a runaway and I got my first apartment) and 16 is when one of my younger brothers wound up in foster care.  My youngest brother still lives at home, even though he’s 25.  Maybe by the time the 5th kid rolled around she had relaxed some.  I don’t’ really know. 

She was recently (I think within the past five years?) diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been receiving treatment.  My father thinks this means I need to establish a relationship with her.  Although her diagnosis put my childhood into perspective and answered a lot of unanswered questions I had, I’m not interested.  I talk to her sometimes.  She keeps asking me when I want her to come out and help me with the baby.  I keep telling her I don’t.  I don’t trust her around my child.  I know firsthand what kind of mother she was.  She text me a few weeks ago and said something like, “Spoil the baby for the first two years.”  And I really wanted to respond, “And after that I should hit them?”  But I didn’t say anything.  Most of the messages she sends me go unanswered because I don’t know how to respond without being a jerk. 

Emily Yoffe, the author of the Dear Prudence column, wrote an article for Slate Magazine called The Debt in which she questions what adult children of abusive parents owe their abusers.  She talks about the effects of abuse and how it mirrors post-traumatic stress disorder, which I can see.
I’m 30 years old and I’m still afraid of my mother.

So, what does this mean for me being a mother?  I have a prime role model for how I don’t want to raise my child, and I have friends who are amazing mothers and who have amazing families.  I stumbled across this blog on the Stir and the author puts my question perfectly: “How am I going to be a good mom to my daughter if I don't know what it's like to be the daughter of a good mom?”  Although I have a son, the sentiment is the same.

All I can really do is the best that I can, but the thing is, I am 100% positive that my mother did the best she could, but her best wasn't good enough.  What if my best isn't good enough either?

I have the same fear the author of the above blog notes: “Thoughts of my daughter one day wanting to disappear, wanting to escape, wake me up at night.”

I used to fantasize, as a little girl, about being kidnapped by a family that just really wanted a daughter.  I spent the first part of my life feeling so unloved and so unwanted, it took me a long time to learn how to love myself because I thought myself to be so unlovable.  So I created a new family of friends in my teens and twenties and now I have Mr. Adventure and baby Hamburglar McCloud and I vowed the moment I became pregnant that I would never make my son feel the way my mother made me feel.  It would break my heart if I did something to make him feel the way about me that I feel about my own mother.

So, these are the things I think about when I think about my mother. 

But, you know, I love that fucking baby.

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