It has come to my attention that I have done something terrible. I have given the wrong impression, one of perpetually sunny skies, happy children, and a smiling, patience-filled mother. Yes, a woman whom I hold dear, a regular reader of my blog, lamented that she felt inadequate as a mother. And that I made her feel that way.
“I read about the day you spent with Emmett at LACMA and I thought, ‘she’s so active, look, they’re having so much fun together.’”
“Are you kidding? Most of the time he hates me!”
The whole point of my book, Deliver Me, was to acknowledge that we moms are doing the best we can. To tell those who judge us to back the heck off, especially if the person judging is our self. Here I was making a lovely, wonderful woman feel badly about herself as a mother?
This is for her:
I have had to ban the phrase “I wish you were dead.” I taught my younger son the F-word (he had just turned five). They fight. I nag. I shout sometimes, too. Not proud about it, but it happens. My older son has told me (correctly) that I need to “Lighten up!” And of course, when I go out of my way to cook a healthy meal, a cry for pizza is heard throughout the land. You get the picture.
But here’s the thing, my friend. Everyone’s got their stuff. You’ve got to accentuate the positive. (Feel free to hum along.)
It’s human nature, for most humans I know, to dwell on the dark. To wallow in what if’s. It’s a habit as old as time. Need proof? There is a Jewish prayer to be said every morning thanking God for returning your soul to you, for the gift of one more day. This isn’t because we’re a naturally happy bunch. It’s because we need a ritual to remind us to be grateful. To acknowledge that this day, filled with the aches and frustrations it will hold, is still a beautiful, new day. As Joan Baez sings, “Every day on earth is another chance to get it right.”
One of my friends told me her mother’s belief is that humans all have a propensity for suffering, and if we don’t have big things to make us suffer, we’ll blow the little things up until they’re big things. Sounds right to me. What if we did the opposite, shrink stuff down until it’s pebble sized, a grain of sand.
Writing has always been my way to find meaning in the smallest details. To notice. To pay attention. To appreciate. To sanctify the sight of an elderly couple holding hands as they cross the street. To stop and listen to the fleeting sound of my kids playing trampoline basketball with their Dad this morning, not the sound of one whining that he doesn’t want to clean up a mess he made. I suppose this blog is my gratitude practice. Like writing always has been for me. It doesn’t require much: grab a pencil, a scrap of paper, jot down a good feeling, savor it.
Our American ritual gives us a chance to do the same. So I offer this Thanksgiving prayer for moms everywhere: Let’s try to wash away guilt and regret, reveal the beauty that lurks in the smallest moments, and polish these tiny gems until their sparkle blinds us.