Did you brush your teeth?

My poor dear children.  Does that question echo in your ears as it does in mine? Sometimes when I am beating myself up as a parent I wonder if you are all marked by my thoughtless words and deeds. Is your self-confidence  stunted forever?  Why didn’t I check before we left the house?  Who knows?  Each time I asked, at least one of you would give me a stricken look, clap your hand over your mouth  and mumble through closed lips for the duration of the outing. The question always occurred to me when we were half-way to our destination, half-way prepared and a half hour late. That seemed to be the story of my life as a mother.

For me, this damning question typifies innumerable slights and insults to your small psyches.  Maybe your injuries were inflicted differently than I remember.  Each of you carries your signature wound from the childhood wars.  I cop to them all.

And I had such dreams.  Pregnant with my first child and preparing the nursery I saw nothing ahead but Parenting straight out of that magazine, a home from Good Housekeeping and a family portrait to die for.  I sewed, I read Dr. Spock, I dreamed, and it all went awry shortly after the first labor pain. I was totally doomed after the fourth birth.  My plan for excellence was still alive but not executed well.

I don’t notice that you hold a grudge, but I hold the memories.  Can we  have a blanket forgiveness here?  Can you believe I loved you?  Can you realize that I never woke up in the morning with the intention of screwing you up?  Have I told you that I’m sorry? Have I atoned for my mistakes?

Yikes, probably not!  With the vagaries of conversation and lapses in all human communication, I probably heap insult on to injury each time I see you.  I may even poke at the scabs unknowingly.

Okay, here’s a tip: don’t give weight to what I say.  You don’t need a “Mom” voice anymore.  Let me be just another person in your life. I really DON’T know what is best for you, even when I give advice.  I don’t mind being a voice in the chorus.  You each lead your own life in better ways that I could have dreamed.

I’ll forgive myself, too.  I haven’t done it all wrong.  When I think of you I think of  successes:  each of you and who you are.  You can be assured that I am one person in this world who cherishes you every day of your life.  I admire how you move through the world.  I LIKE you.

Rub that on your scars.


One comment

  1. I just finished reading “White Oleander” and in the author interview attached to the end of the book, Janet Fitch says every mother messes up and every kid just wants them to admit they did. I would go one step further and say every person messes up and every recipient of the injury just wants to be acknowledged. But it takes guts to say “I didn’t do that the best way.” Thanks.


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