Sunday, May 08, 2005

An aside for Chris at Creek Running North, who has had quite the interesting debate raging over the politics of childbearing.

Kids will break your heart.
Possibly this is the best reason to (not) have kids.
You'll note that both answers are true.

I realize this is an odd way to start a Mother's Day post.

In the years before my then-husband decided we could indeed have the kids I so desperately wanted, I experienced Mother's Day as one of the most painful times of my life. It seemed like the holiday was invented to make me feel as miserable as possible, everywhere I looked for the week beforehand were the happy images of mothers and children, wrapped in all the messages about what it means to be a mother, what it means to have what I couldn't have.

Now of course I have the two most charming kids I could hope for and yet...
Kids will break your heart. Even good kids will do things that in a moment of vulnerability leave you sobbing.

What I find I really want is for them to recognize the incredible amount of sacrificing that goes on, especially that goes on in a single parent household, and occasionally recognize when it's mom's turn. This rarely happens when you most need it to. Mother's Days, Birthdays, Work Stress Days, Travel Days. It does happen, really. But not when I think I have a right to expect it to, or desperately need it to. The older one seems to get it when I'm sick, but beyond there, I guess Hallmark hasn't convinced them that Mother's Day is the one day of the year you really shouldn't act selfishly. Maybe I should be relieved that such artificiality isn't making a dent on their psyches. Maybe I should remember the times I was an ungrateful little prick at the worst time.

But simply, they will break your heart and maybe the truth is, we break their hearts too.

So I stormed out this morning when the promised kid-made Mother's Day breakfast was subjugated in importance to a dumb Hilary Duff movie. There were slammed doors and yells about if they couldn't be bothered to make breakfast for me, they'd still have to get their own breakfasts and by-god do their own breakfast dishes too for once. Actually I was rather astonished at the surge of adrenaline and anger that drove me through the neighborhood, over the freeway and through the drive-thru espresso line. It occurred to me that I was too upset to eat and pretty close to falling apart if the espresso people said anything at all to do with Mother's Day. I noticed the woman in the car behind me twiddling nervously with long hair as she waited and so I paid for her coffee when I got mine. Sometimes this sort of "if I feel like a jerk I'll act like an angel" thing helps me feel better. But I still lost it in the Target parking lot I retreated into upon seeing a Mom riding in the front passenger seat of a car that was loaded with Mother's Day balloons heading into the adjacent parking lot of a restaurant for brunch.

I sat there sipping my coffee and attempting to calm down knowing that the kids were likely mortified at this point and to be honest, I was not really caring. It did not bother me that I had likely hurt them in the terms of my departure just as badly as they had hurt me. It did not help to compare to the days when I so badly wanted a kid under any terms and conditions. It did not help to think about my own mom and wonder why she never blew up at me.

Eventually I turned on NPR. It is everyone's good luck that this all happened between 10-11AM when my favorite show, This American Life was on, which first distracted, then soothed, then somehow lifted me out of the little hell I had built with two ungrateful kids as jailkeepers and me, the innocent wronged. Which is somewhat amusing as the story was about a young man in Santa Fe who had the bad fortune to be arrested, suspected of being an international terrorist (through no small set of damning circumstances) after he committed what was a simple act of graffiti-cum-public art.

It would be great to draw an elegant parallel here, but I simply drove back home after thirty minutes, accepted the written apology taped to the door, ate the cold french toast which had been prepared in my absence, and told the kids the story about Shaheen I'd listened to on the radio. I'd like to say that I felt completely better, and in truth I did sit there thanking the stars that I have the kind of kids that regret the pain they've caused. But it's still there, the little stab of pain in the heart, the knowing that it didn't matter at all until I made it matter. And no one volunteered to do the pile of dishes, and when asked, the younger one who didn't cook had a lot of excuses of why he shouldn't have to do them.

Here's that lesson again, the one I keep having to relearn. Choosing to love another is simply a commitment to heal one's heart from the wounds love inevitably brings. I'd be lying if I told you I liked this part of parenting, but it is still a teaching I can grow from.

Postscript Monday AM:
We had a chat on the way to school this morning, because it occurred to me that I was still grumpy and they must not really understand the purpose of the holiday to have messed it up that much. We all agreed they'd give it another try in a few weeks.

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