I Am a Mother

2 05 2014

Since none of you losers were at Listen to Your Mother on Tuesday night (close family excluded), I thought I’d post what I read. You’re welcome. 


I Am a Mother

“Why aren’t you wearing any underwear?” I ask for what feels like the millionth time.

“But mom, my underwear has poop on it!”

“Why does your underwear have poop on it? Did you wipe after you used the potty?”


“How on earth did you forget to wipe your bum after you used the potty?”

Let’s be honest here—there’s no acceptable answer. What could he possibly say that would make me understand such a lapse in memory?

So ends another average day in the Smith home.

I believe certain women are born nurturers—something within them is programmed to mother every child who crosses their path. These are the women whose homes become the neighborhood hub; children enter and exit in a never-ending stream. Cookies are baked. Commercials are filmed.

I am not one of these women. I never particularly enjoyed babysitting or holding babies, and as I matured I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have children of my own. Obviously my views changed, and I’m now the mother to two wonderful boys.

Still, being a mom is something that doesn’t flow naturally through my veins. I have to work at it every day

Please don’t interpret this as me saying I’m a terrible mother. In my moments of stunning clarity, I will tell you I’m a great mom. My boys know they are loved. I get angry at them and they get angry at me and still they know that I love them. I believe that knowledge will serve them well in life.

But there are moments.

Moments when bums haven’t been wiped. Moments when tantrums are thrown over the plastic water holder for a grocery store carnation. Moments less like doing homework and more like climbing Mt. Everest.

Moments when I’m sitting at the park watching my kids play and it hits me—I’m so very lonely. Yes, I have friends. I spend time with them and I talk to them, but still, I feel isolated. It’s like I’m in a bubble with my children and even though I can reach out, a thin film will always separate me from others.

Moments when I wonder what the hell was I thinking, becoming a mother?

I think of all the things I could be doing if I didn’t have children. Perhaps I’d actually have my college degree. I’d certainly have more money—maybe I could travel. I’d be so carefree and glamorous and charming and I’d never be caught off guard by the random appearance of a penis or an unhygienic rear end.


Then I sit on the couch and my eight-year-old comes to sit next to me. It’s been a long day, and we’re both exhausted and ready for bedtime. “I got ready early,” he tells me, and burrows up under my arm. He closes his eyes. “You’re my favorite mommy,” he murmurs as I stroke his hair and he drifts into oblivion.

The next morning my five-year-old slips his hand into mine on the way to the car. I’m amazed by how small and warm his hand is, and how well we fit together.

This. This is what I was thinking.

Is it what I expected? Heavens, no. None of my contemplations on motherhood ended with me hiding in the bathroom, running the fan to drown out the screaming. There are days the reality is more than I can bear, but I’ve come to realize that’s just part of the package. Some moments are gloriously scrapbookable and others, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t mind a device or a potion that erases specific memories.

I wasn’t born to be a mother. I’m okay with that, because it doesn’t change the fact that I am a mother. Motherhood colors my thoughts and shapes my actions.

Now if you’ll hold that thought, I need to break up the underwear-clad wrestling match in the next room.

After all, I am a mother.

Dear Maggie – Listen to Your Mother Edition

12 05 2013

Last week I performed in Utah’s first Listen to Your Mother show. It was an amazing experience, and since most of you were unable to be there, I’d like to share what I read.

Unable are the Loved to die
For Love is Immortality
– Emily Dickinson

You don’t know about Maggie.

You don’t know that years ago, I carried a little girl in my womb. For 20 weeks I cherished my unborn baby and dreamed of the bright future ahead.

Then I got sick. So very sick. After a week in the hospital, I returned home to the 1970s single-wide trailer with the bordello-red shag carpet. I brought with me flowers and cards and breasts aching with milk.

I did not bring home Maggie.

Dear Maggie,

I write a letter to you every October, because that’s when you were born. This year it occurred to me that if I’d carried you to term, your birthday would actually be in the springtime. For some reason that makes my heart a little lighter.

I’ve been thinking about you lately—about what it would be like to have a 12-year-old daughter. To be honest, I find the idea downright terrifying. Boys would be interested in you! You would be interested in boys! And Justin Bieber! (I guess technically he qualifies as a boy.) You would probably make me take you to a midnight showing of every Twilight movie!

A shudder just passed through my body.

But all might not be lost. Maybe I could convince you to listen to a little bit of Muse, or a few bars of The Black Keys. We could watch Pitch Perfect together and swoon when Jesse takes the microphone for the first time because oh my gosh Skylar Astin is just so adorable.

I often imagine what your personality would be like. I envision a real chatterbox—a girl I’d nickname “Magpie.” That’d probably piss you off and every time I called you that in front of your friends you’d say, “Mo-om” in that way that only tweens and teens can use to express utter mortification with their mothers.

And that would just make me do it more often, because I’m pretty much the most awesome mom ever.

Four months ago I got my first tattoo. It’s a magpie, and the words “alis volat propriis” – Latin for “she flies with her own wings.” It reminds me of you. I smile every time I see it.

Would you be a reader like I’ve always been? I’m pretty sure at 12 I was going through my Sweet Valley High phase. Yes, I just publicly admitted that. At least it wasn’t the Babysitter’s Club.

Would you be an athlete? That would be unusual, given the complete disinterest your father and I have in sports, but we’d encourage whatever you pursued. We’d want you to be well-rounded and happy. I’d even learn the rules for whatever sport you played so I could properly cheer you on.

Cheer. Oh, hell. What if you became a cheerleader? Do they do that at 12? That’s still too young, right? Or do they do some sort of junior cheer crap?

Wait. Deep breaths. I just got worked up that my dead daughter might want to be a cheerleader. It’s possible I have some issues.

12 was a terrible age for me. I felt ugly and lonely and picked on and sad. I withdrew into myself and hid in my books. What if you felt ugly and lonely and picked on and sad? How could I bear it? How could I possibly handle your pain? The thought is overwhelming.

There are times I look at the 12-year-old girls around me and I think that God knew what he was doing when he took you from me. I’m not cut out to raise a girl, much less a prepubescent one with hormonal mood swings.

I feel terrible when those thoughts enter my head. I should never think you being gone is for the best. Never.

I imagine your relationship with your little brothers. Big G is seven now, and a wonderful—though quirky—kid. He’s been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, you know, and I wonder if he’d annoy the living daylights out of you with his endless questions and complete lack of respect for personal space. I hope you’d see and embrace the beauty in him.

Little G is five, and he’s pretty easygoing as long as he’s getting his way. He has such a loving nature and wants to be everyone’s friend. I think he’d be your little buddy. I hope you’d be patient with him as he talked your ear off and told you about his new friends and sang the songs he learned in preschool yesterday.

During the last year I’ve told your brothers all about you. Little G asks where your house is and when he’ll get to meet you. He wants to buy extra toys so you can play with them when you’re alive again. I think he’s a little bit too young to grasp the whole death thing, but Big G mostly gets it.

When I found out I was pregnant, I hoped for a lifetime to watch you grow. I thought I’d rejoice at your first words and grow weary of your teenage chatter. I’d watch your hesitant steps as a toddler, then your initial wobbly steps in heels. I expected to grin at your first toothless smile and wince at the bill for your braces. I wanted laughter and dancing and joy  so incandescent it lit up the world.

I didn’t expect questions like, “Would you like pictures? Would you like handprints and footprints?Would you like to have a burial, or would you like us to take care of her remains for you?”

I’ve rapidly learned that motherhood is rarely what I expect.

Twelve years. Twelve years is a long time to miss someone. I don’t cry as much these days, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss you. It just means I’ve learned to live without you. It’s a horrible thing to learn.

I miss you so very much, Magpie.



*This is not my usual funny footnote, and for that I apologize. As many of you know, I almost lost my life when I lost Maggie. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident, even in the United States. In fact, the US is the most dangerous industrialized nation in which to give birth. My dear friends Anne and Jennifer are currently working on a documentary called Unexpected that highlights this crisis. Anne asked that I share this with you:

save a mother 2

Preschool Picasso

30 08 2012

So Little G is going to preschool. I know. Actually, he’s going to two different preschools, which is pretty awesome. (For me!)

Anyway, on Tuesday he brought home something he made in preschool #2. I’m not exaggerating when I say I almost dropped it when I pulled it out of his bag:

Hold me. I’m so very afraid.

Sometimes Lying is Okay

20 12 2011

We were watching The Electric company, and they were doing that thing where they change around the letters at the beginning of a word to make different words. You know that thing, right? Because that’s all you’re getting. I’m too lazy to explain it any better and the only reason I’m telling you that much is to explain this conversation:

Big G: “Mom, is shat a word?”

Me: “No.”

What? You thought I’d say yes? We all know where that answer leads.

*The WordPress Proofreader is also unaware that shat is a word. Are we surprised?

**Oh, and hi. Sorry about that month without blogging. I’ve been in a cave.

***Not a real cave.

****But you knew that, right?

So then I smoked something and decided to become crafty.

7 11 2011

For some reason today I decided I need to start a Christmas tradition and make homemade advent calendars for my sons.

I know.

I’m not talking about some sort of hand-stitched tomfoolery. I’m not that cray-cray.

Still, there’s something inside of me that wants to create. This frightens me, as I’m not a particularly creative person. I’m going to chalk it up to motherhood, that bizarre creature that whispers, “Look at these beings you created! Now don’t you want to make something for them?”

Dear voice inside of my head: I brought them into this world. How is that not enough?

(My friend Meredith’s answer to that question: “Pinterest.” Sadly, she’s not entirely wrong.)

So this week I embark upon a grand experiment: make an advent calendar. I have a plan in my head, but I think you’ve all seen how well my plans tend to turn out. Should be good times! Overall goal: Complete advent calendar by December 1.

*Yes, I know I can buy an advent calendar. THAT’S NOT THE POINT.

**Seriously, if you tell me to buy one, I’ll know you completely missed the whole point of this post.


Slightly Concerning

12 09 2011

The boys and I went to the library this afternoon, and on the way back Big G asked Little G a question. I’m not sure what the question was, but I do know Little G answered it in an unsatisfactory manner.

“But Jenny,” you’re asking, “if you didn’t hear the question, how do you know Little G answered it incorrectly?”

Well, as I drove along, I heard from the back seat, “WRONG, flesh creature!”

Is it wrong I’m mildly disappointed he didn’t modify the phrase with the word “puny”?

This is completely unrelated, but I have to share yet another example of Big G’s awesomeness. A neighbor kid keeps trying to play the emotional blackmail card. “Let me play with that toy or I’ll never come over again.” It drives me insane. Last week they were playing in the front room and I heard Big G’s response: “Then you won’t get to play with me.” As @shnerfle pointed out after I Tweeted the incident, my kid wins.

*FYI: We did not make a collage this morning. I feel oddly liberated.

**I can’t write about collages again. Ever. If I have to deal one more time with the WordPress proofreader asking me if I meant college instead of collage, I will shank someone.

Kindergarten Freak-out

12 09 2011

Tonight I realized we didn’t do Big G’s homework on Friday. I hadn’t even looked in the folder to see what it was. That’s okay, right? I mean, it’s kindergarten homework. What happens if it doesn’t get done? Still, I have to be an über-parent, so I thought we could do it quickly before bedtime. No such luck. When I finally looked at the assignment, I found it was for a fricking collage, and it was already past his bedtime.

Full confession: for a brief moment, I considered making the collage myself. That’s right, I was going to make a collage of my kindergarten son’s favorite things for him. Because I’m psychotic.

Really, what’s going to happen if my son doesn’t make a collage of his favorite things? It’s not even something he has to turn in to his teacher. When he does a homework assignment, I initial a line on a piece of paper that goes back to his teacher every week.

I think my greatest fear is there will be a reward for the kids who did all their homework, Big G won’t get it, and it will be all my fault. As I type that, I realize it’s ridiculous. There probably won’t be a reward, and even if there is, it’s not like they’ll be handing out new cars to kindergarteners who complete their first week of homework.

So says my brain. Meanwhile, my gut is trying to convince me to get up early to gather some magazines for Big G to cut up. He can still make that collage! We can do this! We’re the superfamily to end all superfamilies!

Let’s face it—two weeks into kindergarten, and I feel like a failure. I’m not even the one going to kindergarten.

I need to figure out a way to let it ride or the next 13 years are going to kill me.

*If you tell me it’s actually 15 years because of Little G and even more than that if you count college, I’ll kill you.

**I still can’t decide if we’re making a collage in the morning. I don’t want to teach him it’s okay to half-ass homework, but I also don’t want him to think it’s okay to blow it off.

***Why do I have to worry about these things in kindergarten?