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?”

“OOPS! I FORGOT TO WIPE!”

“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.

Right?

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.

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A Girl Named Sue

15 04 2013

After my three pregnancy losses, I decided I needed to fill my life with something productive. Volunteer work made perfect sense.

I became a rape crisis worker. I became a victim advocate.

I became a Child Mentor at the Utah County Children’s Justice Center.

“The Child Mentor Program is designed to provide support to children who have been through child abuse investigations. A Child Mentor’s role is to be a friend, a positive influence, and a reliable and consistent presence in the life of a child. Mentors are assigned a child to work with one-on-one, on a weekly basis, for six months. Mentors are encouraged to participate in fun and healthy activities with the child. Going to story-hour at the public library, getting an ice cream cone, or going roller-skating are some of the things the mentor and child may do together.

The point is to have fun and be ready to listen. As a mentor, you are in a position to let the child know that you are there for them if they need help. As a friend, you are in a position to let them know that someone really cares.”

Sue (obviously not her real name, because…duh) was around seven years old. Once a week I’d pick her up and we’d go swimming, miniature golfing, roller-skating. We never really talked about anything important or deep, and that was fine by me. What do you say in that situation? “Sorry you were sexually abused. You really shouldn’t learn how shitty this world can be until you’re much older.”

Probably not so much.

So we went out and we had fun, and it was good.

Except it wasn’t. Not for me. Whenever I spent time with Sue, I watched her.

Sue’s mother managed the apartment complex where they lived. She was gone most of the day dealing with problems, but close enough to leave Sue at home by herself. Because her mother managed the apartments, Sue knew most everyone who lived there and felt very comfortable. Every time I picked her up, Sue’s front door was wide open—even when her mother wasn’t home.

Sue had no fear of strangers. Male, female, young, old—Sue would talk to anyone about anything.

Sue had no boundaries. She once tried to set me up on a date with a stranger we met while we were roller skating, knowing full well I was married.

Everything I saw made me think the cycle was set to repeat, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. She was so young and so trusting—even after all she’d been through—and I was scared for her.

I finished my six month commitment as Sue’s mentor and I left the Children’s Justice Center (CJC). I’d love to tell you there’s an uplifting and fabulous ending to this story, but there isn’t. I often wonder what’s become of Sue. She’s nearly an adult now. I hope she’s well.

I tell you this story because I want you to know about the CJC. It’s located in Provo and it’s an incredible place where kids who have been abused can hopefully start to feel safe again. They’ve made it so kids don’t have to go to the police station and give statements to multiple parties. Kids can sit in a room with teddy bears and a couch instead of a sterile room with nothing but a table and a chair.

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you about the CJC. It’s like I have ADHD or something.* Shut up. I’m getting to it.

On May 9th I have the incredible opportunity to be part of a show called Listen to Your Mother. Listen to Your Mother is “a national series of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother’s Day. Born of the creative work of mothers who publish online, each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities, for local communities.”

You guys. This is kind of a big deal. I had to audition for it and stuff. I decided I was good enough, I wrote something new, I put on my big girl panties and auditioned. And then they picked me. And then I cried. I’m not making that up. Someone texted the cast list to me and I started crying.

So. Those of you who live close to me—and you know who you are—had best be at my performance. If you aren’t, you’d better have a damn good excuse. I’m talking rivers of blood or a plague of locusts** or something equally horrifying. I need all the support I can get, because as the day draws near it’s entirely possible I’m starting to get slightly freaked out about all of this. Also, I wrote about Maggie (surprise, surprise) and the idea of breaking down in front of a roomful of strangers isn’t too appealing. I’d like some familiar faces in there.

Oh, and the CJC thing? If you didn’t notice from the above link (which I’m sure all of you clicked on), 10% of the ticket proceeds go to the Children’s Justice Center, which I think is pretty awesome.

Summary: Buy a ticket, watch me blubber and laugh*** my way through a new piece about Maggie, and it benefits The Children’s Justice Center. How could it possibly get any better than that?

Okay, fine. I’ll throw in some cookies.**** Buy a ticket and I’ll bake cookies for you greedy jerks. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

 
*Really. I’m on medications. Imagine what I’d be like without them!
**If there are rivers of blood or a plague of locusts I probably won’t be there either.
***No, seriously. There’s some funny stuff in there! I promise!
****Chocolate chip only. I’m not taking orders. What do you think I am, a fricking cookie shop?