Tuesday, June 2, 2009
As Ellis approaches his first birthday this weekend, I contemplate the first year of being a mother. I have learned so much. Maybe because of this one year anniversary of becoming a mother--or maybe because it was her birthday a few weeks ago-- I have been experiencing a new wave of sadness about the loss of my mother. After the first big tidal wave of pain, that is how it happens: in waves, when you least expect it. You think the wound has scabbed over, and then there it is again. Ellis is in a transition phase...somewhere between sleeping and not sleeping, a routine and chaos, nursing and solids, teeth and no teeth, walking and not walking. I am tired. I am too tired to sit down and try to work on a strategy to address any of these issues. I can't think big picture. I can't read books that outline dogmas about weaning or not weaning, cry it out or let them be. I just move forward. I just get through the day. At these moments, I miss being mothered. I miss someone standing ahead of me and telling me that I will ride this wave, that this phase will pass, that this is how it all works, that I am doing a good job.
There was no time for my mother to tell me how to mother.
But one day, when she was in the hospital, during her last weeks, she suddenly offered up a mothering lesson. I listened intently, but at that moment thought, there will be enough time for this later. She will live to see my children. I had told her a few weeks before that we were going to start trying to have children, and so her rallying cry those weeks in the hospital was "I want to see those babies..." And I really thought she would get her wish. I suppose it is almost impossible, even with all evidence to the contrary, even with all the doctors and their bad news, to imagine the world without your mother, until she is suddenly gone.
So that day I thought, there will be time.
But there was not.
This is what she told me. She said, "Really, all you need to know is this: always believe that the child is good. Always orient from that point. They may do bad things. They may make mistakes. They may drive you crazy. But always believe that they are good to their soul. And the child will see that belief reflected back at them in your eyes. And they will become the good person you believe them to be, that they are in essence. They will know that they are loved. You are going to mess up... but if they know they are loved, they will be able to survive anything..."
And that is how I survived my mother's death. Because I was, am, loved. Because she believed in my essential goodness.
A year has passed, and this is what I have learned: Forget the books. Forget the dogmas. Forget people's strong opinions about what you should feed your child, how long you should nurse, when a child is supposed to do this or that. I am going to publish a pamphlet with my mother's words on it, and distribute it to all the mothers I know. It was all she had time to tell me, and all I really needed to know.
Posted by bks