Friday, April 16, 2010


I know I’m not the world’s worst mother but I sometimes feel this strange compassion for Medea that means that I must be somewhere below average. I find it hard to trust my instincts and just get on with motherhood as I philosophise too much. That’s why yesterday I attended the first session at Parents School.

Hopefully, pooling my parental resources with those of others may help crack through the confusion. And who knows, I may come out a better parent/person.

Our group leader, Aspasia, a psychologist doing her PhD on family mechanisms already pinpointed my one saboteur when it came to being a mother. “You appear to have a problem with ambivalence,” she said. She’s not wrong. Everything I do as a mother I assume is wrong and even when I’m right I waiver. I keep rushing to the internet, to tomes of books, to other mothers to learn more about what should be self-evident.

My daughter asks “What’s a lesbian?” And I just dart out the room, rush to dial child helplines in panic so that I can get advice on how to broach this subject with a 10-year-old without detracting from her childhood innocence. After I compose myself I take on this academic air and say, “Remember how you asked me….” That means I lose out on the momentum. I’m surprised my daughter keeps coming to me with such questions at all!

Trust yourself,” says Aspasia.

She asked us if our children felt security in their home environments. Everybody but I said “yes” (I didn’t say “no” either. I just kept quiet). Everybody around me emphatically nodded that their kids felt warmth and love. Truth is, I don’t think my children feel secure at all. How can they feel secure when I myself am suspicious of everything and everyone?

“Do you trust your children?” she asked us.

“Do I?” I wondered. Truth is, I don’t even trust myself.

Goodness knows I really need this school to help me work through my “issues”.

When I got home the kids were fighting, hungry and sleepless. Perfect opportunity to practice being the new positive, composed, self-assured mother I’m trying to be.

“So did you learn anything new?” asked my husband, raising his voice to be heard above all this mayhem. I refrained from snapping. That’s a start. Right?

* The painting above is Eugene Delacroix’s Medea about to Kill Her Children (1838) that depicts Medea clutching her children, dagger drawn to slay them in vengeance for her abandonment by Jason. Though I have never contemplated slaying mine, the thought of throwing them out the balcony has crossed my mind on occasion. That said, I should add I love them more than anything in the world!


Robin said...

I know one thing with certainty: You are not the worst mother ever. Having dealt with two *damaged* stepkids (they came out of a physically abusive home when they moved in with my now ex-husband and I), I can feel your pain. I was at a loss. They were out of control and drowning. I got them into therapy asap, but there is only so much a therapist can do. They had a lot of tough questions. They still do. Right now, topping their list is, "Why doesn't my biological mother have any interest in seeing me?" It's been four years. My answer is "I don't know, but it is her issues and her problems." We've dealth with other toughies, too. I have found that it is always best to be honest with them. Treat them like small adults. Filter the information so that it is truthful but not graphic. "What is a lesbian?" A lesbian is a woman who likes women the way that I like your dad. Don't get into the sex and all that. Keep it simple. If I had to venture a guess, the reason you don't trust yourself is because you think that there are some truths they aren't ready for... first, they already know more than you think. Second, they will respect you for being honest and straightforward. Think back to you when you were ten. Lastly, trust your gut. That is where you are falling down.

Purple Cow said...

I know I'm not the worst - but I'm not crash hot either. My kids are fine, I'm the one that needs therapy!

That is just how I responded to the lesbian question...only I needed a child psychologist to tell me to say it.

Realising how important my presence is in their lives scares the living daylights out of me. I'm so scared that every little thing I say might affect them.

That said, they are great kids. And its probably to my credit that they dare discuss lesbianism and such issues with me. My mother would never have allowed it!

Purple Cow said...

PS Your stepkids are lucky to have you! I have a friend whose mother died and she still has this strong bond with her stepmother. Says it was worse for her when her father divorced her stepmother than when her real mother died. Take care Robin and good on you!

Sharon said...

Robin said it beautifully. My experience raising my daughters taught me that the most important piece of information you can give them is that they are loved and they are worthy. The rest of it is pretty much win some, lose some. Give yourself a break. You deserve it because you are loved and your are worthy.

Sandy, Sisters of Season said...

Hi Mary, Enjoyed this posting. As a mother to three college kids . . and over 50 years old, JUST BE YOU! Be willing to listen and don't judge. Be open to every subject, be honest. If you don't no, say so. No one can replace "Mom", as funny or unusual as we are, you are "Mom". Actually, I learn from my kids. They have taught me how to look at things so differently. This generation is so much smarter, stronger and more out spoken. I want my kids to have their own personality, their own spot, not be all identical. I respect them as people first and then my kids. Just you questioning yourself, says you are aware of the kind of mother you are. Children are like clay, they're always drying and you are always molding them. Love works!
Hugs to you kiddo :O)

Purple Cow said...

Thanks for the advice Sharon and Sandy. Something tells me that you are very good mothers. If its about love...then there is plenty of that. Not sure who is moulding who though. God bless all our kids!

The Novelist said...

I wish I could give you a hug!

Any parent who tells you they think they are doing a good job all of the time themselves is either lying or they have their head stuck in the sand.

None of us are perfect. Neither are our kids for that matter. I have many a time apologized to my oldest son for him having to be the firstborn in our family. I tell him all of the time that he makes it so much easier for his younger siblings because we are getting our practice run done with him.

The funny thing is, he is my easiest kid. He has three younger sisters who are all so completely different that I would need to be someone else entirely to be the perfect parent for each one of them.

I haven't always reacted the best way to each situation or question that comes up, but chalk it up to experience. You will be more prepared the next time around.

I also admit to my kids when I have failed them in one way or another. I apologize, talk to them about what went wrong and try to do better. But guess what? Sometimes I lose it completely! Even when I know that I am in the wrong. My son has had to remind me that I am not behaving very well.

I guess what I am trying to say is that none of us are perfect. We don't get a user manual when the kids come our way and we try the best we can. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I am proud of you for seeking help. More of us should! Your kids will love you and hate you and love you again. That is who they are. They will come to you with questions that will knock your socks off. For me, I am just grateful that they will talk to me because I never dared talk to my parents about the things my kids bring up. Be grateful it is you that your daughter asked that question to. It shows a level of trust that means you are definitely doing something right!

LJ said...

Too Funny PC - you and I were at each other sites at the same time. Only YOU commented and I didn't. So I came back to let you know. I also need to remember to add you to my blog lists. You are a keeper.

Purple Cow said...

Wish they did come with a user manual, Novelist! I think mine asks me those "difficult" questions cause she enjoys seeing my face change all the colours of the rainbow while I try to keep composed and matter-of-fact. Wish I could be one of those "cool" mums...but mention getting ears pierced and in my mind I've already moved onto tats! Strange thing is, in other facets of my life I could encounter all sorts of odd and sordid things and not bat an eyelid... Thanks for your comment.

LJ - that is "funny"...a good omen I'd say! Love your crack me up. Take care! I'm still laughing about your comment on not wearing glasses and ending up in bed with the wrong husband....hahahaha...kisses!

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