Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day

Motherhood did not come easily to me. I was a rotten mother, actually, and totally inept. (I became pregnant with my first son so I could be released from my military obligation, pure and simple.) Someone talked me into breast feeding and I almost starved him to death. When, in desperation, I finally stuffed a bottle of enfamil into his little mouth, he took one sip and smiled the most beatific smile I'd ever seen. He drank the entire bottle. When he was old enough to eat oatmeal I thought it might be nice to give him a raisin (afterall my oatmeal tasted better with raisins) and he choked on it. Totally inept.

Through the grace of God he survived that first year and I got a little better at mothering. My husband was gone for several months on a Med cruise and I had friends who would pass him around at the local coffee house, feeding him cold juice and cookies. We were all protesting the war then. "Have stroller will travel" was the code of the evolving hippie mom.

My second son was born three years later on Mother's Day. He was not planned... and as with most things in life, the second time is easier. Plus he was an easier baby. He was so placid and easy to care for, I neglected to pick him up and cuddle him as often as I could have. My motto... if it's not broken, don't fix it. He seemed to thrive in spite of my neglect.

When they were old enough to play together, GI Joe was popular. Finally I could play dolls with my kids. But I wanted to dress Joe up in his outfits and they wanted to blow him up in his jeep. Ours was not the house on the street where all the children congregated to play. I liked my own kids, but other people's children drove me crazy. Mine were sent next door or across the street. "Take your brother! Be sure to hold his hand!"

I could never achieve that parental devotion so clearly evident in my daughters-in-law. I'm not interested in sports... so T-Ball, basketball, anything to do with a ball were events not supported. I managed to get to a few band concerts, plays, orchestra recitals... but I can't say I enjoyed them. Lump those events with visits to the dentist, and you could probably detect my lack of enthusiasm.

My older son and I did share a love of reading. He came to me once after Christmas and handed over a book he'd received. "You'll love this one, Mommy." It was Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. I read it, loved it, and then bugged him for the next in the series. "Aren't you finished with that one yet?" After that he was my main supplier of all things fantasy and science fiction.

My younger son and I shared a love of drawing. he would hole up in his room drawing intricate medieval battle scenes... wide angle, mid scale, and close ups of warriors slugging it out with swords and battle axes. He was always the quiet child, melting into the woodwork. He escaped (like I did) through work. He bought himself a lawn mower and cut grass for the neighbors.

Our homelife at that time was difficult, violent and abusive. He coped by disappearing. The older son coped by fighting back, acting out. I coped by trying to make peace, distract the source of violence. After way too many therapists and counseling sessions, nothing was resolved and the family survived as separate disinterested housemates with nothing in common but the roof over their heads. I was not capable of protecting them or myself. It was in this respect that I failed most as a mother.

Now my sons are grown. They are both husbands and fathers. They are both interesting and vital human beings. I wish I could take the credit for their unique personalities, for their wit, their intelligence. My half of their DNA is all I can claim and that was God's doing. The fact that they both seem to love me in spite of everything is also by the grace of God. And you should know that for that I am truly thankful.


cgssis said...

It has always amazed me how we can affect the lives of others without knowing what we've done. I know that there are those I've known, past and present, who have affected me without knowing at all. I'm sure that you influenced those boys in positive ways more than you realize. You deserve more credit than you give yourself.

Pilot Mom said...

Claire Joy, my heart wept for you as I read this post. I guess I wept because of all the pleasures of motherhood you seem to have missed out on. You were obviously in very difficult circumstances and you coped as best as you could. I can't remember what your parents were like, maybe you have ever really stated, other than the recent post which you spoke of your mother. So maybe it could be said that you didn't really have a great role model to follow.

However, with all that being said, I know there were some good times with your children. And, children, I find, can be quite forgiving. Ultimately, God is in control and He can and does bring good out of difficult situations. I agree with Cgssis above, "I'm sure that you influenced those boys in positive ways more than you realize." The fact that they have turned out so well is a grand reason to praise Him!

I look at your face and your smile and I can't quite reconcile it to your post. Maybe that's because of what the Lord does to us? I hope so.
Happy Mothers Day, Friend.

HeyJules said...

All I could think of was "Thank GOD she's not lying about how wonderful motherhood always is!" You tell it straight, CJ. I suspect I would have been much the same type of mother as you - loving my children but not always knowing how to convey that.