Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Dying Sun

Maybe predictably, my fourth daughter, the last of my babies, was a Mama’s Girl from birth. She had a fevered lust to run with the pack of her older sisters and so walked and talked at what I had thought, up to then, was an impossible age:  7½ months, on both counts. But still she never danced and pranced her way far from my reach, my little bundle of starshine who loved to bask ceaselessly in the light she put in my eyes.

I knew she was the last one. Don't misunderstand, all of my girls enthralled me equally — you can’t have more than one and not know that each is born constitutionally different from you, all their sibs, and everyone else in the world at large. You can’t not marvel at the way they are delivered to this life with a unique set of baseline traits that, really, have very little to do with you. You try to both respect their individuality and guide them to color just a little bit inside the lines. But on the occasion of closing the door on my childbearing years, I relaxed decidedly and let the last one be, to see what would happen if she was mostly left to her own devices, to test out her inborn gregariousness to the max.

Out of respect for her privacy, I will only say here that, just as I might have imagined, she has found a stage. The very biggest one available to her at this relatively young age — she has found it, taken it for her own, pressed a boot to its neck to the sound of rousing applause. In this way, I cannot imagine she is related to me in any way. I am clapping madly, too, but looking furtively from her, down to the belly that once housed her prenatal self, back to her, back to my belly ...  I am so her mother! I was there the day she was born!

Like most any parent, my dearest wish is that she love her life, passionately, always. I can’t help but hold my breath a little too, though, as she steps into a particular worldview I do not understand, with a unique set of baseline traits I do not understand. Beware Narcissus’ pool, I want to whisper. Today's trade in human capital changes at lightning speed in the matrix of our jet-fueled mass communications; the parameters of what can be bought and sold, from our bodies to the quarks expressing themselves deep within our minds, are so very hard to define now. (Daughter: know that virtual stages must be taken with extreme care.) That age-old mother-mantra — oh please don’t get hurt — sounds with every beat of my heart. Some other less definable body part echoes, don't hurt others.

I also am coming to accept a major change from our auspicious mother-daughter beginning. I, once the designated center of her universe, am a dying sun in my growing daughter’s eyes. No really — I've already been through the normal teenage rebellions with three other daughters, the temporary rejections of all that I stand for, the vitriolic I hate yous! that landed sure and straight as Artemis's arrows. Whomever a small child might imagine her mother to be always becomes someone more human, as that child matures. This is different. The script that my youngest is writing on the stage of her mind, about me, is gelling into something more permanent, I think. I am beginning to realize she probably won't outgrow it. I, being quite simply who I am, can't rise to the occasion of the life this brilliant young artist wants for herself. I will always fall short.

To be clear, her version of me is her truth, her reality. It would be quite wrong of me, to diminish that in any way. I am just taking some comfort in the memories of our perfect early years together, and the thought that there's only one way to go, from perfection in a baby's eyes. She will always, always be my little Star.

Wine Mothers

This is a post I wrote in May 2011 and pulled from a previous, now-shuttered blog, to go along with new writing I will post momentarily. For anyone who may not have seen it before, it may illustrate a progression of thoughts. Sorry about the funky spacing. I have no idea when it comes to some of Blogger's quirks.

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Real mothers do not live on sitcoms and, moreover, we don't want to. My generation has fought being boxed in by governments, stereotypes, glass ceilings, the Martha Stewart phenomenon, and every manner of marketing trick designed to define who we are while simultaneously emptying our pockets in order for us to successfully be that person. Why on earth would we want to step out of June Cleaver's prison and into Clair Huxtable's or Jill Taylor's?

"Jill Taylor"
Wikimedia Commons.
I have been intensely aware of my children's television-expectations of motherhood ever since we let cable into our lives, when my oldest daughters were about 13. Immediately I had to begin explaining.

No no no, girls, that's not a middle-class family, that is a rich family coming into our living room and acting like a middle-class family.

OK, Dears:  I know she's 13 on the show, but she's 20 in real life and she looks like a total slut. Etc. etc. etc.

My personal favorite is when we, as parents, don't turn out to be the dopes in real life that all parents on The Disney Channel are. The universal formula for preteen television: The kids' schemes go badly awry. By pure force of luck they are not harmed, maimed, or killed. Their parents (teachers, principals, adult authority figures) almost find out, but because they are dopes, easily distracted with pretty, shiny things, the youngins get away with their misdeeds. Lesson learned, without the unwanted side effect of punishment or guilt associated with getting caught.

I am thinking about this again in terms of "legacy," as my daughters enter their adulthoods, and their opinions of who I am and my performance as a mother solidify. That is not to say my job is completely finished  --  my youngest is in high school and still at home. A year or two ago, she asked me, "Why can't you be a Wine Mother?"

Ah, the Wine Mother. For those who may not know, a Wine Mother is super cool. She spends her entire evenings still sharply dressed from her day working in upper level management. Sexy silk blouse and pearls. She directs the family from the kitchen island, with her glass of white wine nearby. She is extremely popular with her children's friends, because she is so funny after about the second glass. She still manages to get up for her 5 a.m. aerobics class, though, and she could still drive her brand-spanking new SUV to the movies at any second, if her children want to go.

Well. I do love white wine. And I think I'm hilarious after the second glass.