Wednesday, September 14, 2011
My Awkward, Unweildy Creations
In the midst of the Broncos game I swore, jumped off the couch, and ran to the oven, remembering the chocolate chip cookies that had been in it for the better part of thirty minutes. Why the hell am I even baking these things, I asked myself, drawing my charred chocolate crisps from the oven. It's like I think of myself as some kind of Martha Stewart meets June Cleaver, but in reality I am exactly what would happen if you gave Spike from Buffy and Balki from Perfect Strangers a home to clean and a bunch of children to take care of. The children would turn to smarth-mouthed monsters dressed like flamboyant singing circus freaks and the house is covered in something that might be blood. I decide to make cookies because I don't want to buy them, because store-boughts are full of hydrogenated oils and other bad things I can't name, other nutritional monsters in the closet, and then I spend three full weeks pulling the butter out every morning to soften it and putting it, melted beyond recognition and unused, back into the fridge at night. Finally I muster the energy to stir the ingredients together, a task which I find boring and tedious and only complete for the end product, and then I go and burn the damn cookies and when I wake up from my domestic nightmare-haze it seems I have feed the children Xtra Pizza Goldfish for dinner and not stopped them from coating it in maple syrup. And they've painted themselves again, Indy paints herself like she is the descendant of the Comanches, or Braveheart, or a Raiders fan, and most nights while I am busy burning the cookies and serving nutritionally insufficient dinners I am also busy forgetting things like bath time, or reading charts, because my mind is dreamy, drifting toward the book I'm reading, or the thing I wrote today, and really I am not suited for this at all.
Mothering is the only thing I've ever done that I haven't been good at. I'm not some sort of life prodigy, I've just been able to avoid doing things at which I suck. I don't do math and I don't play sports. I was good at school and spent a lot of time watching tv, and so you see, I succeeded at nearly everything I tried. I mean, I had the tv guide memorized like some kind of savant. I had a good-enough grasp on the Dewey Decimal system, that was all that mattered. Now along comes this mothering thing and truly, I'm an idiot at it. That and housekeeping. I've owned a wood dining table and desk for nine years now. Never once, in those entire nine years, did it occur to me that my wood furniture might need wood furniture polish. I just kept spraying it with Windex and blaming the poor workmanship for the fact that it went dull and lost it's slick lacquer. What I am saying here is that I appear to have the homemaking skills of Al Bundy.
Sometimes I feel bad for my kids. I wouldn't want me for a mother. I'm trying to think what I would want me for. I'm a poor drinking buddy. I don't get entertaining and boisterous, I get tired and pass out. Sure I had a few good moments over Labor Day flinging marshmallows at the neighbors with my sister, but that was an exception to the rule. I am a clumsy mother, a distracted wife. I could get really down on myself, but then there's this: I want my kids to be happy, damnit. Not perfect. Not successful. Not rich or high-achieving, not results-oriented. As adults I want them to know how to follow their souls, not the money. So Ayla told me she stepped on a cactus and I laughed, so what? I swear to god, I thought she said catfish. So Indy packs her own corn tortilla and Nutella sandwich for school. Who cares? She's the only kid in Kindergarten who can't read yet, she might also be the next Nigella. Or Missioni. I mean, have you seen her ensembles? She might be, I don't care if she's not. My kids know I love them. They are given room to explore. To make messes. To create art. Ayla writes in her diary and sketches a massive fudging grasshopper that I have allowed her to bring into the house, that might have peed on the carpet. Indy spins long tales about George Washington riding rockets and killing aliens, I don't think she's certain it's not true. I don't love them with cookies or well-ordered lives. This is how I love them: I allow them just to be. So I can't control what they think or do. It's difficult to control any person, especially if you are aiming to raise an actual human and not a drone. Between my moments of failure we find moments of grace. My children have an actual human for a mother. A complete and total failure. Not a perfect drone. My demands are not on their appearances, or their skills or performance. My demand is on their hearts, and it is only one: that they listen to it. That they honor it and stay true.
Maybe, somehow, we'll be all right.