Monday, June 16, 2008


The Moms Blog groups are holding a writing bookclub today, inspired by Lisa Garrigues's Writing Motherhood.

Here is the assignment, sorry, I mean, "writing invitation":

Good Enough. In her book, Lisa recounts a time she was a "bad" mother, first leaving her sick daughter to fend for herself, then dropping her daughter at the tutor, only to forget to pick her up an hour later. Think of a time you slipped up as a mother-lost your temper, said no for no reason, sent your child to school with a fever.

*Your writing invitation*: Write about your most outrageous or inexcusable bad mothering moment. 250 words.

I can't write about this. I do believe I am the very best mother for my children. I think of myself as a good-enough mom. But I am also one who is capable of some pretty rotten stuff. I have a world of excuses, an ocean of regret, a mountain of good intentions, and a sad cup of dread for my next episode of screaming/cursing/breaking stuff.

When I think about writing down some of my worst mothering moments, I imagine any readers, moms included, recoiling in horror. The only thing that makes the image tolerable is picturing some horrified mom then thinking to herself, "Eh, been there."

I don't want to go there. I don't want to write about hissing, "Get up and walk or I will drag you down this fucking hall," at my sobbing girls in the park district hallway. I don't want to write about how that morning I was past giving a shit that the knitting group needed to shut their door to close out the noise of our tantrum.

I don't want to go there. Because I know I had a better way to act and react that day. I know and believe in that better way: To treat my girls with respect, to breathe my way through a crisis, to fortify with snacks, to find the humor, stay the grownup, take a break, ask for help, remember them as tiny and in my care rather than enormous and in my way.

And since I know the better way, I don't want to go to that hallway again, to feel the scratchy carpet, to see the art show pastel of palm trees on the wall, to hear the clump of the knitting group door as it closed on our drama.

So I will go a different way. I'll go to a night I remember with a kind of battered pride. Here's my essay, not about my worst mothering moment, but about a sufficient one.


One night this winter I was awakened by a sickening sound - a crash followed by my three-year-old daughter's wails of pain and surprise.

I knew what had happened even before I was fully awake. Nora had fallen out of bed.

I rushed to the bed, found her on the floor and picked her up without needing to turn on the light. My husband was at my side in the dark and we mumbled a confirmation of what happened through the fog of sleep. I held Nora, rocked her and her cries gradually lessoned. My eyes closed. She slipped back to sleep and so did I.

The next morning Nora was alert and happy. I saw dried blood in her hair. She must have hit her head on the corner of the bedside table as she fell. The doctor's office asked on the phone, "What time do you want to come in?"

Duking it out in my head were self-needs, (I don't want to miss my workout), mommy guilt (a concussion?), rationalizations (she seems fine; I'll be a better mom after a trip to the gym), self-doubt (nothing screams "crazy family" like a little blood in the hair) and mother's intuition (she is fine.)

"11:00," I said.

Nora bounced around in gymnastics class while I ran and showered.

The doctor checked out Nora's head, lifting her hair to show me a half-inch cut, crusted over with black.

"The dried blood held the cut together," the doctor said. "It's healing. If you had washed off the wound when it happened or taken her to the emergency room, she would have gotten a couple of stitches."

Whoo hoo! Chalk one up for benevolent neglect!


Tracey said...

Just think of the money that neglect saved you in ER bills!! WHOOT! Glad she was ok. :)

Feener said...

the first part is riveting.

WritingMother said...

Cindy, in writing, I often tell myself that if the front door is locked then try the back door, which is exactly what you did by writing not about a bad mothering moment but rather about a good one. A good one, that is, in spite of yourself. Hi, I'm Lisa, author of Writing Motherhood and I want you to know how much I enjoyed your post. You have a strong voice, it's unusual, different. And I like the matter-of-fact, sometimes spartan style you've developed. As if you say more with less. Keep writing. Best, Lisa


I loved your post. It was so powerful. I loved how you kept repeating I don't want to go there but then going there.

There are so many of us at SVMB - I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog through this event!

2KoP said...

When my daughter was 2, I watched her swallow a big, bright green button. I was on the phone at the time and would occasionally pause my conversation to say: "No, no, don't put that in your mouth" or "Give me the button, honey." She just looked me in the eye and swallowed it. My pediatrician told me to call the poison control center, which I did. They said it would probably pass, but to watch for signs of discomfort or fever (which would indicate an infection).

After seven days of going through every foul diaper, we finally had to take her for an Xray. It showed nothing and cost hundreds of dollars. She passed the button on the way home from the hospital. The poison control center called me monthly over the next year to make sure I wasn't force-feeding my child any more sewing notions. I still feel guilty.

P.S. Really nice words from writingmother to you. She is spot on about your writing. I've been a fan since your first piece was read at OCWW.

Farrah said...

What an awesome story! I love that even when you saw the blood in her hair you still didn't freak out and run to the convenient care or something. I can only hope to be that calm when my sons have their first head wounds. And I do mean WHEN that have their first head wounds. This just goes to show that mommy-intuition is the strongest/smartest thing around...stronger than mommy guilt, self doubt, etc...