March 27, 2015 by Katia
It was raining when the bus pulled out of the station and I ran to catch it. It wasn’t right away that I had heard the voice behind me and realized the words were directed at me. The voice of a man with the intonation of a child: “Excuse me, Miss. They said that you’re fired. They told me you’re fired.” And as I internalized those stray words, I was no longer running to, but running from, feeling compromised by the red scarf I was wearing.
On the bus I found safety in the book I was holding, but soon enough he was there again relentlessly seeking my attention: “Miss, you shouldn’t show up for work anymore.” I smiled and nodded visibly shifting my attention to the book, feeling exposed as he moved on to others.
I wasn’t fired. My contract was extended by two months. I had not one, but two going away lunches, and created some meaningful relationships. How come those misguided words resonate so deeply? How come they confirm something and evoke shame?
On the next day I forget about the bus episode, but I’m doubting myself. I’m pretty good at knowing what I don’t know and accepting it. Today it seems like there’s not much that I do, even when it comes to the things that matter most. Especially then.
No title’s more valuable, no achievement more gratifying, than the word “mama” directed at me. But have I earned it? Parenting, for me, consists of trial and mostly error. I spend little time as a parent being satisfied with how I’ve handled the curve ball (often literal) thrown at me. The harshness of my tone covers up for lack of conviction, as I discipline. My choppy answers, requests, reprimands are often directionless. They don’t know where they’re going as they leave my mouth and travel the room. Luckily my children aren’t listening. Some days I’m glad no one’s “there” to witness my fails, some days I feel helpless and invisible launching my words into a void.
I know what I don’t know, and treat myself forgivingly, but whenever I struggle as “Mom” I do it under the light of a huge projector exposing my incompetence.
Mom, I have a science question.
Mom, Cody punched me today.
I’m not doing it, mom.
My lack of general knowledge when it comes to science is atrocious.
While there is nothing that I want more, than for my sons to confide in me, I often implode when I hear about potential wrongdoings they’ve encountered and stray off track attempting to assist.
I recognize the need for discipline, yet too often I’m stumped when I need to implement it.
I try but I don’t know how to take the edge off of death for my preschooler.
I try but I don’t know how to get my kids to behave without issuing threats or promising rewards.
I’ve tried different approaches to help them fall asleep on their own.
I sometimes don’t know how to trust my own instincts over borrowed fears and the skilfully phrased opinions of others.
I don’t know how to handle conflicts. I freeze and mumble and feel as helplessness as a child competing against someone much bigger.
Sometimes I read parenting books to draw inspiration. Sometimes, when I’m capable of rising above the outside noises of crying, tantrums, the always more valid opinions of others and the internal noise of self deprecation and comparison, I turn inward, deeper yet, and find great clarity. Sometimes I turn inward and don’t.
I wish I was better, calmer, smarter, more patient and knowledgeable. I wish my grey roots didn’t grow so quickly. I wish I had energy to dress up and put my makeup on every morning. I wish I was more like my mom. I wish I was less like her and more like my husband. I wish I was like my friend, neighbor, person in the store. I worry that my children will soon sober up and see what I see. I hope that maybe successful parenting isn’t about always knowing everything or always being prepared. I hope that maybe successful parenting is about never giving up trying.