Creative Power: A Mother’s Actions & Words

Creative Power: A Mother's Actions & Words

My husband bought me flowers for Mother’s Day. He often jokes that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were created by Hallmark. So I looked it up. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar. She did not succeed. I love Mother’s Day, a time to think more intensely about my own mother and a day when I am guaranteed phone calls and gifts from my own three children. It’s wonderful.

Birth: An Ongoing Process

Once a mother gives birth, she day to day continues that birthing process, determining what we will become, the person we will be because of her physical love, guidance and nurturing. The words a mother says and the choices she makes in her raising, profoundly affects the person each of us becomes.

Introducing the Outside World 

The womb is great. It’s the time the mother has total control over her child, literally takes the kid with her everywhere–controls the environment. After birth??? Is that person supporting the head? Does my aging aunt have a good grip on the bottle? “Oh that’s okay, I’ll change his diaper, his skin is well… ”  You don’t want to say he’ll get a diaper rash if I don’t do this. We’ve all been there and it gets worse, because we often see the control we have as very fragile and tenuous. But is there a lucky charm?

When Tess’s daughter Sara almost loses her sight in a dumb accident, she has to release her mother-fears and at the same time release her daughter into the real world.

“It is one month after the accident. Sara no longer has to wear an eye patch so Tess takes the children to the pool. Summer is ending and pool is quiet…The child has a large inner tube that she twirls in the water, throwing her head back and laughing as she goes around and around. Tess feels a rush of contentment and leans back to look up at the solid blue sky…”  Later that night, after she tucks her two children in bed and they profess their love and that they will see her in the morning, she has a final thought about the future and the love they share. “Tess stops. She listens, the words falling on her with their weight of wonder. And welcoming all of it, she holds them, keeps them like a charm her two have hung gently around her neck.”

Then Comes the Birds and the Bees

Consider Cara, in the seventh grade, moving closer to body changes that will eventually make her a woman. But right now, she’s beginning to bump into that adult world, and one night tells her mother: “Tom Brody said I was a sexpot. But I’m not fat, Mom, and I don’t look anything like a pot. I don’t get it.”

Divorced and struggling with her own sex life, Cara’s mother goes to bed that night, realizing that the words and ideas she will share with her daughter are crucial.

“Cara’s question about sexpot comes back to me; half asleep, the fatigue of the day taking over, I pretend I am her age, wrestling with the word myself, struggling to visualize it. All that forms in my mind is something round and soft. Sexpot. Maybe my own mother, her belly, when as a kid I needed comfort and plunged my head into her warm, apron-covered lap. Yes, that’s it. I fall asleep.”

Raising a Child is Always about Looking Forward and Looking Back 

Rachel has just been divorced from her husband and charged with the deft process of raising her daughter Heather–who of course is suffering because of the divorce. But not all ties will ever be cut. Rachel has spent the better part of her day taking her mother-in-law to the dentist. Now home, she tries to organize her thoughts with the reality of this situation that is her LIFE.

“At the kitchen sink Rachel turned on the water. She stood waiting for it to get warm. Though she could hear Heather’s chatter in the next room and feel the light and space around her, she was still looking down, still seeing her mother-in-law’s face and remembering what a doctor once told her at a cocktail party. ‘You wouldn’t believe the number of children women are capable of having. Why even after they’re dead, you can cut open an ovary and there they are–all those seeds.’ Rachel bent to the water, cupping her hands. In a moment she would hold her face in the towel for as long as she needed to.”

No Matter Your Life Choice, There’s a Mother In It–Your Own

When my mother was slowing dying, fighting dementia, living in the Memory Unit of a Senior Facility, I had to write about how I felt–lost, useless, angry, confused. All of it. There was no ONE MESSAGE anyone could give me to soothe my state of mind. And if it happens to you, forgive yourself. Because there is NO ONE MESSAGE for this time in your life–the point of not wanting to hear the last line in the excerpt below.

“Ruth was awake, not wanting to be, but awake. Dan was softly snoring next to her, their upper arms touching, so that his sonorous noises almost vibrated through her. But her thoughts went immediately to her mother–the ninety-six-year-old probably having her breakfast, sitting in her wheelchair, her hair flat against the bones of her head, her hand trembling, raising the lukewarm cup of coffee. No aid had called during the night–no Kathy, Betty Mary. This the pattern of her nights and days, ups and downs: how was mom or how mom was. When to plan–anything; or how to plan anything. But you’re so fortunate to still have her.”

Thanks for reading and sharing these moments with me.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. Every day the role of being a mother and having a mother is one to hold close, to consider and to most often cherish.

Tess, Cara and her mother, Rachel and Ruth continue to live in my collection of short stories, A Mother’s Time Capsule. I had the privilege of talking to M Eileen Williams about A Mother’s Time Capsule on her podcast on Thanks again, Eileen.     M Eileen Williams and Feisty Side of Fifty.

Artwork: XiPan Gallery Painting

Reclaiming Motherhood

We watch them grow and question how we are doing.

The Crash Shattered More than Just a Rental Car            

Do you ever question your motherhood, fatherhood–asking if you’re doing a good job?  If a child fails a class, or cannot make friends, or lies about a fight at school are you asking Where did I go wrong?  If your son or daughter moves away and rarely calls, are you asking Why didn’t I say this, remind them of that?  

Such problems can be tough, but they are mild compared to other stories.  I’ll share one of mine.

A car shattered my belief that I was a good mother.  I was driving my two adult daughters—my older daughter in front with me, and my younger daughter in back.  Maneuvering to make a left turn across an intersection in an unfamiliar town, I didn’t see the car coming.  I turned the wheel, the girls screamed, and the car kept on —ramming into the right side of my rental car, ramming into my two daughters, and eventually into my motherhood.

No!  This isn’t happening.  Chaos.  People everywhere—people calling 911, a man sopping up blood spurting from one daughter’s forehead, a woman holding me while I sob as I try to awaken the other daughter slumped over in her seat.

Nightmare in broad daylight.  Sirens in the distance.  The driver of the other car—totally fine.  Like me.  My brain on overdrive but not handling any information well.

I had caused this.  I had almost killed my two amazing daughters.  And even as I tried to keep a clear head, to comfort them as they were lifted into the ambulance, I didn’t know what lay ahead—one bleeding and crying, the other on a backboard with neck brace, awake but shaking.

These are moments no one ever prepares for.  And I’m an RN.  I made the awful phone calls necessary to alert family members. If I wanted to fall back into a chair and wring my hands, I didn’t, instead used my nursing knowledge to move things along.  It helped.

The backboard and neck brace were removed after a normal c-spine, though my eldest did have a concussion.  It took longer to discharge my other daughter who had a broken nose and deep cuts that needed stitching.  Oddly, despite all their education and maturity of years, the accident dragged them back to clingy behavior patterns that reminded me of their childhoods—they were traumatized.  Early hospital discharges forced us to a hotel room where I spent the night repeatedly making ice packs for each of them.  If I lay down to sleep, I kept seeing that car crashing into us. I had to shake the vision, get a grip.

During that dark night, I saw myself as a deeply flawed person, a mother who had almost killed her two children.  Insecurity was building in me every second.  I wasn’t sure I could say anything meaningful to my two daughters or do anything that would make them look at me with love and understanding.  In one short turn of the wheel, I had ripped up twenty plus years of admiration and respect that mothering had previously earned me.

Though in my core I knew my daughters were going to be fine, my belief in myself was crushed, left mangled in the remnants of the rental car.   I entered a place foreign to me, questioning my capabilities as the mother of three children.  Then came a gift.

When daylight filled the room there was a knock on the door.  My brother stood there having taken the red-eye from LA to bring one daughter back home safely.  His eyes reflected love and understanding.  I hugged him.

“They’ll never be the same,” I said leading him inside.  But there they both were awake and smiling.  He flew home with my one daughter; a friend drove me and my other daughter to her apartment.  I stayed a few days as she settled into a routine of more ice packs and physical therapy and then I too went home.

They healed.  I had trouble sleeping.  Driving a car was fraught with fear—a kind of posttraumatic stress disorder.  I dealt with the accident paperwork, filled out insurance forms for both girls, and was there when my one daughter had plastic surgery on her nose.  They went on with their lives.  I was stuck.

Insecurity about the event affected my relationship with them—I avoided phone calls, held back advice.  I told myself I hadn’t properly prepared them for life—they were successful in spite of me.  I had just been fooling myself all along.

My youngest son still at home helped me heal, his presence in my life reassuring me that I was a good mother, had always been.  Accidents happened and the events of that day had been out of my control.

At Christmas my brother handed me a rectangular package, as my children stood around me. The torn away wrapping revealed a framed photo of my two young women smiling warmly at me and holding a plastic Holiday Inn room key.  My brain clutched.  “Don’t you see?” my brother asked me.  “You didn’t think they’d ever be the same again, but they’re more than fine.”  My daughters hugged me.

The photo will always sit on my desk, a reminder that despite the accident I was and had always been their guardian and a good mother to them.  There was trauma, but I got them through that trauma.

None of us are perfect and I have come to realize that if the car did crash into something, it was the myth of the Perfect Mother.  Honesty works best in any relationship as no woman is the Earth Mother and no man the Fearless Hero.  Weaknesses can bring us closer as we love and care for each other and love ourselves despite our faults.  I finally saw that and reclaimed my motherhood.

Photo Courtesy of Egoralas Photo Stream