I sat cross-legged in the girls’ playroom this afternoon. We played catch with mini beach balls leftover from Cian’s baptism party (everyone has inflatable beach balls at their christenings, don’t they?). I watched Quinn turn somersaults around the room like a ball on a billiard table. I pretended to eat plastic toys shaped like food and laughed along with my giggling little girls. Inside, I tried not to be sad that they could be made so happy from ten lousy minutes of interaction with me.
I am a mom. And because I’m a mom, the guilt is always there, tugging at the corners of even my best intentions.
This morning, I shared a snack with Quinn in a Target Starbucks while I nursed Cian (such an awesome pastime when you know pretty much everybody in your community, or at least those who would be at Target at 9:30 in the morning watching you try to breastfeed a writhing baby under a suddenly napkin-sized nursing cover). I took her to the park to play before Saoirse’s preschool pick-up. We went to a farm market and ate a spontaneously purchased picnic lunch at a table next to a chicken coop and goat pen. The girls identified animals and discussed the varying nature of animal poo and ate more chips than they did sandwich and grapes.
It was a good morning. I mean, other than all the animal poo. That was gross.
Then we got home, and Saoirse couldn’t wait to give me the Mother’s Day gift she’d made in school. It was a flower pot she’d decorated, with a smiling picture of herself and a little poem written by her teachers. It was adorable, and special, and she was so, so proud. My heart swelled, because this–THIS–was one of those moments I couldn’t believe I got to actually live.
And then she presented me with her letter. It was a questionnaire, filled with her answers to prompts, neatly copied by her teachers.
And this time I teared up again. But not in a good way. Because, you know, the guilt. I don’t see the part where she says I’m special, or that she knows I love her. You know what I see. I see that I spend too much time focused on the baby. That I spent WAY more time than that on my book. The book is what really got to me. My greatest fear, spelled out in a preschool teacher’s tidy handwriting. My friends, my kind friends, have told me that I’m an example to her, that Saoirse will see how important it is to chase a talent or a dream or even a hobby, that she’ll be proud of me for doing so because I’m showing her that it’s okay for her to do the same.
But my friends just didn’t get that questionnaire as a gift. My friends don’t know that my daughter mentioned playing the Elefun game with me, but that I’d only done it once in two months. Once. And that was after Saoirse asked me if I was finished writing my book, so that I could play games with her again. They’re sweet, my friends. They realize that to the five-year-old, Mommy sitting cross-legged on the couch with a computer in her lap isn’t honing a craft, it’s Mommy sitting with her face in a computer. They’re looking at long-term, I know. And they also know that guilt just comes from the sleep-deprived territory, like one mom’s c-section scar, or another’s inability to laugh without peeing herself a little. It just is.
I’m not going to stop writing. I can’t stop writing, which you already know because my blog posts are SO. STINKING. LONG. And I know I do my best. I play, I sit and color. I cook and bake and giggle and read and listen. And if it weren’t writing, it’d be something else. Probably cleaning. (Har.) It’s just…I’m a mom. I want to be good enough. I want to be the kind of mom I’d like them to be one day. I want to be worthy, because they are more gift than any sticker-covered flowerpot or photocopied letter.
Oh, the GUILT. Even disguised as a well-intentioned gift, wrapped up in tissue paper and placed in a pretty pink bag, a punch in the face is a punch in the face. And apparently my guilt’s been working on her right hook.
Happy Mother’s Day, everybody. I think I’m going to go play some games.