You know what I find infinitely unfair about motherhood?
My kids idolize me but they lack the judgment to determine who, in fact, is idol material, which means they’ve stuck my sorry ass up on a pedestal, expecting greatness all the time, but all they get is me, and I’m fucking crazy, but they can’t see that because I’m their mom and they have poor judgment.
Okay FINE. I know. They “love me as I am” and shit. They don’t have “expectations.” I get that.
But they don’t see reality. They only see some shell of reality, some air-brushed vision of motherly loveliness. Oh yeah, they hate me sometimes, particularly the 11-year-old female, but in the end, they adore me.
I am Mama.
My reputation precedes me. My title is so impressive it overshadows my deficiencies.
I know this will change someday, and, just like the rest of us, my kids will one day glance at me and realize, much to their shock, awe and dismay, that mother is a flawed, slightly pathetic human. JUST LIKE THE REST OF THE LOSERS.
But for now, they worship the ground I walk on. They gaze at me adoringly, crave my approval, attention, interest.
If they had any sense whatsoever in their little pin heads, they’d recognize that of all the people on this planet, the particular broad who birthed them is not exactly hero material.
She’s weird, and kinda funny sometimes, but heroic? yeahNO.
And so here I am put on this pedestal by these tiny delusional humans and I’m watching them watch me like the sun sets over my ass (wait, that’s not the cliché, is it?) and I’m also watching myself do insane things on a daily basis and I’m yelling and screaming when I shouldn’t and not doing anything heroic whatsoever and while it’s happening – I mean at the very same moment – I’m like “You know Janelle these kids idolize you. You really should knock this shit off.”
But I can’t.
Every day at least once I do something entirely irrational if not wholly ridiculous and ineffective, and I know it, but I can’t stop.
For example, if I call or text my husband more than three times and he doesn’t answer, I generally lose my mind and send him all kinds of exciting messages such as “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?” or “Could you please for once in your goddamn life answer your fucking cell phone???”
This is irrational because he quite often answers his cell phone. I’d say he usually answers it. But if I call three times and he doesn’t answer, particularly when he just called me or I know he’s at home, I forget that he often answers his phone. Then I he’s a conspiratory asshole purposely avoiding me. Obviously.
Or sometimes I scream at cars that have wronged me (“Are you fucking serious!?”) as if their windows and mine aren’t rolled up and my kids aren’t in the car.
I also eat crap when I’m fat and stressed and feeling sorry for myself, even though I know eating crap makes me feel fat, stressed and feel sorry for myself.
I stay up until 1am because people are not talking to me and I like it.
I stay up until 1am even though Georgia has never in her life slept past 6:30am. Ever. And every morning when her naked self comes bounding into my room squealing, “Mama! Ya gotta get up!” I curse myself and moan and swear tonight I’m going to bed at a reasonable fucking hour, damn it.
It’s currently 12am.
I often read comment threads in mainstream electronic publications discussing breastfeeding in public, gay people and racism, even though I know it’s soul-sucking and would most likely be named the 10th ring of hell, were Dante alive to experience it.
I yell at my kids though it has not lasting benefit and never has.
I always feel better when I meditate routinely, but as soon as I realize I’m feeling better I stop meditating, since I no longer need it, you know, because I feel better.
And so I’m going through life as these kids’ mother and I’ve failed so desperately in ways that really aren’t funny at all, but I’m back and I don’t beat myself up for that shit, because it’s over. And I’m here now. And I’m alright now, and I even have this gorgeous thread of confidence that goes something like this: “Well shit, Janelle, you sure are better than you used to be.”
And it’s always true.
But I’m often not that great at life. I feel a lot of fear sometimes, so much it’s debilitating. Or I’m obsessive. Other times I feel like I just couldn’t possibly care less. Sometimes I’m “ normal.”
Other times I stare at a menu and feel like I might actually die if I have to make a decision, and when I feel the server’s eyes boring into my forehead “Choose motherfucker, CHOOSE!” I have an anxiety that threatens to take my breath away. Then I remember it’s just food, at a restaurant, and it’s gonna be alright.
But that shouldn’t happen to a human being’s idol, right?
I mean if two or three untainted gorgeous children are going to worship somebody, shouldn’t she be able to choose cheeseburger or cobb salad without enduring existential pain?
Shouldn’t she have arrived at some place where professionals and grown-ups hang out?
Sometimes my kids run up to me all proud of whatever it is they’ve made or done or found and I’m impatient because I’m trying to do something else, and there are three kids running up to me announcing “Mama, look!” and let’s be honest, I’m not infinitely interested. I’m just not.
And that, perhaps, is the most insane behavior of all, since one of those kids is walking away, you know. Almost 12 years old. I already miss her desperately.
But sometimes they look at me with a yearning and a confidence and a sweetness of desire that makes me want to run. Go away, kid, I’m not that good. Don’t put me on shit, kid. I’m just a fucked-up human who happens to be your mother.
But I won’t run from that job, I can’t. I won’t. The fact is I am their mother. This is the hand they were dealt. I am the hand they were dealt.
And I’m not that bad. I’m way better than I used to be.
Hey but I’m serious now. Let’s think about this. We’re born, we grow up, we do whatever. One day we birth this child and he or she becomes the air we breathe and an unabashed obsessive fan. The kind of fan who throws himself at the feet of their obsession.
Tacks posters up everywhere. Gets a tattoo of her face. Never misses a show. Reads all her biographies.
But we know the truth of ourselves. We know the dark and fear and grit. We know how we’ve failed and the dark thoughts we’ve thought and we’re a fake and a fraud.
Someday, kid, you’ll figure that out.
But for now, my god for now, you look at me with this longing in your eyes to gain my approval and have me adore you with words and smiles and my whole body. And I want to, all the time. I want to pour it on you like a hero would and tell you everything valuable you’ve ever needed to thrive and live a life of Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Or at least happy people.
And I guess sometimes I do.
Mostly I don’t.
I lay my head down at night thinking of you, kid, my biggest fan, and I wonder if you’ll ever know how hard I worked to be that good, for you. Finally realizing I’m not that good, but I’m still your mama, and someday I’ll ask you to see me as that person, and stick around anyway.
When your judgment is better, and you have a choice, and it’s all in the open then.