I have read many a platitude written about motherhood. “Your heart is walking outside of your body.” “It’s the most rewarding sacrifice.” Nothing you read ever prepares you for how challenging motherhood actually is. Certainly not the sentence I just wrote.
There are moments, like the time about 2 minutes ago, when my boys make me so angry I feel the veins in my forehead pulsating and I think I’m going to have an aneurism. This is not hyperbole. I mean that I can get so worked up and angry that I feel like I may go into cardiac arrest or burst a blood vessel in my brain.
Each time I attempt to sit down and write a few words, some loud crisis develops near or around me. My boys are supposed to be doing their 4th and 6th grade homework while I write. Instead they are bickering, making odd animal sounds, whining, teasing each other and ultimately throwing things at one another. I send my older son into his bedroom so that he may focus without his little brother’s “singing.” As I return to typing, I don’t notice my younger son disappear. Blood chilling screams emanate from the boys’ bedroom. I assume someone must be bleeding. Hysteria. The cause? My younger son has spilled yogurt on his big brother’s head. And so it goes, at some point when I most need quiet, each and every day.
In fact, as I sit down to write this, the veins are still pulsating. However, my younger son comes and sits beside me. He hugs me, apologizing for shrieking, cursing at his brother, forgetting his homework, throwing his backpack across the room, spilling yogurt on his big brother and telling me I’m the worst mother on earth.
My breathing slows. He gives me a big kiss on the cheek, pets my head gently and says, “Calm down, Mommy, it’s going to be OK.” My solid, cold, steel heart begins to soften. Amazing how I can down-shift from volcanic rage to blissed-out mommy-love in a matter of minutes. This can’t be good for my heart.
Most of the time, as a mother, I feel inadequate at best. I’ve read all the “good-enough” parenting articles to no avail. When I lose my temper, I feel I have failed completely. After I have calmed myself, I vow never to raise my voice again and set myself up for my next failure. Why is it that, in my memory, my mother was always patient to the extreme with me. I long to call my mother and ask her, is this true? Did you feel like you were going to lose your mind? Am I normal? Am I supposed to feel this way? Did you ever want to lock me in a closet and throw away the key? Did you ever feel like a complete failure as a mother?
Nothing and nobody could prepare me for how difficult it is to lose your own mother. My mother died on April 28th in 2005, eight months after my first son was born and this time of year is always tricky. Her birthday was, is, May 16th, 1943, and Mother’s Day is always sandwiched in between. This past weekend, we celebrated Passover for the first time since her death. My French, catholic husband’s delicious Matzoh-ball soup was the very last thing she ate, and I spooned it into her mouth from a coffee mug, eleven years ago.
This past weekend, we made our annual trek up to Woodlawn Cemetery where my mother is buried opposite Mayor Laguardia’s somber tomb. The elegant, cotton-candy blossoms on the trees, spring drizzle and the ubiquitous chirping of birds will forever be associated in my mind with those heartbreaking last weeks of my mother’s life. All were in attendance on this gray, Bronx Sunday.
So many things remind me of my mother, each and every day. Mostly, I look at my boys and imagine how proud she would have been to see them grow and flourish. I think of all the funny advice she might have given them. How I would have been able to lean on her, complain to her and how she would have loved us all.
Last spring, around this same time of year, I recorded my new song, “Here.” Essentially, this song is a letter to my children. The letter I wish my mother had written to me, telling me how much she loved me and that I am OK the way I am. I know that’s how she felt, but I ache to hear it from her mouth. This latest recording, an EP called “Firefly in a Jar,” was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and, as a thank-you to my “backers,” a year later, I decided to record a video of me lip-syncing to “Here.”
My husband took the boys out to the park for an hour so that I could have quiet time to record. I set up my laptop and began recording. Somewhere along the way, I felt overwhelmed by emotion. Love for my children. Love for my mother. Love from my mother. Tears of happiness and sadness rolled down my cheeks. I kept recording figuring I would simply record another version after and splice. Seconds after I finished recording that teary video, at the door of my small apartment, I heard the happy commotion of my boys returning. “Well, I guess it’s a wrap.” I said out-loud and to myself. Imperfect, unpredictable.
Nothing prepares you for life. You just live it.
“Here” it is.
“Motherhood is tough. If you just want a wonderful little creature to love, you can get a puppy.” Barbara Walters