I have just about recovered from my latest bout of mastitis (which I now almost view as my private rite of passage into mothering each new child–no, I am being facetious of course. I believe, actually, that all illnesses are messages from the body to the psyche/soul, or messages from the spirit to the body or…oh dear. Illness is someone getting a stern talking-to, and mastitis is a very particular message–more later, I promise!).
So, realizing provisions were perilously low, and that everyone was about ready to mutiny, and the library books were quite late, etc., we decided to venture out. We, as in myself and the three littles.
Although this was certainly still the case prior to Felix’s birth, now, more than ever, people look at me with undisguised pity as I make my way through the world. Older women smile, pat me on the arm and say, as one woman did today, You will survive, dear. And older men (who clearly didn’t bear the brunt of the more humiliating of childrearing duties) tell me to Enjoy it! My kids are in their thirties. This’ll be gone in a flash.
Younger childless women just look at me in horror. I will never EVER become like that poor woman, they must be thinking.
I went for a lovely walk in the woods last night with a good friend, abandoning Lee and the two older kids at the dinner table, deaf to their protests, stuck Felix in the carrier and headed out, still wearing my red apron, a funny hat on my head, and bizarre voluminous orange pants stuffed into massive rubber farm boots. As I wrangled our three dogs on their leashes past our neighbours’ homes, I saw, what I thought was our littlest dog defecating on our neighbours’ lawn, and I immediately sprang into action, shouting and gesticulating wildly, until I realized that Dogma (yes, her name), was actually on the leash. K. and I collapsed into laughter, over my madness, and then K. asked me if I ever look at myself with all these dogs and children and cats and chickens, and wonder what the hell am I doing here? Well, in a word, yes. Yes I do.
The funny thing is, I don’t really miss the other stuff. I only experienced a few ersatz Warhol minutes worth of glamour and fabulousness, but truly, it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I know many would hear that as pretence, dissembling, and that’s ok. I’m fine with all of it.
It is absolutely true, isn’t it, that no one else will ever be satisfied by our parenting choices. When I am out in the world, half the people we encounter immediately judge me as an overly permissive parent, and the other half immediately judge me as an ogre–and often they are partly right, depending on the circumstances. Occasionally, I am met with approval by others, and that’s very nice, but I’m over caring too much about it. Today, at the big grocery store where we were stocking up on things like toilet paper, I ran into an acquaintance–no, a friend!–who stopped me in the aisle and first told me how much she loved my pottery (which, let me tell you, was like a hit of something illicit for my ego), and then said And your children, Yolande, they have such spirit. They really do have such a wonderful light in their eyes, like they know who they are, and they are so free, and so comfortable with themselves.
Well. At that very moment, Horus let go of my hand, grinned, said Bye Mum! And sprinted off into the distance. Simultaneously, Treva decided to stand up on the top level of the grocery cart, a trick which always has the immediate effect of drawing to us all the ladies who [they tell themselves] really really do have the well-being and best interest of other people’s tragically endangered and clearly poorly parented children at heart. Instead of raised eyebrows, or worse, this lovely friend gave me a beaming smile and said, See!? They’re going to be amazing adults. And you are a wonderful mother.
It was so nice.
In all, we had a pretty good day.