I find it mildly amusing, but also wearying, when I am accused (accused? depicted?) of being righteous and noble…anyone who knows me knows that I fail to live up to my own ideals daily, and that I am most inspired as a parent by my past failures–some very large, let me tell you.
We sell our pottery most weekends at the Boyce Farmer’s Market in Fredericton, NB, (we’re usually outside, come and say hello!). Actually, lately, I’ve been sending Lee on his own, but we still show up near the end some Saturdays. It’s especially fun at Christmastime, very festive. Last Saturday Santa Claus was there, and Horus went up and told him that he was going to make him a gingerbread man for Christmas. When prompted, Horus finally admitted to wanting a tool box from the Red Guy. It was very sweet. If we make any money at the market, Lee and I sometimes indulge and buy a magazine at the shop on King Street. Usually Ceramics Monthly, or Art & Perception, and I also love to read the Times Literary Supplement. Even though it’s probably available online, I prefer the paper edition, as it gets read and folded and loved downstairs, and then sent upstairs to sit next to the toilet for a while. Charming.
This particular edition featured a review of a bunch of new books out of the UK on motherhood, in which reviewer Emily Wilson, discusses psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott’s concept of the “good enough mother”, “The one who, whatever her imperfections, is able to create an environment in which the child’s “true self” can be recognized and protected. The good-enough mother looks her baby in the eye, and by mirroring the child’s face, shows the child that she is seen, known and safe. On one level, then, Winnicottian ideas might seem liberating for mothers’ they need only be “good enough”, not perfect; and the most psychologically essential parenting function–eye contact, or “eye love” –can be performed by either parent, or any other caregiver. But in practice, Winnicott’s childentric vision has often been taken as a platform from which to pressurize or blame mothers, for failing to be “good enough”.”
Well. If only I had several hours right now, there is so much I’d like to say. But Lee is outside with Horus and Treva, finishing our beautiful sign (you’ll see), in preparation for our open house (Please come! this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday!) and I’m sitting by the fire in the dining room, nursing Felix, and half-thinking about the sink full of breakfast dishes, and the fact that I have to paint the studio and drop off invitations and finish my third chapter, and finish the pottery, and price the work, and get the photos done and my house is a mess…So I really do have to go.
But before I go, I’ll announce that I don’t know any mothers who aren’t “good enough”. I mean, honestly, that even mothers who are dealing with the most terrible pressures, and who succumb to these pressures in the most destructive ways…We can never know how we ourselves might deal with the same. And while I wish every child could live a magical childhood, I do ultimately think that we are all resilient, and that there is hope for everyone.
I make a point, myself, of continually formulating very strong ideas on how I want to parent my children, while at the same time, continually softening my heart towards my own daily failures.
I agree with Winnicott in that I believe that one of the most important things that I can do as a parent is to really see and hear my kids, and to take them seriously about everything and to look them in the eye, and treat them like the brilliant thinking human beings that they are. My own mother has driven me crazy, and made me angry, but I have always heard and understood from her, the strong message that I am smart, capable, valid, worthy and free. And I think that no matter how many times we holler at our kids, or let them down, we (and they) can heal. There is hope. There isn’t any room for blame in my vision, and I find it sad that blame and pressure are seen to go hand in hand with the idea of a baseline of respect and love for our kids.
We took the following video last night just for fun. Everyone was tired, and I was seriously irritated with Lee for being impatient with the kids, which of course isn’t fair, because I was being laconic, and we all just should have been in bed…When I watch this now, it makes me so sad. It’s not terrible, or tragic, except in small ways. Poor little Treva having to ask 73 times for me to read “Birdsong”, feeling ignored. It wasn’t right, and my heart hurts, watching it. I was aware, at the time, but just so tired, and half in my own head, immersed a bit in my inner life, (playing piano does that) which I think is difficult for kids, but also inevitable. So hard to notice, and yet not be able to verbalize, that we are not *actually* the entirety of our parents’ consciousness. Even the tiniest child is so poignantly on the cusp of what it means to be an adult–to know that we are all, essentially, alone. No no–I’m not feeling nihilistic! Of course, we are not alone in the world–I believe in family and love and togetherness, and on a spiritual level, I do believe that we are connected to one another, threaded together by life, the stars, existence: all one, all one all one. But then again, the human conundrum: solitary in our own sense of perception, our small selves, that voice in our head.
Oh dear. I’m really rambling here. I wanted to write a bit about our Advent rituals, and about how we play music together every night, (even when it’s mayhem), and my fantastic new mincemeat recipe, and making origami….later.
I should also say that after I turned the camera off, I gathered the children together, and told them all that I loved them, and everyone calmed down, and then we went upstairs and brushed teeth, and I made a specific point to whisper into Treva’s ear that I love her and I see her and I know her and that I’m listening.