I think I am qualified to talk about this because I have an adult child now (well, as adult as a college student can be) so, the gig is up. While I was once everything to her, I am now clearly deficient in many areas and borderline moronic in a few. Recently, I made a mistake on my taxes and avoided dealing with it until it nearly jeopardized her carefully constructed world. She was rightfully upset, and demanded to know: “Why did you do that?” Its time for me to raise my hand and hang my head. Yep. Your mother is a fuck-up. Which really just means that my wildest hopes and dreams for her have come true.
When I was her age, I was a college drop-out and…pregnant with her. I wanted her to be a girl, and I wanted her to be beautiful in her own natural way, and smart and funny and kind and full of life. I wanted her to have dreams, and opportunities for greatness, and I wanted her to grab them and run with them. I wanted her to be independent and thoughtful and her own person, no matter what anyone else said or did to persuade her otherwise.
I got my wish, I got it all and so much more, and three times over, to boot. Which means, of course, that I am left behind. That all the stupid mistakes and judgement errors and plans that seemed like a good idea at the time but later were faulty and dangerous are now fodder for counseling. That my my inevitable faults that hang on me like brown lumpy moles are the first thing she sees. Ouch.
Its not as if i wasn’t aware of my inadequacies from the start. Even after reading every book in the library on pregnancy, birth, and childrearing, I felt less and less qualified to do this thing. My mother’s response was honest but brutal: “I hope you know what you’ve gotten yourself into”. Which I most certainly did not know. Which most certainly did not deter me from most endeavors. That headlong, caution-to-the wind, courageous/foolhardy impulse was like mothers milk to me, and I engaged it again and again. Most did not turn out well. Some were downright disasters. But a few (at least four)….were wonderful beyond my imagination. I think I don’t have much of an imagination, or something.
Guilt, the gift that keeps on giving, as Erma Bombeck describes it, will always keep my disasters in front of my face, and crestfallen, I wander on through my days. But here’s what I discovered in my cussedness: Any disapproval from her is a reminder of one of those rare times when I succeeded.