Monday, November 15, 2010

On a wire (but with nice pictures)

There is this breathlessly beautiful picture book entitled The man who walked between the towers by Mordicai Gerstein. It is about a Frenchman named Philippe Petit and his masterful tightrope walk between the twin towers in the 1970s. A few years ago there was also a documentary about the event (with ear heart throb Michael Nyman as the score composer). I have been waiting to read this book to the twins. Its one of those great ones where, if you’re insane like me, you’re like “what is this about? Philippe? The towers? Neither? Both?”

So we tried. I got all teary eyed, but not them. They crawled away. Alas.

But then I got to thinking about this new theory I have about seemingly disparate events and how they are actually linked to one another. And lo and behold, had a link.

Perhaps this calls for a touch of back-story:

I have been down. But not in a PPD sort of way, but yes, in a way related to the babies. I am, regrettably, a bad mother. Yes – it is said. There, in pixels before me. I thought as the months wore on I would feel more comfortable in my mothering style, not less. But it is not true. As the babies get older, confidence becomes slimmer. Style is something reserved for the mom’s in magazines. The rest of us – well, we have to pick a side.

With everything.
And stand firm on it.
And have opinions about it.
Oh – and research it. A lot.

Dear lord.

I do not have strong opinions. I don’t really care what other people’s thoughts are on my babies. Or me. And I really really don’t like having to pick a side. The classic convo about working and children? I cannot say what I really feel – that I like my job. A lot. And I treasure my time with my children. A lot.

But I've found you can’t walk that tightrope. You either a) like your career or b) like being a mom at home. But the way it reads is: I don’t like my children. I love my children less. Or: I don’t take my career seriously. My work is just a hobby.

So I smile and say “Hm…” when asked.

I think it might be easier for me to carry on a normal conversation with Eminem than with other moms. And there may be less apprehension.

And yup – bad mom alert – I listen to that music with my children present.

What’s worse though? I feel bad about it.

Or did, I should say. Besides my tightrope revelation, I also had a conversation with my neighbor, who has this amazing ability to sense when something is wrong.

Mothering is hard. I told her when prodded. Everything is wrong.

Relax. She told me. If any mom makes you feel even for one second that she knows what she is doing, she’s lying to you. None of us know what we are doing.

None of us know what we are doing. I’ve been repeating this. This was a revelation. I could have kissed her, or like Henry and Sophia do to me (another bad mom alert), affectionately mauled her.

As a result, I've eliminated some words from my vocabulary because I think they are fodder for bad-mom talk and, no matter where you fall, guilt-inducing. They are: “breastfeeding” “Ferber” “career-choice” and, just because I’m mean, “onions.”

I have also started trying to embrace the more forgiving side of mothering. Where you try not to worry about which side you are falling on. There aren’t sides really – its just an illusion; like with the tightrope, its air.  I’m trying to be more like Philippe and rejoice the achievements as they come – as the opportunity finds me. And find inspiration, not irritation, in those who say I'm wrong.

So I continue to let Henry and Sophia rummage through the house and find what they want. There are no razor blades – but yes, there are post-its. And they do eat them. But I don’t care. No, really. I don’t care.

How liberating.

And you know what else? Yes – they played with Tony’s guitar. They grabbed at the strings. Where I should have been upset about how they could slice open their fingers by running their hands over the fret? I sat back and clicked away with my camera.

And wouldn’t you know? When you start relaxing you find more moments to celebrate. Just the other day I found Sophia with the dog on the floor. She was sort-of brushing her teeth. See? I thought. She is fond of oral hygiene – and of keeping the dog healthy. How wonderful. I should be proud of my mothering-ness. 

Until I looked closer and realized the toothbrush was mine.


  1. my dear. you are not alone! i let me kids watch too much tv, play loud metal in front of them when i feel like it, have semi-pornographic prints over the sofa, and let them eat candy for breakfast if it sounds good to me, too. i like my job and i like my kids. having a job makes me a better mom because it makes me appreciate the time i have with my kids even more. i am good at my job, but i say being at home is the REAL job. and sometimes a chore!

  2. Oh make me feel like a zillion times better about everything!
    Hopefully our twins' won't grow up needing too many therapy sessions. :)

  3. Don't ever second guess the way you raise your children. I follow two important rule. 1.Tell my girls every chance I can that "I love them". 2. Let them know I am here when ever they need me no matter where they are. Why question your parenting abilities. You will never please everyone with your parenting ideas. I say Who Cares! You carried them for nine months loved them before they were born and make sure they are happy and safe ever day. The smiles and giggles you get everyday from Henry and Sophia tells you "mom" you are doing a GREAT JOB!!! :P

  4. David and I just watched that documentary last weekend! So haunting! Scenes from it keep popping up in my mind daily.

    As for me, I hope to follow in your footsteps when I start my own journey into motherhood. I don't think loving your job means loving your family any less--or vice-versa. And I, for one, think post-its look delicious, and don't blame Henry and Sophia at all for taking a taste!

    May I find myself up on the high wire with you someday, soon!

  5. I don't know, particularly, but I'm going to go out on a limb (ha) and say that you probably care about the IMPORTANT things (as opposed to your kids brushing the dog's teeth ... seriously, why is that important?) Consider the billions of children who grew up healthy and whole before the advent of, say, toothpaste, antibacterial hand gel (which is the devil anyway), and the never-ending, ever-changing litany of which foods are good/bad for you.

    Go with the flow, I say. We'll see what I say 6 months from now, but I'm going to hope it's the same. :)