Friday 6th July 2007
And yet still I do it. Every single day. Something in me resists this new role, these new responsibilities, this lack of freedom. The stupid thing is I know it’s futile. I know that all I get from the resistance is more frustration, more irritation, more anger. But here I am again. Up to my neck in tension. Literally.
The trouble is though I know WHAT I’m resisting, I don’t know why. My beautiful, curious daughter becomes the recipient of the sharp end of my blunt tongue. She smiles at me in good natured bewilderment as I yet again slip into that place where old patterns outweigh good intentions. Why do I do this to her? To myself? What possible positive outcome can there be from wearing this same rut into the carpet of my psyche? There’s a saying isn’t there – that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different outcome. Well then I must be mad.
Today my bubby was great. She didn’t complain. She slept reasonably well. She was full of energy and curiosity (mostly for what the books on our bookshelf tasted like) and laughed readily. Yet I resisted playing with her. Even though I kept on telling myself that I should be playing with her. I should be putting her first. I should be interested in her development and her delightful exploration. Yes. I should. But wasn’t.
I’m going to come right out and say it. Play time is boring for me. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person or as a parent but I’m laying it on the line anyway because it’s the truth. I can’t find much to interest me or to get excited about as I pry her little grabby hands off the corner of the coffee table for the 50th time in half an hour in order to stop her taking a backwards head-dive onto our hard wood floors. I can’t muster enthusiasm to put all the toys back in the toy chest so that she can pull them out again. And yes – on other days I’m happy to do just that because that it itself is a learning thing. I don’t enjoy reading to her much right now, partly because she tries to snatch all the books off me and gnaw at them with her 8 puppy teeth and partly because, let’s be honest, there’s not much excitement in reading books that consist of different textures and one sentence per page. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading. Can’t get enough of it myself. You wait until she’s old enough to read Harry Potter – that’s when I’ll come into my own. I do voices and everything. Still, today I sat there and watched her amuse herself (as I seem to do all too often for my guilty conscience) and I just didn’t want to join in. The thought of playing with her made me feel tired.
What I wanted was to go to bed and lie down. Or watch a movie. Or paint. Or write. Something that feeds my soul and gives it space to breathe. Instead I was sitting in the living room with my beautiful daughter watching the walls of my mummy prison closing in around me. Feeling the pressure of the inescapable responsibilities I now have. Maybe today was just a bad day. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was. For reasons that were not to do with my daughter herself, today was a shitty day. I resisted playing with her. I resisted reading to her. I resisted being present with her in all but the most superficial way. Then the guilt kicked in. I reproached myself for being such a lousy mother. For not teaching her anything. For not wanting to spend time with her and for not delighting in every waking moment that I have her. Because some people are not lucky enough to have children, let alone ones that can melt your heart with a smile and a pair of peony blue eyes. So, why then do I resist? Especially as what we resist persists. Why do I not know how to stop myself in this well worn track before I make another circuit? Why can I not take a deep breath, step back and surrender?
Because it’s not that sodding simple is it? If it was that easy to change patterns ingrained in us since childhood, I know we’d all be doing it. We’d all be grabbing those hulking great dark shadows that hang over us like vultures and we’d be giving them a good kicking. If we could be aware of all the patterns that saturate our psyche like the rings inside a tree, we’d do something about it. Wouldn’t we? Didn’t we all make the promise to ourselves in our pregnancies that we would never become our parents? Didn’t we swear that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes with our babies that they made with us? We wouldn’t perpetuate the same patterns or wound them in the same ways that we were wounded. And yet we do. Every day. Often unconsciously. But sometimes consciously out of anger or grief or frustration. Sometimes I honestly wonder if I have the capacity to physically hurt my little girl the way that I was hurt as a child. If I have the same rage within me that my father had. I wonder if I could bully or berate or terrify my baby the way that I was bullied, berated and terrified. The truly frightening part of it all is that that the answer is yes. That pattern is there. It may be the smallest ring in the tree but it is probably the deepest and therefore the most difficult to get to and excise.
My resistance has both unconscious and conscious patterns behind it. I know this. I just don’t quite know why certain behaviours in my daughter set me off on this track again. What do those behaviours bring up in my unconscious mind that has me reacting again and again in the same way? I know in my head that I need to take a deep breath and let go. Surrender. Move past it. Yet, I feel the frustration and the resentment that goes with this new mothering territory rise and I can’t help myself. My voice hardens. My nerves get exposed and my darling girl is yet again on the receiving end of a less than calm and patient mummy.
Then come the tears. Hot and guilty. They pour over my cheeks as my daughter sleeps in my arms, cuddled close to my chest. Mascara running in shadowy streaks onto her forehead like the grey ghosts of my childhood. I tell her how much I love her, over and over again. And I ask her for her forgiveness. I tell her I’m sorry. Sorry that I yelled. Sorry that I lost my patience with her. Sorry that I had to keep telling her ‘NO’ and roughly manhandling her back into a sitting position in her bath. Sorry that all the little dangers of the house and day have to get in the way of her exploration. Sorry that I’m not doing a better job of being a mummy. And then I promise her I’ll do better.
And I will. We all will. We all make the same mistakes and the same promises and we all cry the same hot, guilty tears when our mistakes pile up on us like so much dirty washing. I know that the guilt and the fear and the anger and the resentment are all pointing to one thing. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of being a mother. I’m afraid of doing a terrible job and raising another wounded human being to carry these old scars forward to her children. Afraid that I really will fuck up my child. Children don’t come into the world with an instruction manual (and if they did I’m afraid it would just have a drawing of a baby with an arrow pointing at the head saying ‘This Way Up’). We have to find our way through the maze of motherhood with its seemingly endless days of washing, playing, caring, raising, educating, nurturing, cuddling, protecting and sleeping (or not) with no-one and nothing to guide us except our experiences. That’s why I’m here. I’m not proud of my behaviour. I hate that I have so much fear and anger inside of me. I will say quite categorically that I would NEVER hurt my baby but the knowledge that the potential is there is enough to send me seeking a therapist.
They say that raising a child will test and challenge you in many ways. But in no way will being a mother test you more than when the shining spirits of our children ask us to look bare-faced into our own souls and acknowledge all that lies within. Good and bad.
So, resistance is futile yes. But it is also a guide. A flare in the maze. A marker in the dark. My resistance shows me that I have work to do. That there are wounded places within me that prevent me from giving my best to my daughter and my resistance challenges me to find the reasons for it and let them go. It’s a challenge and I don’t often win but then who does? I’d like to meet this person and encourage them to write a child rearing manual.
Today was a bad day in many ways but, much like the French underground in World War II, resistance has its purpose.
I wish you a peaceful night.