My Dear Kris,
Do you remember when everywhere we looked was a potential fort? Under the evergreen bushes in my front yard, under the rhododendron below the neighbor’s summer house, beneath the apple tree in your backyard or down by the crick or out where the White Thing was? We would take our dolls and stuffed animals down, with blankets and snacks and books… and spend the day making a home. At Long Beach we would sneak away under the dock and create a world there; at Lobster Cove, we found crevices in the rocks to settle within. At Sugarloaf, any snow bank would do. On rainy days, we draped sheets over your bed’s canopy, or across the isle between my two single beds, and hid away. More homes. There was nothing as reassuring as the insular worlds we made, retreating from sun or rain, from tempestuous friends and little brothers. We tucked our quiet, appreciative dolls into their beds. We read them stories. We changed their clothes and gave them bottles. They smiled, they slept. We were very mother-y, very doting. We were naturals, keeping our brood cozy and fed and warm.
Well, having children is nothing like that.
I’m no expert, but I’ve had two years and four months of experience now, which makes me very opinionated: almost as opinionated as before I had children and knew everything about raising them. So, here are some thoughts and advice:
The best thing you can do is move to a Third World Country. Nannies---loving, doting, infinitely-patient nannies: $100 a month, full-time. At first it’s insulting and humiliating your child loves the nanny more than you, but after a while you accept it, and appreciate the time available to write e-mails.
When looking at your child’s potential boarding nursery schools, be sure to enquire when Parents Weekend is, to pencil it in your calendar.
Do you remember the swimming lessons, tennis lessons, ski lessons, skating lessons, piano lessons, French lessons, horseback riding lessons, golf lessons, diving lessons, gymnastics lessons, and the Jazz and ballet lessons of our childhood? It turns out, the point of those lessons wasn’t childhood enrichment. The point was for the mothers to get away from us! Don’t be offended. That was a distraction so they could have their wine… You must find time for the wine.
I had a 7AM yoga class once. We started with a meditation, a long one, sitting Buddha style with our eyes closed. The teacher gave intricate instructions. We were to close our eyes and concentrate on our breath, she said. We were to focus on our mind’s eye, she said. Breathe… breathe, she said. And then it got quiet, and we were left to breath and focus and not-think. Everyone concentrated on doing that without falling asleep. Once, however, I peeked. The moment I opened my eye, the yoga teacher was pulling a Starbucks grande cup of double espresso out from behind a bolster. She took a rapid, secret sip, then slid it away again and re-assumed her lotus position.
Mothering is something like that: you build big elaborate structures with the outward appearance to enrich your child; but it’s really just a distraction mechanism so you can sneak a shot of tequila and get through the day.
In general, there are two women who guide me in Mothering. One is Laura Ingalls’ mother, from Little House on the Prairie. When I feel overwhelmed, or tired, or scared, I think of Laura’s mom. She probably had to carry her sick baby across all the prairies, at night, during a blizzard, evading wolves and coyotes, to seek a doctor. She had to wash the clothes by hand. She must have had to get up very early to put on all her petticoats. She didn’t have Sesame Street dvds to fall back on in times of exasperation! They all slept in a hayloft together for a long time, so I feel ok if the baby stays in my bed just one more week. If Liv complains because she doesn’t want to walk to the car (from the front door), I think of how hard and terrible her life is…and then I think of Laura and Mary having to get up before dawn to milk the goats.
And the other mother I rely on for perspective is a crack-addicted prostitute in New York City. Compared to her, I’m always doing fine.
You will find much reassurance with these two ladies to guide you.
And to conclude, I have one piece of very serious advice. Never compare yourself to our mothers. Don’t even try to live up to their example. We have exceptional mothers. I believe they were brought down from the heavens. There are no mothers as patient, as wise, as funny, as generous, as creative and as driven as our mothers. Take their inspiration. Be grateful every day that you are the most beautiful and fine and balanced mother on the block, because we had the Ja and Karen and Carol and Judi to guide us. You will instinctively know more than most of your contemporaries because of our mothers’ example. Their warmth and wisdom and joy is in your veins and bones and will naturally emanate to your child, and much of what you need to know about Mothering will thus come naturally. But really, don’t even try to emulate their perfection, you will only find frustration.
Except for the white wine part. We can live up to that example.
Well, the girl just ran past the door dragging the baby by his toes. Is that normal? He seems to like it, but I better go.
I am missing you all today & how I wish I was with you! All my love to you, always-----