Thursday, May 26, 2011



In the mountains, there you feel free

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land


I was cutting up berries this morning, into a small container for Sophie's lunchbox. The boys were careening around the house, messing around, fighting, yelling, playing. Feed the dog, I yelled. Put on your socks. Turn off your bedroom light. What time are you going to the concert? The Husband asked as he ripped the plastic bag off the newspaper and opened it on the table. You have to be there by 4:40, Henry answered and he flew out the door to catch his ride to school. Let's go, The Husband raised his voice at Oliver and they left, too. I picked up the spread-out newspaper and placed it on the chair like I do every morning (always, always irritated by it), and then I called out to Sophie who I heard humming in her room I'm coming, Sophie. And as I walked down the hallway I wondered whether she heard all the comings and goings in the same way we hear them and whether she felt isolated from them or part of them and I wondered if the feeling I had was guilt that she wasn't really a part of them and guilt that I didn't work hard enough for her to be a part of them and then I wondered whether I would ever let go of the guilt, the guilt that comes, relentlessly, even after sixteen years of damn hard work and travail and despair and pulling up your bootstraps and dark humor and enlightenment and joy and gratitude. I wondered if guilt came naturally, anyway, when you are a mother and how I would never know that naturally, and I had all these thoughts, lickety-split, as I walked into Sophie's room and reached my arms out to her, sitting on the floor, humming, and pulled her up and brought her to the kitchen to eat breakfast.

27 comments:

  1. Elizabeth,
    I do think guilt as a mother comes naturally. On this past Saturday, my mother said, "If it is the end of the world today, I will feel guilty that I left you to go home and work in the garden." It made me laugh. I am 45 years old.

    Love,

    SB

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  2. Whether our kids are "special" or not (a word that bothers me more than the R word for some reason) the guilt comes from the fact that we have to make choices every minute of every day and because we want to be the best mothers we can be, it is hard not to second guess those choices.

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  3. Ok a little perspective ... You were simultaneously cutting up berries for a lunch (wow), concerned about feet without socks, considering a concert later in the day, thinking of how the dog was hungry, irritated yet tolerant of the husband's habits, and heading down the hall with ready arms and heart for The Sweet Girl. I'd say that you are an awesome mom and you have a beautiful family. Enough said.

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  4. Thank you. A pleasure to be inside your head.

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  5. Ah,the guilt...

    Zoey usually sits in the mix of it all.On the floor,looking at the goings on from her perspective from below and I often wonder what she is thinking,if anything and I cannot tell you the number of times I call to someone to please go over and sit with her,because I feel guilty that she is,well,just sitting there amongst the chaos.Does she care that she is just left there sitting?Do I often just leave her there thinking she is fine because she doesn't know any better?Maybe I do,be it unintentionally.Like I said,ah,the guilt...

    The babycakes... darling.

    And Modern Family... so bummed for the the season finale last night.How will I ever make it to fall with out Cam?

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  6. Guilt, damn guilt. You're such a good mother, such a brilliant human. It pains me when I read about you feeling guilty, but I totally understand where your feelings come from.

    Many thanks for such an honest post.

    Greetings from London.

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  7. I'm pretty sure the guilt never goes away as a mother, but I also know that the moments I spend second-guessing myself mean that I have fewer moments available to pick up after everyone else. Oh, wait. That makes feeling guilty sound better. Hmmm, lemme think about that ;-)

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  8. i love every word of this post and thank you for it because it is something beautiful and bright of the mind and heart and i feel GOODER having read it, gooder should be a word.

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  9. Sarcastic Bastard - Thanks for visiting and for leaving me a comment. Sigh.

    Steph(anie) - Sigh.

    kimmie - What a wonderful way to look at it all. Thank you!

    Ex-in-the-City: You can visit anytime you like inside my head!

    Zoey's mom: This IS EXACTLY what I'm talkin' about, sistah!

    A Cuban in London: Thank you for those kind remarks.

    kario - It is indeed a vicious cycle.

    Maggie May: I feel gooder knowing you, too.

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  10. LISTEN: There is no one in this world who could be a better mother to Sophie than you. Do you hear me? I mean it.
    Love...Mary

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  11. that is exactly what I'm talking about

    beautiful

    just beautiful

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  12. I struggle with this as well. Family gatherings with Katie always turn into a food fight. Katie tends to throw food, especially if she doesn't have my complete attention. And I wonder if she even enjoys herself and then feel guilty because I feel like I'm trying to exclude her. And maybe sometimes I wouldn't mind excluding her and having a peaceful Christmas dinner, for once.

    I feel guilty because I don't take care of her full time anymore

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  13. formerlyonlyamovie: Thank you. That's what it is. A snapshot --

    Ms. Moon - From one of the finest mothers I know, thank you --

    Lilith -- Apparently, it's unending.

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  14. i feel as if i have been listening to a living prayer...
    like the sound of doves and the wishes we may never utter out loud yet blow fiercely into the vast and open sky aiming for heaven.

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  15. Damn it, you're good.
    My guess is that the sounds of all the comings and goings and chaos and life of her family is exactly the song that Sophie was humming along with.

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  16. I am thinking as I am reading this that it sounds very much like a Joan Didion piece from "On Keeping a Notebook". You have such a gift for being in the moment with your life, your family and most importantly your lovely daughter, Sophie. I think that is the grace of it all...that all of those thoughts could play through your mind of a morning and add to the complexity, the melancholy and the joy that is your life and love of family. You are a wonder. Be kind to yourself for you truly deserve it. I once heard a therapist talking about the archetype of the mermaid as someone who lives more in the world of the unconscious or the dream world which is represented by water as you must know. Mermaids are only on land once in a great while. Perhaps they hum as well?
    xoxo,
    Noelle

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  17. I love these peeks into your life. And I think, because we are forced to be both experts and advocates for our kids (if not us, then who) we are always, in every situation, aware of what MORE we could be doing and frankly that is both exhausting and guilt-inducing.

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  18. Somehow the "takes a village" thing
    isn't applied to kids whose needs are so beyond the ordinary. I often think if there were seven or eight of me working hard, doing all that really should be done for my girl might be manageable, or at least within the realm of possibility....

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  19. I loved this post, and am totally relating to it right now. And @zoey's mum, I have those exact thoughts about Snail, being on the floor, in it, but not part of it.

    I think guilt is a big part of all this, and it's not necessarily the answer to try not to feel the guilt, but to work with it and sit with it a while? Often my guilt isn't really guilt, it's just sadness that I don't let myself feel, in disguise.

    Thinking of you,
    xo

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  20. Ah guilt ... It plagues me from the moment I get up to the moment I lay down (then my mind starts really losing it).
    It was captivating to read another person's feelings that mirror my everyday perceptions - but I've never seen it written down. Then everyone else responds and there's this guilt thing happening en masse! If only they could reassure us that we're doing enough - life would be much simpler.

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  21. The guilt is natural, always there. But what a wonder of a mother you are, the way your family flows around Sophie, the way your arms encircle her, bringing her into the peace after the chaos. I remember her birthday pictures. They say so clearly how much Sophie is a part of it all. You never need to feel guilty, dear Elizabeth, but you probably will anyway. Because you are a mother. Because you love.

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  22. Like everyone else I will echo that being a parent brings guilt. I think I am more concerned with parents that don't feel guilty because none of us are perfect. Criminals rarely feel guilt, it is the loving people that have a conscience that do.

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  23. what everyone else has already said, better than me...

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  24. What a lovely group of mothers, who clearly mother with awareness. Hardest job on earth.

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  25. i love what Kimmie said.
    Everyone though really.
    You rock E, remember that.

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  26. you put poetic words to what is in my own heart. i am in LOVE with the photo of sophie on the beach... so frail and beautiful against the surf and sand, but also standing tall and strong like a willow. like she belongs there in the wind. i am so moved by this post. you are a true talent and im forever a fan :)

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