A Letter to My Children…
I ran away today. Not that you have even noticed, at least not for awhile. I have felt like running away since you were little. Small tiny beings that needed me so much it felt like I would be eaten up and left with nothing. But I didn’t. I never ran. Until today. Before it was only thoughts, dreams, fantasies of mine. That I could run somewhere back in time before I was this thing called mother. But there is no such time because you have left your fingerprints, dirty smudged fingerprints all over my soul. And I am no longer just a woman, I have become this other thing, this mother thing. This creature that is resented, hated, taken advantage of, supposed to know the answers to questions I can’t even begin to understand. I am this mother person, which is to say I am this other person who pays only passing resemblance to what I once was.
I left you sleeping in your beds. I left you there, like I wanted to when you were little and were going to wake up and demand things from me all day long, and well into the night, well past my limits. But I never did run away. It remained totally a fantasy, until today.
I only ran to the coast. It was as far as my heart would allow. As far as my mind would stretch, that somewhere on this beach of sand, I would find some treatment for what ails me, some salve for this mother thing that I cannot resolve. One of you likely didn’t notice for hours, possibly recovering from a night time of debauchery of pot, sex and drinking. I do not know, that world, her world remains a mystery to me. Even though I lived it myself. I somehow became lost of the horizon of my motherhood, lost between the girl, the woman and the mother. Today crashed upon the rocky shores of motherhood’s arrogance and self importance. As if I was somehow going to be given a reprieve from the powerlessness of life.
I can see that I am not, but that somehow doesn’t change my need for it. For the delusion of power to be granted to me and make it last forever.
I have been your caretaker, your keeper, your friend, your boo boo fixer. I have been your cheerleader, your coach, your biggest fan. I have held you while you cried yourselves to sleep, only to then go solo to my own bed to cry myself to sleep because I feel your pain, that is a mother’s curse, you feel your pain and your children’s pain…
I did not intend to be a single mom. But perhaps that isn’t true. Perhaps I knew that he, your father, would fall onto the scrapheap of maleness that litters my past. Perhaps I was just kidding myself. Perhaps I just needed him for sperm and a reason to be angry and disappointed. He has certainly provided both. Yet another man that has left me with a sourness, a bitterness and furthered the feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Which brings me to my point. Perhaps it is justice. Perhaps I have slapped this whole mother effort together slipshod and shanty wise. Perhaps I should have never been a mother. I think that more and more lately. I think that we all would have been better off. You no one to be rude to, no one to take advantage of, and me, no one to bring into this world where there is way too much pain and sadness. I thought I could do better. But, despite my best efforts, I have failed. Repeatedly.
I need not your indictments of my failures, my missteps, because I recorded them, every one of them on my flesh, in the crevices of my brain, onto the canvas of my soul. I see them all, I regret them all and yet, I am powerless is seems to not just continue to fail. Perhaps I am just full of self pity, perhaps. But any mother worth her salt would tell you every bad moment she has ever had from your birth until this moment right now. We know every slight. Every pain. Every ouchie. Every thing we have caused, every one that we fear we caused. Every pain we know of and every one we fear you have suffered because we, as your mother, failed.
I do not know what to do with you. Not that I ever did. Since you were born I have been searching for places to put you: containers to protect your infancy (swings, bassinets, cribs, blankets stretched across the floor), day cares to keep you occupied while I attempted to earn a living, schools to teach you all that I could not, camps to help you survive the boredom of a privileged childhood. Therapists and treatment centers when you foundered. I have sent you to all these places, all of them, over and over, hoping that somehow they would be able to make up for all that I have lacked, failed, and done wrong. And they have failed too I suppose, since I am writing this letter to you, from a coast, run away from the home that I created for you. No longer able to find myself there, at least not today. I am unsure what tomorrow will bring. Unclear the path ahead. Only feeling angry, confused, bereft and scared. Terrified really. That even though I have sometimes hated being a parent, knowing that the thing I fear more than anything else in this world is living longer than either of you.
I would love to think you are still reading this letter, but I know, I go on too long and spend too much time in my selection of vocabulary. Not something you appreciate or relate to. My need for the correct vernacular, the one that resonates from my soul outward, not something you relate to, appreciate or care much about. And it is really all I have ever had to give.
My life, my efforts, my presence, I have been here. Holding onto you. Parenting you. Well trying. I am not sure how much I have been able to give to you. I have kept you alive until now. Alive enough for you to spew hate at me. For you to throw all my efforts in my face. For you to hate your family, your home and your self.
It feels like too much. My insignificance. I walked the length of the beach, being annoyed that the dog would rather chase my shadow than birds on the beach. But I walked on still. And when it came time to return, to walk the length of beachfront that I just walked, I found myself surprised to see my own footsteps in the sand. Shocked even. I was there. There was evidence that I was actually there. Small indentations in the sand where my feet had tread. I wonder how soft and indelible my marks are on you. I pray that they are negilible in the long run. That you will have the strength to move forward, somehow better for the scars I have left. They are there, even though I tried so hard not to. I wonder if you will even notice. If I stay gone forever, will you see that I was ever there? Will it make a difference in your life? And if it doesn’t, what was the point of all of this mothering?
We are at yet another turning point. You are not yet adults but the closest you have ever been. You think you know things that I don’t even know despite having nearly 40 years of life on you. I am lost on the seas of my own endeavor. I am adrift and so too are you. I have no answers. Only rules and ideas that you cannot be bothered with…and oh, I have anger. I am so very angry, at you both. At life. At all the powerlessness that I cannot out run, cannot manage and cannot control.
I have done my best even when it sucked. It was still the best I had. Perhaps I shouldn’t have ever been a mom. That is what it feels like today. A wasted effort. A long shot that didn’t pay off. A false start, except you are here, and so there is that. I guess none of us know for how long we get to do this life, or have to do this life, or must do this life. Seems like the older I get the more time because harder to do. I find myself trapped by either not enough time or too much. And I get less and less of what I need, and disappear a little more until I wonder how much of me is even left. What kind of a mother do you have? How much of me is here at all? What is really me and what is just remnants of my own fucked up childhood. Is all that I have given you trauma and trauma laden responses? I don’t know…
I know this though. I love you with all that I am. I have given every thing I have ever given to you because I love you. And because I wanted more than anything for you to be happy. To feel loved and cared for. To be not alone in this world. I have done my best and sit at the edge of an endless ocean that tells me with every crashing wave that it will never ever be enough.
You remain a child, children really but you are not. You have entered the mind-space of an adult thinking you know things, being sure that I am an idiot and you know better. I pray that you live long enough to laugh at this idea. That at 15 and 16 you could know more than me. And yet, I know you know a lot of things better than me. You know a world that I really only supervise. Lifted above the fray and deafening thunder of adolescence. I see, but I really don’t. I hear but I really don’t. I think I know things but I really don’t. I cannot understand, even though I want to so very badly.
As I sit by the ocean and watch the waves mock me in their incessantness, I see my own efforts as your mom. Coming, always coming, building to a thunderous crescendo, and then meekly moving towards your shores. Shores that I can only lap at and numbly wind round your ankles. The distance between us vaster than the largest ocean. All of us lost and farther away than we have ever been.
I wish you were still little and I could scoop you up and hold you to my chest, taking in the smell of your hair. Today, you barely let me touch you at all. The tenderness of childhood gone and replaced with an apathy that expands in all directions. I am so very lost. Run away from myself and you. From all this mothering that has resulted in both my children being so very lost to me. I do not know what to do. The professionals I seek help from only bleed my pocket and pat me on the shoulder and say trite things that they know may never come to pass. You might not survive this. You might not live. You might indeed die before you ever really get started living.
I am powerless. And I fucking hate it. And I am angry about it. For like 52 years. But no matter how much pissed off I can throw about, it doesn’t change that the solitary fact that I cannot outrun, that I can’t change, that I cannot be freed from: I love you both. And I cannot stop. All the empty threats and the ones that have an actual bite. They are just more evidence thrown on the debris pile of my mothering. More fodder, the only thing I have to show perhaps maybe ever.
They have always been your lives. And now I am cast in position of warden, jailer, keeper of electronic devices, car keys and cash. Holding things back in order to force my opinion, my opportunity to love, twisted and marred as though it may be. This is not what I ever wanted, but it is where we are. That makes me perpetually sad, despondent and without a solution. I know nothing really. Which I am hopeful that perhaps nothing may be better than what I have brought to mothering so far…
So I will return home at some point today because you can’t run away from motherhood. Even if you move to the otherside of the moon, you are still a mother to children you don’t understand, cannot reach but you love with ferocity and tenderness, which is kind of an awful way to love. I suppose I am going to have to find another way, but I lack the confidence that there is another way to mother, at least for me. I bring me with me wherever I go and that is at least partially the issue here. I bring me. I am the mother. I am the person charged with raising you, and I feel so incredibly inept. So lost. So afraid. So terrified that the next failure of mine will spell your doom.
But as I return home, to the place we reside, the home such as it is, I am reminded that there is no other place I really want to be, even on days like this where the hardness of our lives is all I can feel, all I can see, and is rapidly becoming all that I have ever feared. I return to you, still pissed, hurt, scared, but somehow relieved of myself perhaps just a tiny bit. Resigned to the inescapable fact that I can run but I will never be free of this mother thing. No matter how badly I do it, how much anger I have, no matter how hurt I might feel…I can never not be your mother…no matter how badly some days I wish it to be different.