Motherhood is love gone mad. You know I’m right.
Who else would stay up at all hours of the night for years to cajole a tiny person to feed or sleep?
Who else would still drink the coffee with butter added by their toddler because it was the last milk they had?
Who else would scream unreasoning at a surgeon in the ICU that they had practiced on her child when she couldn’t see any change?
Who else? Who else? Who else?
Salinger had it right. You actually have to be a little crazy to be a mother. To survive motherhood. Because the demands placed on you are, honestly, CRAZY.
I thought about this today. I have had a stomach bug for three days and I feel ghastly. But I promised my son that we would at last re-paint his room now it is his alone — and I cannot stand for another minute the suspended animation the rest of the house is in until I get it finished.
I am sweating profusely and feeling a little punchy. I even quoted Shakespeare to a friend this afternoon who texted me that I was cray cray: “But,” I cried, “I am in [paint] stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er!” Need I say more?
I want to go to sleep, but I’m up on that chair precariously taping the ceiling, pouring that paint, rolling it on. Minecraft green.
Because my son is 9. But he could be 8, or 7, or 3, or 17 and I would want to do this for him. Simply because I CAN. I’m his mother.
When they were little, I used to say to their father that – for this short window of time – what a miracle it was that he and I really could be the answer to their world. Just with a cuddle. Or a cup of milk. Or a bedtime story. Even just with a mommy smile or a wink.
There will be so many times in their grown up life, I’d tell him, when I will be able to do nothing to change their pain. When I would do anything to mend their broken heart, or make them feel included, or boost their confidence so crushed. But there will be nothing I can do then.
Today, however, I can paint his room. Who cares if I’m tired or sick? I don’t. I fear for my sanity slightly (I’d be crazy not to), but I don’t begrudge him. Not one bit.
You see, his father and I are in the process of divorce and I really would do anything to make it all right for my kids. But I can’t.
So I fall back on what I can do. I can’t solve his world. I can’t mend his parents’ marriage. I can’t download long division or science or a love of language into his brain. But I can paint his room, in a lurid color of his choosing. And the look on his face when first seeing it does make up for something.
And here’s the truth: no matter how careful I am, I always always always leave splotches on the floor.
I can’t seem to help it. I lay a plastic sheet down, but you can guarantee some rebellious drip of paint will inevitably make its bid for freedom.
Fortunately, most of our floors are now hardwood. I try harder on the carpets. But I quite like the splotches on the hardwood, I mostly leave them. They’re not everywhere, but to be frank there are more than a few.
I suppose I hope that when my kids see them in their rooms, they will think of me. I hope they’ll think, “Oh, Mom! Look at that. She’s not perfect, but you know what? She shows up and she has a go. And I know that in all her messiness and imperfection, she loves me. Yeah, she just does. She really loves me.”
I wash the paint from my hands and I drop into bed. And I do so pray that they will think that.