So, yesterday we managed to have sun, hail and snow all in the space of a few hours. More importantly, the bad weather caught me and older son at the other house, where we were painting the attic, and brought our work to a standstill. Painting white on white even if the older white is all scuffed and dirty — hence the painting — is near impossible in a gloomy, drowned looking half light.
We waited around for half an hour or so, then waited some more till the weather abated enough to drive back.
And then I had to do at least partial cleaning here (more needs to be done. Things are… well… things. We’ve spent so much time at the other house, this one is in danger of choking on cat hair and household dust.)
What this all means is that I’m still sipping a cup of too-hot-coffee in the sleeping house and trying to extrude some post from a jumble of thoughts and emotions, before I have more coffee and put some serious work into Darkship Revenge which, in its present state, is a kludge.
So you’ll forgive me if I take on Mother’s day.
I always assumed I’d be a mother some day, even though I never thought anyone would be crazy enough to marry me. (Yes, he’s still asleep. Eh. He masks the nuttiness well.) After all for a woman being single was not a bar to being a mother. And besides, I could do it all, hear me roar and all that.
Ah! I’m glad I didn’t try it that way. With all hands on deck, motherhood was at times — when I was ill, for instance — more than I could handle. In fact, the early childhood of number 2 son is a blur, as I was recovering from near-fatal pneumonia. We had a friend live with us and pitch in, but also Dan took on a lot more of it than normal. Heck, all through Marshall’s elementary school, he kept track of school parties, baked when needed, that sort of thing. (Fortunately he had a traveling job and spent some time on the bench.) Or as he puts it “I was a kindergarten mom.”
He also took over all the time when Robert was tiny and I was recovering from pre-eclampsia. I think Robert was three months old the first time I changed his diaper.
Motherhood for me wasn’t an easy badge, anyway. It was a matter of infertility treatments and several misscarriages. And yet, when I held our oldest in my arms, the first thought that came to me was “I’m responsible for him for at least 18 years.” And it was terrifying.
By the time motherhood came, I’d assumed it would never happen. I’d have books. Surely you can be a complete adult without having children.
I know people who are complete adults without having children. I don’t know if it would have worked for me. It was that responsibility I couldn’t evade, and the certainty that I was part of a chain stretching back to forever that made me grow up.
I looked at my kids and knew that, if everything went well, they’d be here long after I was gone. I tasted my own mortality. Which spurred me, of all things, to take writing seriously.
Regrets? I have a few. (Ducks flung carp. Which of you has the carp cannon?) Things like, if I had to do it again neither of them would see the inside of a school till at least 10th grade. (It’s easier to apply to university if you do the last two years in a regular school.)
But then… but then… if we had homeschooled all that time, would we have known about the dual college/high school program in which younger son was so happy? Who knows. A lot of his classmates came from that background, but there are no warranties.
And if we’d homeschooled would our household become even more wrapped up in itself than it already is? If that were true, the kids might never figure out how to move out (We’re still not sure they will!)
And if we’d homeschooled, would I have written at all? And does writing even matter compared to children?
I can’t answer. It reminds me of that scene in Lords and Ladies where the Chancellor is fantasizing about what would have happened if he’d married Granny and she says “What about when our house burned down and we died with all our children?” because just taking an alternate path doesn’t mean no strife.
As is, I look across twenty three years, to holding Robert in my arms (while he gave me a suspicious look. That boy was born fifty three) and being terrified I’d forget to feed him/change him/let him catch the black plague/whatever, and think it didn’t go badly at all.
Yes, they ate up a lot of my time, but writing still happened in between. Yes, there were troubles and worries, and I suspect the worry will continue.
But there are those moments of inexpressible joy, too: building wooden railroads with younger son, all up and down stairs, and running toy wooden trains on collision courses; watching older son place second in a state singing competition, against children who’d been in voice lessons since birth, when he just sings all the time, around the house; watching younger son play Petruchio to a packed house and do it perfectly; late night coffee with older son in a diner, watching the rain paint the windows; countless walks with both of them, and the talks; watching them work hard and succeed at their chosen paths.
All of these are moments when I had to back off and realize they might have been completely dependent on me, once, but what they are is not all what I or their father put in. They are their own, imbued with a divine spark, with will and interests and abilities of their own.
And that is a wonder to behold. And the best reward of all for all the years of care, and diapers and feeding.
They are more than the sum of their parts, and I’ve been privileged to watch them grow up.
So here’s to Robert and Marshall as they are in their early twenties, the best mother’s day gifts any mother could have.