My daughter is my passion, there is a book entitled “I loved you before you were born’ and that describes my love for her. My husband and I aren’t young parents. Parenthood came in our thirties, at a time when we both were permanently employed, upstanding members of society. We are logical, mature and responsible and we both agreed that being a parent is extraordinary and trumps everything else.
Yet, I would have to say in my three years experience as a mother, I am definitely not in line to get the prize for mother of the year.
I came across a book of few days ago entitled “Sh*tty Moms” and I jumped. No one wants to be a sh*tty mom on purpose, against my indignation I read the description and realized that the name was really a pun of sorts. The book truthfully and openly shed light on the imperfection of the parenting experience, having not read the book myself; I refer you to quote by someone who has: “The most inappropriate parenting book I’ve ever read. Loved it. The perfect book for any mother who wants to laugh instead of cry at those cringe-worthy moments and the universal indignities we experience on a daily basis.”
I spent the rest of the day thinking about my sh*tty mom moments which I will share with you. My daughter fell off the bed before she was one month old (and in her three years of life has hit the ground on a number of occasions); actually she fell off the banister just last week. I have used the Television to babysit and have a stash of $10 toys that I use for distraction and bribery, when all else fails Dora the Explorer does the job. I am horrible at discipline, (if it can’t maime her, I’ll probably let her try it). I will allow her to powder the entire house, if it means that I can get half an hour with a book.
I remember leaving her with the powder one day and she skated straight into the kitchen cupboard (that was the end of the powder). Another day she was packing her tea-set into the oven (yes, the real oven in the kitchen) and somehow the stove fell over on her (that was also the end of playing in the oven).
My husband has also had his sh*tty dad moment.
One day I was working late and I got a call which more or less went like this;
“Do you have the spare car key on you?”
My answer was yes.
His reply was “Come now! I just locked Christiana in the car”.
I literally ran out the door.
It took me 20 minutes to reach the grocery car-park, I was so angry but when I reached my husband was standing in the rain, leaning on the car window, reassuring my daughter that he was still there, trying to stop her from crying because she was safely buckled up in her car-seat. His face was morbid.
I didn’t say a word because I knew nothing I could say could make him feel worst.
You must be saying by now, this poor child has lunatic parents. We don’t wake up in the morning with deliberate aspirations to screw up her life; I actually pray to be a good mother every single day and my husband prays even more than I do. I listen every morning for her to wake up and greet her with a smile to start the day; days are full of hugs and inhibitions and yet I have my sh*tty mom moments and cringe when I make a mistake.
Bill Cosby noted that “in spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck and, of course courage”.
My husband isn’t the type of man who waits for me to get anything done for our daughter, he cleans diapers, he gives baths, and he baby sits. In addition to that, he inspects, there has never been a scrap, a bounce or a mark on my daughter that has evaded his eyes which usually comes back to me with twenty questions. He isn’t rude about it but he asks. It is his responsibility to ask, his caution is so renowned that my mother usually says to my daughter “don’t do this to fall, for your father to come and ask questions.”
That is why I cannot understand how a father living in the same house with the child would say he didn’t notice his child was being beaten. Even more heart wrenching is the fact that in the situation I am talking about, the child at age two, met her death at the hands of her own mother.
I have always been a fiercely independent person, very serious, very goal orientated. When I became pregnant my sister noted that it was the first time in all our years that she had ever seen me smile at nothing. As my body grew – my belly swelled and my feet grew a size – there was another kind of growing going on inside me, a deeper more determined growth. My heart was growing, my soul was finding humanity. I became more sympathetic to my co-workers, I started eating in the office kitchen at peak hours, I visited my parent more often, I called my siblings and I became a better wife.
The mere thought of this child brought unimagined joy, and it grew daily. When she was born I stayed awake for the next 48 hours (until I left the hospital), I was afraid that I would close my eyes and she just wouldn’t be there anymore. I love my husband, but this love was different it was fierce, protective, unrelenting, it was as if piece of my heart had walked out of my body into the world. It is only at that moment I truly understood how a man named Jesus could die on a cross for an undeserving world.
My daughter innocently ran out into the main road one evening and I was right behind her, I was perfectly aware that there may be oncoming traffic but I also resolved, in that split second that any traffic would have to hit me first. Motherhood is profound, the joy and sorrow of it is divine. Some of us are great mothers with natural ability, others like me are novices with all heart, who need to take it one day at a time and sad to say, some are so far off the path that the repercussions jolts society. I wish I would never hear about a child being beaten to death again which is the highest form of injustice because the victim has no defense.
I know that wishes without action or any plans usually bring no results. Our society is tearing apart at the level of the family. I would gladly pay more for gas, if it meant more family counselors and more family interventions. I would pay my own school fees if it meant a decrease in domestic violence and cruelty to children.
I don’t have much answers and I didn’t launch this Magazine because I am a guru on family matters but more so because I realized that I needed support and advice. There is so much that I don’t know, and if you know more than I do, then I will accept your help. Margaret Mead said that ‘nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.’ As parents we need to ask for help. Pride continues to be breed and harvested, communities no longer get involved and this has become the norm.
I sometimes wonder how younger mothers make out, who haven’t really grown into their own, who are single, whose parents aren’t still alive. I have a friend who works in Port of Spain and lives in Siparia; she has two children and leaves home at 4:30 a.m. and returns home by 7:00 p.m. I ask myself daily, how are parents and children surviving in Trinidad and Tobago?
Pride and economy is overpowering our convictions.
As a nation, I would like to see more red-flags, more opportunities for reform more family interventions. I am not a perfect mom and for every sh*tty moment I have, I have 10 great ones to replace it.
As parents let us learn to ask for help.
Let us make sure that our family adds value and we are not called upon to account for our children, be it dead or alive.