Motherhood can take you to dark, dark places. What a young child, a little kid!, can do to a grown-up — how much pain they can cause their own parents just by being themselves — is one of those deep dark secrets only the very fortunate parent never has to find out about.
Those dark places of motherhood get even darker if you happen to have given birth to a child who is — not mincing words here — a total pain in the ass.
There are kids who are total pains in the ass from birth and they are mysterious, these little guys. As babies, they fuss and fuss. They get older and a little verbal and then they scream because the toast is buttered. They cry because Velcro is noisy. But they don’t scream at the toast or curse fate because ingenious hook-and-loop patches can’t operate in total silence. No, they dump it on you, the mom. They make sure you suffer for whatever your latest transgression may be (the blue cup? You served milk in a blue cup!!).
To love a kid like this isn’t difficult. Because you love your kids, you just do. To like them? Eh. To feel close to them? Iffy. When you’ve got other kids to compare the P-I-T-A kid to? Well, of course it’s tempting to rank them, as Kate Tietje did in a post on Being Pregnant about how she loves her son more than her daughter (a daughter that quite possibly fits into the P-I-T-A category).
I mean, you hate yourself for not liking, not feeling close, for the ranking. But that’s another deep dark secret of motherhood: frequent self-loathing.
Straining relationships with preschoolers is just so normal for plenty of us parents, which is why the storm of controversy Tietje’s post provoked is baffling to me. Though most people agree she was allowed to have those thoughts and feelings, what’s got the mom-blogging (and mom blog-reading) community up in arms is that she wrote about it on the Internet, where her daughter may some day read it.
Mom-bloggers, famous for circling the wagons around candor and honest portrayals of mom life, scolded Tietje for speaking her truth. I’m not only dismayed by that reaction, I’m honestly surprised.
Even very private mom-bloggers offer up pretty intimate details of their kids’ lives, whether they realize it or not. I know who’s got a foreskin, who suffers constipation, who’s not doing well in school and why, whose moms suffer from depression and suicidal ideation. I know families’ financial situations — and what got them into the fiscal messes they’re in (just because your son begged you for a Wii, why, oh why, did you buy it? And tell us.
If Tietje’s daughter is bound to suffer when, at 13, she reads that her mom once thought she loved her brother (and new possible sister) more than her because she was the more difficult child, she won’t be suffering alone. Therapists will no doubt specialize in helping families of bloggers.
What I’m saying is that we’re in a very self-revelatory era — personal blogs, reality shows, it’s all the same. We’re very open to being open. Sure, there are lines, but Tietje didn’t necessarily cross it. Heck, the Sophie’s Choice thing? I’ve done it. I’ve never come to any conclusions, but, remember — motherhood … dark … the mind goes where it goes.
More to the point, though: my guess is Tietje’s going to get to her daughter way before Google does. As my difficult child gets older, I’ve found better ways to make ins with her and in ways that meet her needs, even as my limits continue to be stretched. The fact that she and I can talk to each other very specifically about our feelings is fantastic. I mean, I totally get how Velcro is my fault. (What was I thinking with all that racket?)
Tietje has actually identified her feelings really early in her parent-child relationships and even managed to admit them to herself and the world — with adequate amounts of self-hatred, too, so there’s that. Somehow I doubt she considered her post the end of her story. It certainly shouldn’t be.
And in the end? The kid that everyone’s worried about, Tietje’s daughter? She gets a better mom. By the time the daughter reads that post, she’ll already know what it says.
Meantime, the post that launched a thousand cautionary tales obviously helped some other moms and dads identify similar feelings they have about their own kids.
Trust me, it’s helpful to know you’re not the only one. Isn’t that worth circling the mom-blogging wagons?
Photo: clarity via flickr