It’s easy to estimate, abacus in hand, that it´s been more than one, two, or even three million times I’ve been overwhelmed with the cruel feeling of being a Badmother, of not being good enough, of really messing things up. And believe me, it hurts like a bang in the dark (one of those bangs in the dark you don’t expect until is too late, when your big toe is throbbing like a tin of tomatoes).
When TheEldest was more or less three weeks old and we were already over that terrifying period of corporal maturity in which IT IS possible to have her earlobes pierced but IT IS NOT possible to have her fingernails cut, even though she scratches, again and again, her little face like crazy, waking up like an after-party Sue Ellen, I went straight to my baby, my face muscles tightened in tension, grabbing the baby nail scissors and mentally repeating in a sort of karma “It’sdeadeasy, It’sdeadeasy, It’sdeadeasy!“. Little movement she made, mainly because she was enjoying one of those fourand-a-half-hours of neonatal lethargy that sadly vanishes over the years. But the fact is that, once dealing with her little left finger, I cut not only her teeny-weeny fingernail but also a piece of the surrounding flesh. She bled and cried and, of course, I wished to be struck at that very right moment by a thunderbolt or electrocuted by any other electrical appliance. And as a real lion-mum I sucked her injured little finger and cradled my baby until she disconnected and felt asleep again. Hours after the shock and I was still unable to take her little finger out of my mouth because each time I saw her wound, I couldn’t help but think… how could you do that, you wicked woman!?!?
After that day, that bloody sentence has slipped through my thoughts and daydreams again and again: when you arrive at home, after the whole morning doing shopping, and notice that Thegirl has a poo so firmly stuck to her little butt that it won’t come out unless you rub it with boiling water and the hob-scraper; when you pick her up from the school, grab her little hand and realise that her fingernails were long enough to look like mandarin stickers, and so, so black underneath that she could have spent the break changing the crankshaft bearing from a Talbot Samboa; when you try to soothe her and make her sleep with a lullaby at the end of the day and feel that the exhaustion only let your brain hum the daleatucuerpoalegríamacarena; when you open the fridge with the healthy resolution of preparing a fruit purée and find there´s a lonely, wrinkled and moldy lemon as the only available piece of fruit; when you meet that neighbourwhoseeseverithing going for a walk and Yourchild flaunts a pair of green snots hanging from his nose and slipping dangerously towards his mouth, as he tries to get rid of them with strong pendular movements of his tongue…
When children grow up and, as a result of their cerebral maturity, they start making audible and sensible sentences, it all becomes more and more complicated. “My Mummy smokes” your candid girl says to your mother-in-law. Here comes a deep silence followed by a stomach cramp and the Grandmother’s mental image becomes transparent: you appear disguised in a polydrug-addict-tracksuit and playing slot machines. “My mommy has a tattoo”, Yourchild says in the park… “….And she surely also robs the gas stations”… You hear what the other mothers, well settled on the bench and eating sunflower seeds, must be thinking.
Badmother… badmother… badmother… If nobody calls you one, no problem, you call yourself one. How on earth didn’t you realise? How could you allow such a big slip-up? Where the hell were you while…? If you want to keep on punishing yourself, there are thousands more questions I can make, but I believe it’s about time to unwind and get things into perspective. You are not perfect, and fortunately, you never will be. Yourchild will grow up witnessing your mistakes, and then laughing at them with his or her friends, as we all have done… Like when you can’t spell Schwarzenegger, or it’s impossible for you to program the hard disk recorder, or when you dance at weddings as if you were being electrocuted… We’re all children of imperfect parents, and nevertheless we’re pretty neat, as far as I can see.
I really don’t know if this urge to be perfect comes as a result of a microchip implanted at childhood or it’s just like a tic we develop as we age, like saddlebags, crow’s feet or tennis elbow. Do we really have to do everything right? Does anyone really expect it?
As far as I’m concerned I’m really proud of my “normal” parents, who would put me to sleep in their arms or allow me to suck the heads of prawns, both potentially dangerous activities and nevertheless they weren’t able to prevent me from one painful fall or another (or they simply didn’t want to). The thought of being raised by a perfect family that doesn’t even give you the opportunity to make mistakes and to blame them for your mistakes doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.
* Thanks for the (invaluable) Accidental help and the native proofreading.