I’m a perfect middle child. I come complete with all the neuroses and paranoia that middle children are supposed to have. What’s more, I’m 16 months younger than my elder sister. Children that close in age often have troubled relationships. This was certainly true of my sister and I for many years.
Looking at Dovie one day I found myself deeply saddened. I looked at the little cherub sleep and it hit me that he would hurt me much in this life and there was nothing I could do about it. Everybody has issues they haven’t forgiven their mother for or failings or fears or dislikes they blame her for and as I looked at him I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I would fail him in some way, even if only in his mind and he would spend all his life holding it against me. It made me unbearably sad. ‘I’m sorry my love’, I whispered to him. ‘I’m sorry I will fail you. But I love you so much. Please forgive me.’ he continued sleeping, oblivious to my drama and content in his innocence.
There’s stuff I have yet to or barely forgiven my own mother for. I’ve judged her handling of the delicate situation of close-aged children and because I have hurt when a judgment call she made didn’t turn out as she had hoped, expected or interpreted, I have been very harsh with her in my heart sometimes.
I always planned to space my children 2-3 years apart. I was going to do everything my mother did wrong right. My children were going to have a better experience of growing up together than I did. I realize now that when I said I wanted my children to have an even better childhood than I did, what I really had set my heart on being was a better mother than my own. Of course my spacing plan meant I would never be in her situation so the motherhood decisions I would have to make would be different. Convenient, I could play basketball and still compete with her for the FIFA World Cup.
Now I have 2 sons. And they are 11 months apart. I’m in an even tighter spot than my mother was. I too now have to juggle children who are so close in age their emotional and physical demands are practically the same. At their ages, each one’s needs are consuming. I am going to have to meet and manage the two and make judgment calls in situations I’m sure will be identical to some of those my mother faced, which caused me pain and for which I have resented her.
I didn’t spend my childhood and early youth spouting publicly about these grievances so there is little to call me out on, which is fortunate. If only my memory were fuzzy! But it is not. I remember clearly the conversations between me and my heart and how contemptuously I’ve dismissed instances she handled poorly and I’m struck with dread, almost fear that I will face those same situations and that I, like her, will fail. Sobering, humbling, reforming thought.
I pray about it a lot. I don’t want them to wait 25 years to become friends with their brother, like I did. But now I’m here at the starting line of the same race, the heart of my prayer is not to be a better mother than mine was. It is not even that I do right by them. No. what I pray most is that they will forgive me for what I will do wrong.
Mother was right. Though it is undoubtedly the most beautiful experience on earth, there is no denying that everything about motherhood is painful.