This Is Us
I Would’ve Been a Great Mother — and a Terrible One
Looking back on what might have been, and what never was
I would have made a great mom.
My heart aches for helpless creatures. Pass me a newborn. I will never put her down.
I know from experience that I can hold a screaming, flailing baby all night long and manage to hide my frazzled nerves. I can sing Wynken, Blynken, and Nod for hours, while walking back and forth across a room, patting a baby’s back.
I can hold a baby’s arms down while he screams and struggles in order to get a chest X-ray during a trip to the ER, and cry right along with him, apologizing over and over for making him endure all of that. And I can clear my schedule so he can fall asleep on my chest the moment we get home, where I can give him an extra squeeze every time his little body shudders with the intake of breath, calming down after all those hours of poking, prodding, and screaming.
I know how to write Mama Love Notes, just like the ones my mother used to leave me in my lunch box. “Good luck on your math test today! I love you so much!” “Remember to put on your boots if it rains today! I put an extra pair of socks in your backpack!” “I’ll see you at your volleyball game this afternoon. I believe in you!”
And speaking of lunches, I’m great at packing a lunchbox that would make anyone jealous. The kind filled with fruit and sandwiches cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
I would’ve stayed up late reading “one more chapter” of Harry Potter or my favorite E.L. Konigsberg novels. I’d have constructed elaborate forts for weekend camp-outs on the bedroom floor, and wouldn’t have insisted on cleaning it all up until Tuesday.
I would have tried so hard to make different choices than the ones my mom had made that hurt me. I would’ve been more patient. I wouldn’t have had such an explosive temper. I would have said “I’m sorry” more.
And maybe, just maybe, I would have encouraged my child to walk to the store on her own, or ride her bicycle to school, biting my lip so hard that it bled, to keep myself from calling out to her, just one more time, to please, please be careful, as if…