Mother’s Day is this coming weekend, which means that I will, this week, be thinking of something to do for my mom, and for my sister, and for other mothers that I love, and that I’ll be telling my husband to get me flowers instead of chocolates and maybe a reservation for a nice night out somewhere, and that I’ll be clearing a space on my desk for the inevitable happy onslaught of bespoke Mother’s Day cards from my children. And it means, too – or would mean, any other year – that I’ll publish a post or two about the awesomeness of mothers in general and the awesomeness of mothers in our virtual community in particular and lo, the warm fuzzies will be brought.
I’m not going to do that last thing this year. Not because I’m any less convinced of the awesomeness of motherhood and the awesomeness of our mothering community – if anything, I’m more convinced – but because this year, I want to deploy my mother-celebrating energies in a different direction.
We spent a lot of time, last week, talking about science. Which is maybe not what you would expect children to talk about during a week at Disney World, but there it is. Much of the initial discussion was provoked, of course, by Emilia’s very interesting hypothesis concerning the function and character of wishes in the Disney universe – a hypothesis that Tanner appreciated deeply, but that he felt raised further questions about wishes and about the nature of all things existing within that universe. Would all wishes come true at Disney World? A quick test – a declared wish to have ice cream for all meals – quickly confirmed that hypothesis false. And if that hypothesis was false, what did that mean for other Disney hypotheses?
Emilia is on a science kick right now. ‘What kind of hypothesis, sweetie?’
‘It’s about Disney World.’
‘Okay. Do you want to tell me what it is?’
‘My hypothesis is that Disney World is where dreams come true.’
‘That’s a very interesting hypothesis.’
‘I think it’s a true hypothesis because Tanner wished that we could go to Disney World together and have a family holiday there, and we’re going, and that was his wish.’
‘That is excellent science, sweetie.’
‘But we haven’t actually tested the hypothesis, Mommy, because we aren’t there yet.’ You will have to imagine her exasperated tone here. Clearly, I don’t understand science.
The other week, my mom wrote about something that I’d been unable to write about: my sister’s struggle to cope as the single mom of a dying and disabled child, and the dark, difficult space of that struggle, and the breakdown that came when that space became too difficult to occupy. I’d been unable to write about it – even though my sister had given her full blessing for the telling of the story – because it was stuff that just seemed too hard to articulate adequately; it was the stuff, I said the other week, ‘about guilt and shame and anger and mental and emotional breakdowns and how when you have a suffering child the suffering extends beyond what you can imagine and how that’s hard to talk about because shouldn’t you contain your suffering on your child’s behalf?’ The hard stuff. The stuff that raises questions – and few answers – about the tension between selfishness and selfishness in parenting and where the line is between doing the very best for your child and acknowledging that that best comes, often, at costs that are sometimes hard to bear. The stuff that complicates the whole idea of the long-suffering mother of a dying and disabled child as a hero.
For all my talk of the world-changing power of sharing our stories, there are some stories that I have trouble sharing, because they’re too hard to write about, or because I worry about the impact of sharing them, or because they’re not my stories, and even if I have permission to share someone else’s story – like, say, Tanner’s – sharing someone else’s story is always an enterprise that pitches me into a state of anxiety. What if I tell it wrong? What if I don’t do it justice? What if it provokes the kind of ugly reaction that I’m comfortable receiving on my own behalf but which sends me into emotional turmoil when it involves others, and especially those whom I love?
Today, I’m flying to New Jersey, because New Jersey is awesome, but also because Johnson & Johnson is there, and I kind of work for them – as a social media ambassador slash advisor on all things related to moms in social media using social media for social good, which is one of those job descriptions that sounds like a caption on an Oatmeal comic, but there you go – and we’re doing a thing this weekend – we’re calling it a salon – strategizing and brainstorming with a small group of moms-in-social-media type persons about using social media for social good, etc. And I’m excited, not only because New Jersey is awesome and who doesn’t want to go to New Jersey in February, but because some of the causes that we’ll be discussing are near and dear to my heart and I love talking about them and thinking about how to help them and I would totally work to help them out for free. Don’t tell J&J that.