So I failed utterly in my efforts to transform Emilia into a crime-fighting strawberry with royal lineage, in part because I just couldn't figure it out (some of you had very good suggestions involving...
I left my house for the last time yesterday. I slipped away, under the cover of dark – which is to say, at an unreasonably early hour, to catch an unreasonably early flight – and left for good. Kyle and the kids are still there, and will be for another two weeks as things get packed and readied for the move, but me, I’m gone. It feels very, very strange, to have finally just left that life behind. Not in a bad way, even though I might have teared up a little as the car pulled away from the house. More in a, ‘wow, this is disconcerting, in an exciting and also kind of terrifying’ way.
I put the kids to bed the night before I left. I kissed them and I cuddled them and I promised them that the two weeks until we’d all be together in New York would pass quickly. “But will they, Mommy?’ Emilia asked. ‘Will they really? Because you keep saying that it’s going to be really really soon but it feels like a really long time.”
“Parenting is the most selfless institution in the world.” The words jumped out at me from the screen. Most selfless? In the world? I sipped my coffee and considered the ethical calculation that would rank me as more selfless than, say, Mother Teresa.
Maybe, I thought. I can see that. Mother Teresa, after all, never went four years without sleep, nor, I’m pretty sure, did she ever suffer mastitis and have to stuff cabbage leaves down her shirt just keep another human being properly fed.
I read on.
“And it’s the parents’ job to put their children’s interests before their own. Forever.” Ah. Wow. I put my coffee down and adjusted my self-regard. Always? Forever? Really? Maybe I’m not more selfless than Mother Teresa. Maybe I’m – wait for it – actually selfish. Because I don’t think that I should always and forever put my children’s interests before my own, always and forever, no exceptions. Which probably means that my form of parenthood is not the most selfless institution in the world. And that’s fine, really, because I don’t – having thought about it over all of four cups of coffee now – think that it should be.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina. More than anything, I wanted to be a ballerina. And so I asked to take ballet classes and I donned pink tights and black leotards and pranced my way through class after class after class. I practiced plies at home, and spent hours standing in front of the mirror, holding my arms aloft, trying to achieve the perfect arc. I read books, and listened to Tchaikovsky, and imagined that I was Margot Fonteyn or Suzanne Farrell or Karen Kain. For years I did this, dreaming of the day that I’d be able to put on toe shoes and do pirouettes and leap across a stage.
That day never came. By the time I was 12 or 13 my interests in musical theater (ask me some day about the time that I directed and starred in my own production of Annie) and writing had overtaken my interest in ballet and I hung up my dance slippers. I forgot, for the most part, about my early dream to be a ballerina until I decided to take classes again in university, at which point I discovered that I sucked at ballet. Badly. I mentioned this to my mother. She raised an eyebrow at me.
Okay, so I threw it out there and I said that the parenting stuff that I tend to feel most guilt around is the stuff that I (almost) never write about here. And then I asked whether that was reasonable, seeing as I advertise myself as a mother who knows no shame, and who believes firmly in the emancipatory power of speaking the truth – good and bad – about our experiences. And you all, quite reasonably, said that that was indeed reasonable, and what’s my problem?
I don’t know. It is, to abuse the simile, something like an itch that I can’t scratch, and that maybe I shouldn’t scratch, but that nonetheless is calling to be scratched and I can’t help but wonder whether it wouldn’t be better if I did scratch it, if only for the second or two of the scratching which, you know, always feels good.
Anyway. Here’s my confession, in video form. Which is to say, here’s a video that shows the sort of thing that I’m not proud of and that I tend to not write about, because, seriously: