Friday, December 21, 2012

The Mother Of All Responsibilities

As a teenage mother one of the first realities I learned about motherhood is that I would be praised or blamed for most everything that happened to my son. I had stepped into motherhood like a foot into shit, in the opinion of many: unconsciously, messily and surely to be a disaster. My choices in extended breastfeeding, cosleeping, music, nutrition, scheduling, schooling, discipline- all roundly praised when he was doing well, or looked at with concern and disapproval when he was not. The same child that I might have ruined with my decision making when he was fifteen and hell on wheels, I can now get credit for while he is eighteen and kind, hard working and wonderful to be around. 

Nothing can encroach on the responsibility and judgement that I carry for myself, the questions I ask regularly to keep myself on my toes, the decisions I've prayed, read and cried about and still doubted, the hundreds of books I've read on children, adolescents, teens, healing my own childhood wounds to be a better mother, the therapy, the nights I've lain in bed staring at the smooth, shadowy white walls and wondering if I had been a good enough mother. Most mothers are like this, to some degree. We all carry what Eckhart Tolle calls the 'pain body', the collective suffering and pain of humanity, but here I'm using as the collective suffering and pain of motherhood: the insecurity of knowing that mother is Portnoy's reason for endless masturbating with the bathroom door locked, mother is the reason for Norman's terrifying Psycho, mother is the reason for Tony Soprano's sociopathic crimes and numb, self facing heart, mother is the first word in front of fucker, one of the most intense curse words we call each other. Mother is Freud and the fountainhead, where we lay all the blame, in the end.

For Nancy Lanza even being shot in the face repeatedly cannot atone for her sins, as we see them: she is responsible, in part, for this. 26 victims, not 27. Nancy Lanza, who we know not at all but can take a small amount of facts and line them up and decide that she could have prevented this. "She shouldn't have let a mentally ill kid around guns"- even though we've seen headline after headline that autism is not a mental illness, does not make children inclined to be violent, and is the only diagnosis that we know of for her son. I haven't read anyone questioning the father. After divorcing, it is the mother who is responsible, according to our national opinion. What we don't know about Mrs. Lanza or her son or her actions around her son is a list much longer than what we do know. What we don't know is how to grieve for a mother of an atypical son who had guns in her home and did not predict that there was a chance her son would take a gun and shoot people. 

I would never own a gun. I have very strong opinions on the data about gun ownership: where it ends up, who it hurts, the inherent risks. I have four children, and my heart broke and bled for Sandy Hook. I am also a mother. A mother who has spent her life as a mother with the understanding that in the eyes of society, each of my children is ultimately my responsibility, no matter their age, problems, paths, that it is my fault if they fail, my pride if they soar. I see the charmed look when my two year old is polite and says thank you and excuse me, and the irritated scowls when she screams or howls or 'acts spoiled' and I know that is only a microcosm of the judgements being placed on mothers of children of all ages.

What does 'each life is valuable' and 'give peace a chance' and 'we are brothers and sisters' and 'we are here to love one another' and 'peace comes from understanding' and 'Jesus teaches to love one another...' and ' A brotherhood of man / imagine all the people / sharing all the world ' mean to us? After Sandy Hook, the best way to honor the children and adults killed is to be the opposite force of what killed them. Instead of exclusive caring, we can offer inclusive humanity. I mourn for Nancy Lanza, in her mistakes, imperfections and failures as a mother, still a human being, still worthy of love, still murdered and gone. May they all rest in peace, and the rest of us, live for it.

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