Allow me to introduce myself: I am the smart Concordian Sisters’ dumb friend. And now it’s time for (cue echo) Something Sophomoric -ic -ic -ic. With me. Let’s begin:
One thing I have learned more or less from my children is the value of pretending. You know--the fun, fairyland-type pretending that makes us old folk feel young and blithe and makes the wee ones feel warm and fuzzy in the universe?
Yeah . . . doesn't that sound nice? I think I’ll try it sometime.
No, the type of pretending to which I refer is less . . . fun.
Consider the following from Anna Karenina:
". . . an incident had occurred which had utterly shattered the happiness she had been feeling that day, and her pride in her children. Grisha and Tanya [the children] had been fighting over a ball. Darya Aleksandrovna [the mother], hearing a scream in the nursery, ran in and saw a terrible sight. Tanya was pulling Grisha's hair, while he, with a face hideous with rage, was beating her with his fists wherever he could get at her. Something snapped in Darya Aleksandrovna's heart when she saw this. It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life; she felt that these children of hers, that she was so proud of, were not merely most ordinary, but positively bad, ill-bred children, with coarse, brutal propensities--wicked children."
Isn't that the way it always goes? Well, maybe not for you, but nearly always for me. For instance:
In our house, days usually begin with plenty of warmth and kisses. I love to see my children at the opening of a new day, their skin fresh from sleep and their hair in little tufts. I like to hear them talk ever so seriously about their dreams. I really like their little footie pajama-ed snuggliness and that funny stumbliness that hits once gravity takes effect.
But it doesn’t last, neither their cuteness nor my ability to enjoy them. They don’t spend the early morning hours pummeling one another like those Aleksandrovnawackanawabo children (they save that for just-before-supper-time). But they are wicked in other ways, devious ways, deeply ingrained ways, and the wickedness has a way of flashing out too suddenly, well before we’re much done with those could-be charming “good mornings.”
In turn, I melt down into my selfish, whiny, lazy, slimy, and crazier-than-ever-before self. They had to learn their wickedness from someone, right? And when I forget myself (or rather, remember too well) and stop pretending to be good, loving, wise, fun, compassionate, and motherly, all bleep breaks loose.
See, we moms are privy to people at their worst almost all the time every day. Those who go to offices regularly have the lovely and enviable cushion of social mores to keep people’s wickedness at a relatively low din. Sure, the co-workers may be monsters, but they have to keep it down or they lose their jobs. And no one ever screams that high-pitched, blood-red scream while throwing punches just because the copier is out of toner. (Right?)
Here at home, not so much. These people let it all hang out. They hold no punches. They fear not the reaper. They tell it like their pea-sized little child brains see it. And we moms, sitting innocently or not, doing our work (or not) have to contend with their outbursts all. the. time. What is more, we can’t (shouldn’t) go bezerk and start telling it like our, let’s say, lima bean-sized brains see it; that is not good people-making. It’s our job to see that the outbursts wane, if not stop altogether. To be (Erch! Eck! Gak!) role models. Benevolent queens. Gentle hands, gentle voices, gentle eyes, gentle words.
Thus, I work hard at pretending, at putting on my happy face and repeating: 1. “These children are NOT anarchist, armed, rebel baboons;” and 2. “I am a good mother.” While I am pretending I use a script (and sometimes costume and props) which finds its origin, expectedly, in Proverbs 31.
More on that some other time.