Writing yesterday’s post about my mom dredged up the sad stuff for me. Since writing it I haven’t been able to get far enough away from that image of the 7-year-old me putting that blanket over my mom and me on the floor because I couldn’t drag her by her feet to bed. I can’t get over the thought of me cuddling up to my mom-who-was-passed-out and falling asleep with her on the floor like that. No wonder I was terrified of molecules. Other children were scared of normal things – the monster in the closet, the ghoul under the bed. But I was afraid of molecules, which were everywhere, all the time. No wonder.
I never really gave that image too much thought before yesterday, but yesterday when looking at Ella I kept thinking about it. How awful that must have been for me, how scary. What did I think when I woke up in the morning on the floor? What did my mother think or say? Where the fuck was normal? Bedtime rituals, being tucked into the same place night after night with a story, a kiss, and a glass of water on the bedside table – these things are fundamental, for kids. For healthy psychological development they need consistency, somewhat predictable routines, emotional connection to a parent. The reality of that one image – of us under that blanket – hit me like a truck yesterday, as I watched Ella. I imagined how awful it would be for her to find me on the floor, unconscious. How panicked she would feel, trying to wake me up, no one else around. The impact of how sad it was for the little girl me didn’t hit me until this morning, after the fact.
It comes out of the blue, the emotional fallout – I had driven my kids to school (a 30 min. drive, exactly the same amount of time it took my mom to drive me to school), then I drove home listening to NPR, made myself a bowl of oatmeal, and sat down to eat it. Out of nowhere, I started crying hard. I had to stop eating my oatmeal and go with it. I wonder if anybody else ever does shit like this, sobs out of the blue, or is this just something people with broken childhoods do? It happens rarely, but when it does, I am reminded of how fragile and emotionally present children are. You can make a lot of mistakes as a parent and it won’t necessarily negatively affect your kids because they are human and they are adaptable. But you can’t make really big huge mistakes – like being alcoholic and not doing anything about it – without seriously damaging your kids for the rest of their lives. You just can’t.
You grow up but the childlike feelings are always inside you.
One thing that makes me feel better is the fact I can’t even imagine my kids, when they’re grown-up moms themselves, sobbing out of the blue over something horrible I did when they were children. I just haven’t done anything remotely horrible.
There just isn’t anything close to what I had happen in my childhood.
I just want them to feel: happy, loved, safe, and normal.
That is all.
And so far, they do.
What a big, super-human leap forward I’ve made in our family’s destiny to be able to know this about my children.
Me remembering to bring up that glass of water and put it on their bedside tables.
Me reading to them at bedtime.
That same, predictable cuddle-and-a-kiss.
Me not being passed out on the floor drunk.
These things matter. To me, they represent a normalcy that many moms might take for granted.
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