Then the post went viral. As of today (10/09/2010), it has been seen by more than 250,000 readers, and continues to spread through the U.S., Canada, Asia, South America, the Middle East, Australia, Europe, and Africa. I promise you, if I had known, I would have cleaned it up a bit. I reread it now and cringe at a few of the more awkward sentences. I might have clarified a couple of points in more detail. But who knew?
And how do you follow that?
With something completely different.
Because I am really not Ms. Mommy Wisdom, and truthfully a little uncomfortable in the role. My children (2 boys, 1 girl, & one son's gf) have told me that they think I'm a great mom. That makes me happy, and I believe it is true in the way that all loving moms are great moms. But I need to keep it real here. I'm as flawed as anyone, and if I had to choose a mommy hero it wouldn't be the lady with her act together and 5 great kids, it would be someone more like Anne Lamott, former alcoholic, single mom, and refreshingly honest writer. Lamott is not a cupcake-making kind of mom, and is unapologetic about it. Because I have sometimes felt cornered into metaphorical cupcake-making- I feel like she's my Norma Rae. We less-than-perfect Moms need someone to hold up the UNION sign, only it let it say HUMAN instead.
I want to tell you about a couple of her essays, which I recount here from memory because I'm too lazy to trudge upstairs and find the books. In one essay Lamott recounts the Christian story of Mary and Joseph, their extended family and fellow villagers making the long trek back home from Jerusalem when Jesus is about 12 years old. They'd been traveling 3 days when they realize Jesus is missing. In the large traveling crowd Mary and Joseph assumed he'd been hanging out with his cousins and the other young people. So they are worried and not too happy to have to trek back 3 days to find him. And when they do, he's gets smart mouthy with them the way boys that age can. And Mary? First, relief. Then, in Lamotts wonderful vision, she starts fingering some rocks in her pocket...
In another essay Lamott relays a personal story about a time when she and her young son are traveling, and her car stalls and blocks an intersection. As she tried to start it up again she became flustered by all the horn honking and angry words of nearby drivers. So she asked her son to take a minute and pray with her. But it's noisy, so trying to be helpful, he rolled down his window and yelled to the honking drivers "Would you shut the fuck up? We're trying to pray here!"
If Anne Lamott is my mommy-hero, it is because she is heart-breakingly real, and has the courage to be brutally honest about her experience of life and of parenthood. Most of us just cannot go all the way there. Yet here is someone who has met her shadow, befriended it, brought it into light, and survived. Her gift to the rest of us is to say- look, what you are thinking, what you are feeling,- it's normal, it's human. You can love your child to pieces- you could be Mary, and still have moments you want to throw rocks at him, or worse.
Her memoir of the first year of her son's life, "Operating Instructions", should be required reading for all pregnant women and their partners. Let us all step off the pedestal, please.
Unlike Lamott, I'm not ready to go all out honest. It takes too much courage and energy, and I'm just not there yet. But I can confess one small thing. I lied about the cookies. Often.
I've included a musical video for those of you who'd like to listen to the sound I'll always associate with a change of form......