I’m a bad mom, and here’s some anecdotal proof in case you’re new here: since moving into this house, I smoke. Every day. And I allow the kids around when I do so if they want to be. Sure, I tell them to stand back and I tell them why; I fully disclose that smoking is bad for their little lungs, that it’s a terrible habit. But this morning Nels sniffed the air and said, “I love that smell!” and I accepted this with an only slight air of I-suck finality that settles on most parents at some point or another. I’m smoking a vanilla Djarum black clove – a sort of silly-fancy little lung-snack to be sure, but one that does have a rather nice fragrance – as far as cigarettes go.
If I was a “good mom” I wouldn’t smoke at all, of course (and I wouldn’t occasionally swear, or ignore them when they’re talking to me, or start a project then interrupt myself, or tell them I’d be off the computer in “just a minute” and then it’s more like five minutes, or I wouldn’t keep them out of school, or let them order whatever they want in restaurants, or whatever the hell thing you’re all happy to read about and judge my ass for: Affording my blog readers a sense of superiority, just another service I offer). As a nominally “good mom” even if I did smoke, I’d do it closeted where they couldn’t see. Certainly I wouldn’t sit here french-inhaling and chatting with them while emitting the breath of Lucifer past their winsome, innocent little blonde heads.
The truth is, I’m even glad for their company out here on the porch, because sitting and [smoking and] talking with them is one of my favorite things to do during our day. I am not really a “sit and relax” type of person – I can sit sometimes, sure, but I’m usually thinking about all sorts of stuff: grocery lists, internet drama (and not even my own!), my current sewing difficulty (I seem to be always having these), the latest bit of proof I’m parenting correctly or proof I’m not – that kind of thing. But sitting out here on the front porch (one of my favorite places in the house) I love listening to them and talking with them and everything about them. I love that we teach one another about the world. I love that Nels is lying across from me on the windowseat in his little undershirt and boxers and he’s blowing soap bubbles and his hair is falling across the cushion like so much golden silk and we have the whole day for one another.
Today I’m trying to offering a rare unrequested lecture on a subject: what “retaliation” means. When Sophie joins us a bit later, she adds to the conversation as well. Nels is so surprised at having an open-ended discussion of what you could do when someone hurts or angers you that he can’t come up with the sort of typically vicious solutions I might credit him for. The discussion of retaliation / revenge is inspired in part because I’m thinking of the latest nasty fight I’ve read about on the Internetz and part because Nels has a problem hitting and since bribery and scolding and punishment hasn’t worked much I’d like him to begin to grasp just why he does it (often out of anger toward some sneaky, low-down – but often not physically violent – thing his sister has done).
And maybe because I understand retaliation, myself, and it’s closer to my heart that others might realize. Just these past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about how careful and relatively well-trained I am in not yelling or cursing in anger during adult conversations; I’ve thought in the past I was a basically decent, respectful person who might get angry but wouldn’t let anger get the best of me. Wrong, really. In fact I like so many people can keep a civil tongue in my head while harboring deep, resentful anger in my heart; the kind of venomous thoughts that find me wishing Ill upon my enemies to an extent they might never imagine. It’s funny, because although I pride myself on doing the Right Thing so very often – even when I’ve been Wronged – when it comes down to it the little black, spoiled bruise on my heart means I’m just not any better of a person than anyone else.
But my foursome offers a peace from the outside world, and often, yes, from my inner demons. The rest of our afternoon spills out before us and by day’s end I’ve been a gentle Mama and a content person and the day has gone beautifully; the children took themselves out into the world (library, drugstore) and filled my house with happiness. I am not a Good Mom, but the kids and I still have such open-ended trust towards one another; and despite the hard words and difficult times Ralph and I have had we retain a deep connection, comradery and love that is also a respite in itself – every night, every day, rinse and repeat. As I type tonight the kids are sharing a noisy, splashy shower with my husband and our (recently-spayed) kitten has just successfully caught, then noisily devoured, a crane-fly plaguing the floor at my feet. Family Life is very good to me, even when it’s mundane. Tonight we spent an hour and a half out at a playground; first, watching Sophie’s soccer practice and then afterwards allowing the kids some play time on the playground (something parents never seem to want to do when school-year evenings can get so busy) and walking about the skate park. There is something together the four of us have that I could never have imagined before. It isn’t any better than what anyone else has, probably; it just runs Deep for me, deeper than anything I’ve ever known.