Sunday, March 8, 2009

Snakes, Ducks and How I Roll

"She has a strong maternal instinct."
Used to describe thoughtful, warm, caring women who are always going out of their way to tend to people, especially children. Women described this way always seem to be baking something, tidying up and smiling while tending to their offspring's every need, no matter how unpleasant. You see this phrase next to airbrushed photos of mama ducks with their ducklings and silk-skinned, topless mothers nursing their new babies.


"She has no maternal instincts."
Used to describe the woman who locked her child in the car while she went to gamble away the rent money in a smoke-filled casino. Or worse. This phrase is illustrated with photos of snakes and mug shots of women who have done regrettable, horrible things to their children.


Is there a middle ground for maternal instincts? Because while I literally would stand in front of a speeding freight train to protect my children, I don't exactly love tending to their every whim, especially when some of those whims come at 3am, accompanied by feces.

I do not smile through my toddler's tantrums. I have been known to tell her to "can it" on more than one occasion.

I do not relish the thought of changing the baby's diaper. While it is an opportunity to see her perfectly adorable bum, it is also occasion to see her face turn purple with rage because this baby HATES diaper changes.

I do not love it when strange children come up to me on the playground and try to engage me in a discussion about their newest plastic gee-gaw. It makes me uncomfortable and I often end up asking them, "Is your Mommy here? Why don't you go find her."


I do love painting pictures with the Bug and giggling with her at nap time. I am happy to hold her when she is frightened, upset, sick or just needs a quiet cuddle. I know when she needs space and when she needs to hold my hand.

I chase Dos around the house on my hands and knees because, even though it shreds my kneecaps, it makes her laugh and that's priceless. And I change her diaper, even though she tries to claw my face off when I do.

I race to catch anonymous toddlers who wander away from inattentive parents and nannies at the park. They aren't my kids, but they are someone's and need to be kept safe from harm.

I'm not a snake. I'm not quite a mama duck, either. I'm just a mom, trying to figure all this out as I go along and finding that maternal instincts aren't always instinctive.


Eli said...

It's either a wildly amazing coincidence, or it's entirely not, but my mother has also used the "speeding freight train" analogy.

This always confused me, because how exactly would that save me from the train? Does a child really demand a hypothetical, pointless self-sacrifice from his or her mother?

What if the sacrifice is simply being able to provide, care, and love a child, without asking anything in return. Maybe the sacrifice is being able to let go, when the child has grown up.

ps. I don't see mama ducks leaping in front of speeding freight trains.

Illegal Tree said...

I once saw a woman drop ashes on her baby while she smoked and changed a diaper.
I hate admit it but I used to play hide and go seek with the kids so I could get a few minutes of peace.