Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts on motherhood

Last night I laid awake after midnight thinking about this child in my womb. I'm just intensely curious to know who this is. I know there are no guarantees in life and that often, things don't go as planned, but, barring tragedy or a glorious, awful End of the World sometime in the next fifty or sixty years, there is a good chance that this child will survive me. I will watch his birth, he will watch my death. If God wills it, modern medicine continues to advance, no plagues befall us, and my ancestors' long lives are any clue, I may well live to my late eighties and the family I have now will likely be replaced...by the family that we are creating. The past and the future are hinging on the now. It's a bittersweet realization.

But back to this child...What is he going to be like? Will he be musical? Or tone deaf? Bookish? Athletic? Eccentric? Gregarious or shy? A bully or a target? Academically brilliant or struggling with learning disabilities? A businessman? A garbage man? An artist? What if I have nothing in common with him? What if he likes hockey? What unconscious expectations do I have of him which may be challenged? I suddenly had this frightening, random vision of my son - obsessed with quilting. Nothing against men who quilt but it's kind of ... unusual. I mean, what if he develops some sort of hobby that is socially unacceptable or in some way atypical- like quilting - and this is his passion, his dream...Will I encourage him to follow his strange dreams? Or what if he's really into something that he's BAD at? What if he wants to sing and even with singing lessons, he STINKS? Am I going to be the enabling, head-in-the-sand mother who sweetly and blindly encourages her little deluded teenage or adult child, saying, " You can do anything you set your mind to do...!" Or will I be a dream-crusher? Well, my guess is- I'll be a dream crusher, because I TOTALLY do NOT believe that you can do ANYthing you set your mind to do. I think that's a great big modern, warm-fuzzy lie. I'm sorry, but it's the cold, hard truth: usually there's some sort of luck and talent involved - not just sweaty determination. That's why there are concession speeches. That's why there are rejection letters. That's why there are tepid rounds of applause. Or boos. Yes- you can always try again, but sometimes some things are just NOT meant to be and that's okay; no amount of 'setting your mind' on something will conquer a contrary reality. Sadly, certain clueless individuals are BORN to inhabit a dual world; they have delusions of grandeur and dwell in mediocrity. I say, sometimes mediocrity is okay. Ditch the delusions of grandeur and accept who you are!

That all being said, what if this child becomes President of the United States? What if he wins the Nobel Prize? What if he writes multiple best-sellers? Becomes a billionaire? Discovers the cure for cancer? Invents the next revolutionary technology? Not that I'd love him more if he's successful by society's standards. I'm sure I'd be just as happy with a Sanitation Engineer for a son as I would a popular politician. Maybe I'd be HAPPIER with a garbageman for a son! I just like thinking about What IF?!

But the whole eccentric-quilter line of thinking led me to remember a song I heard on NPR several years ago on Mother's Day. I loved it so much that Brad looked it up for me and bought it/downloaded it...Let me share the lyrics with you...It's called, " I'm Forty Years Old, And I'm Living In My Mom's Garage" by the Austin Lounge Lizards. Never having listened to another thing they've done, I can't really vouch for them, but I found this song absolutely hilarious. To those of you who know what I mean, this song, to me, is what "Junkfood Junkie" and "The Yodeling Song" are to my father - a jewel that I must share.

40 Years Old and I'm Living In My Mom's Garage

She used to be the one who held me closest to her heart
We were like one person, but we've drifted far apart
Now when I need her most, she will not support me
And if I won't go quietly, she'll have to report me
She wants me to act like some middle-aged man
I used to think she knew me, but she can't understand
That it's hard to make a living doing watercolor and collage
That's why I'm forty years old and I'm living in my Mom's garage

My girlfriend's all but finished with her graduate degree
She always knows the questions when we're watching "Jeopardy"
There's a coffeehouse near campus where her work is on display
The critics from the weekly paper go there everyday
She's a true creative, which they cannot abide
So they compensate by being condescending and snide
They say her work's a mangled mess of macrame and mucilage
But they're all forty years old and they're living in their Mom's garage

Forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's ga
Forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's ga
Forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's garage

My hobbies are Godzilla movies, mountain biking, and triage
I've got to relax 'cause I get so stressed from this incessant negative barrage

Mom wakes me up, she needs the car, for what I can't say
She dresses up and goes out early almost every day
I try to explain that an artist needs his rest
At least 12 hours, so I can be my best
Now I'm outside sleeping under the hedge
But someday they'll recognize me as the genius with an edge
I'll meet with the New York elite, I'll be the Duke of Decoupage
With a carhole full of limos for my sycophantic entourage
Hey, at least I'm chasing something, even if it's only a mirage

But now I'm forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's ga
Forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's ga (sixty!)
Forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's garage

Now I'm forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's ga (seventy!)
Forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's ga (dead!)
Forty years old and I'm livin' in my Mom's garage

Now wasn't that utterly enjoyable? I admire any song writer who can successfully incorporate the words 'sycophantic entourage' into a song. That is just plain impressive.

But back to my child...the unknowns still tantalize and dazzle me.

Sorry- this post is too long. It was the lyrics' fault.


Lori said...

Makes me think of that country song, by Rascal Flatts, I think, about being "so much cooler online..."

redsoxwinthisyear said...

"No amount of 'setting your mind' on something will conquer a contrary reality?" What is this "contrary reality"? Fate of some sort? Claire, you are sounding a bit like the fatalistic Greeks here. What's up with that? :-)

I do agree that setting your mind on something and hard work are not the only determinants in accomplishing something, so the warm and fuzzy mantra out there is indeed silly. Perhaps God's plan/blessing plays a bit of a role as well (call it luck if you want).

That said, I doubt many of the greatest accomplishments among the world's inventors, scientists, doctors, etc. came before they pushed themselves beyond the point that, naturally speaking, they should have given up. So if they had lived like fatalists and not tried really hard, or given up early on (because they accepted a "contrary reality"), history would have been different. A guy like Abe Lincoln comes to mind to illustrate this. He didn't have much going for him early on in his political career. Most objective observers would have agreed. How would history have been different if he had not persevered in his political career?

Obviously there is a balance to this. My parents would have been foolish to support any dreams I had at age 18 of becoming a ballet dancer (this is hypothetical!), for example. If this is your contrary reality, I agree it must be accepted. But if there is even a slight possibility--it does not need to be probable--that something could happen, and someone has a dream of accomplishing it, I say go for it until it is very clear that it isn't to be or shouldn't be.

On another note, though you intended winning a Nobel prize to be in the category of a great accomplishment, is it anymore? Given that a former presidential candidate just won the peace prize for some unknown contribution to world peace?

Claire said...

Good points, Redsoxwin...I was partly thinking about all those people who try out for American Idol that are SO BAD and they are completely blind to the fact...and they say, "I'll be back next year! I'll show them!" and I just want to shake them by the shoulders and say, "You're terrible! You will always stink! Give up!" I know- I'm mean. Simon Cowell and I are birds of a feather.

I like the Abe Lincoln parallel...

Hmmm...In fact, I like the name Abraham and considered it for a while for our son...but I guess it has fallen out of favor with us of late - or we have come to the conclusion that it's a little too "out there"...

Yes- I suppose the Nobel prize - whether it be for peace or literature or science or what-have-you - has been somewhat denigrated of late...

Soj said...

Claire! I must scowl a bit at the quilter comment. In the quilter world, there is a saying, "men make the best quilters." There is nothing unmanly about quilting. (Knitting, I'll concede.) Quilting takes lots of engineering, lots of precision, lots of cutting, lots of figuring out which blocks go where, and lots of working with your hands...all things men like to do! And...if they get to make the quilt on a MACHINE, all the better!

Let your son quilt if he wants...shoot. I'll teach him!


Claire said...

I had no idea that quilting was so manly! But you make it sound very brainy and impressive. Food for thought...Mmmm...food...can't get away from thoughts of foooood...

redsoxwinthisyear said...

Ha, ha, I laughed at remembering the first weeks of American Idol! I'm totally with you on that. Some of those people REALLY need to be enlightened as to their utter hopelessness as performers!