I am a bad mother. I don’t do all the things that good mothers do.
Wolfy does not attend mommy-son music classes or spontaneously throw down yoga positions. Most days I don’t even have plans for the two of us beyond eating breakfast. Instead, as I walk through the grocery store, troll around on the internet, and drag Wolfy to play dates, I subconsciously measure myself against all the good mothers out in the world. I come up very short against the truly dedicated parents. You know, the ones who post on social media about all the amazing crafts they create with their children, the ones who take their children to play outside everyday in the snow.
After the last big storm, it was too cold to play outside. I tried to bring Wolfy out to play, but he started crying because the wind was blowing too hard and driving the fresh snow into his eyes. I happily brought him inside and… I don’t even remember what we did next. But I do remember that the very same afternoon, one amazing local mama posted a picture. It was a great photo of her daughter playing in the kitchen with a kiddie pool full of fresh snow. Because it was too cold to play outside, this mama had the brilliant idea of bringing the snow into her house. For several minutes, I stared at this sweet, happy toddler scooping the fluffy, white pureness with her beach toys.
I felt like such a failure. Wolfy really missed out when he got me for a mother.
Why didn’t I think of that? Why doesn’t Wolfy even own a set of beach toys? I’m not being facetious. I am seriously jealous of this woman’s mothering skills. Her idea is something I plan to steal as soon as I dig Wolfy’s kiddie pool out of wherever it is. Maybe it’s in the garage? Who knows? Something must be seriously wrong with me.
Feeling like a terrible mother has plagued me since a few minutes after Wolfy was born. The midwife said, “The placenta comes out and the guilt slides in.” She said that in response to my apologizing to Wolfy about something. He was only a few minutes old and already like I was a huge loser at this mothering thing. I’ll never forget how the first few days of Wolfy’s life I felt so inadequate because I didn’t already know how to feed him, diaper him, and swaddle him. I remember thinking, ‘I’m so sorry you have to go through this with me,’ as he screamed while I fumbled around trying to fold and stuff his cloth diaper.
This winter has brought out the worst of this feeling for me. When the season first started, I dutifully went outside with Wolfy and dragged him around in the sled. I bundled him up and let him use his little snow shovel. Then winter just kept piling on more and more snow and cold. Every day that was warm enough to go outside, it was raining. I swear that this is true. Along with the cold, the guilt settled in.
For some reason, I started to fixate on the fact that Wolfy had not built a snow man. He loved looking at pictures of snowmen in books, but he hadn’t made one with real snow. I felt so terrible. A good mommy would have made sure her little boy knew what it was to make a snow man with his own cold, wet, mittened hands.
So finally, we made a snowman. And Wolfy didn’t care about it at all. He didn’t want to help make it. He wanted to shovel snow with his little snow shovel. He wanted to go to the mailbox. He wanted to throw snowballs at the dog. It was me that was worried about the snowman. About getting it right. It was me that was worried about finally nailing this whole motherhood thing.
Sometimes I think, maybe I should just give up. But who am I kidding? I’m obviously I am way too neurotic to ever stop obsessing about everything for even a single second. But maybe all of these articles like the one I read recently about how to make your kid an even more awesome Easter basket are over-the-top and counter-productive. Maybe they are creating an unrealistic ideal of motherhood. In fact, when I think back on our day today, Wolfy had the most fun pushing his cheap plastic snow shovel around on our dirt road. And then tonight we played with three marbles and he pretended to be an excavator scooping them into my hand while I pretended to be the dump truck. We played that game for a half hour.
If I think about what Wolfy would really like, it would be access to simple toys and materials and a willing playmate. My son doesn’t have a bucket list of childhood experiences. That’s me. That’s the childhood that I want.