Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Not so all alone

Since the bloggersphere or ethosphere or bloggerverse (or whatever you call this place once removed from actual, physical human contact) is filled with folks like me -- strangers who, for whatever reason, are more than willing to bare our souls and unleash upon the world our innermost secrets, fears and angst to be parsed and dissected by other strangers -- sometimes we forget that in all this seeking of solidarity we are still alone.

One of my favorite strangers, the lovely and talented Rebecca of Girl’s Gone Child, has extended a double-dog dare: She wonders why we are all so ready to expose the soft underbelly of our parental vulnerabilities but can’t voice with confidence that other thing we all secretly feel: That we are GOOD parents?

Personally, I think it's because we all learn that being self effacing is much more acceptable in a vast society as ours than being a braggart. It's a cultural currency, if you will, that ensures we will thrive.

Not that the world doesn't need diversity to thrive. If you were to take this to a cartoon level, just imagine how quickly your love and admiration for Bob Newhart would dissipate if he suddenly started combing his hair to the right and yelling "You're Fired" from atop Trump tower? And still, both men are successful.

But for women, the danger of not being endearing seems even more pronounced. We love the slender-legged woman who looks down and blushes when you give her a compliment. We hate the mouthy broad who calls it likes she sees it. We ostracise the latter. And if you are the one who stays even keeled ... you disappear.

Mostly I think in the grand scheme of things, socially speaking anyway, it's just not OK to think you are OK.

I've told this story about a handful of times: I think I fell in love with my husband's sister before I fell in love with him.

It was 1995, or there about, and she had just come to live with him after graduating from college. We were sitting around his "loft" watching a movie on the VCR. She was staying with him out of convenience so she could join a professional dance outfit in the area, and had voiced some concerns about the new situation. During the film Jed was asking her how she felt. Was she nervous? He asked her if she was worried that her dancing wouldn’t be up to par?

"No. ... It's not that," she said. "My dancing is fine."

I don’t remember anything after that moment.

I don't remember what it was that WAS bothering her because for the first time in my life I was hearing a woman take ownership of her skills without bravado and without self-effacement.

My. Dancing. Is. Fine.

I wanted to hug her. I wanted to hug her mother. I wanted to hug anyone who ever came in contact with this amazing woman of confidence.

And then I felt stupid. Why after all these years had I not heard women extol their own virtues? Why were we all so timid and accepting of criticism? Why do we loathe ourselves and each other?

As someone who is naturally anxious, I am far more apt to think I do everything wrong. But I want to be clear that feeling unsure is not the same as feeling inept. I don't regret many of my choices, even the bad ones. I realize that I am human, and as such I am not now, nor will I ever be, perfect. And unlike our Nation's current fearless leader (insert shameless political dig here), I know I can make better choices once I realize I've made mistakes. The mommy war can end with me. But owning the blunders is one thing, owning the blessings is quite another.

So in that respect, I know I am a good mother. I feel a kind of confidence – especially in my early days of motherhood – I had not known previously. 'I COULD do this,' I told myself. I was patient. I was resourceful. I was as fearless as I’d ever been. I could admit to NOT knowing and still feel my way to a place of understanding.

What I do know is that I love her with every fiber of my being and I would do anything I could to ensure that she grows up to know how strong and fearless women can be. I know I will love him with the same ferociousness. I know I'm going to make lots of mistakes, but I also know where I'm headed, and that's a start.


wordgirl said...

My dancing is NOT fine, but I'm okay with it. There are other things I do well and I'm not afraid to tell you what they are.

Kelly said...

Generally, I feel like I am a good mother. But there are these moments when I can feel myself failing, know I'm failing at that second, and somehow can't seem to turn back. It's those moments when I doubt myself and what I'm doing.

But then I always come back around. (Compliments on how awesome my kids are help as well...) :)

Your sister-in-law sounds like a great woman to have on your team.