Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hypothetical bad mother story

Imagine you gleefully told your son that you were going to mention him on the radio the next morning. Imagine you told him exactly how you were going to do it and then together you giggled at the thought and looked forward to his moment of glory.

When you put him to bed and kissed him goodnight, you smiled at the thought.

Imagine you walk out of the radio station this morning and realise, as if someone jumped from around the corner and splashed a bucket of water in your face, that you FORGOT TO MENTION HIM. You forgot the whole delightful anecdote that centred around him, without seeming out of place in the context of what you were there to talk about.

Imagine you then call him from the street on your mobile as you wait for your tram home, hoping against hope that he slept in this morning. You can't hear much over the morning traffic, but you do hear that he is hurt and disappointed. You can only decipher every tenth word, but you can tell he is reciting, word for word, exactly what you had planned to say this morning, followed up with 'that was what you were supposed to say, why didn't you say that?' All you can say is 'I can't really hear you darling, but I'm really really sorry. I was just really tired.' It's a crap excuse.

Imagine you then spend the whole tram ride going over and over it in your head, unwillingly replaying the dawning disappointment on his face when he realises it's not going to happen, cuddling up next to your husband under the quilt in his mismatched flanelette pyjamas with the stuffed dog he still takes to bed. You wonder how you can make it up to him. Can you mention him on air next time? Not really. This was a one-off chance to do it without sounding like you're appearing on a game show ('Can I say hello to my son F at home? Hi, F!'). Can you buy him a present to make up for it? Let him eat chocolate after school, despite his sugar restricted diet? No. You can't buy his forgiveness. You don't want him to think money excuses thoughtless behaviour. Okay, you need to be thoughtful. What if you go to school and pick him up and spend the day with him?

You know that you're going over the top, but you can't help it. You try to talk yourself out of feeling bad, but it doesn't work. You call your husband, in his car on the way to work, hoping he'll talk you out of it, but - unsurprisingly - you only succeed in annoying him.

Imagine you stop off at the CAE Library on the way home and borrow an armful of manga graphic novels, a Simpsons graphic novel, a Pokemon he hasn't read. You are making up for it with a thoughtful gesture.

On the train, you still feel sick with guilt, but you move on to wondering how this happened in the first place.

Why did you promise your son you'd mention him on air, when you know it's difficult for you to prepare anyway, let alone with a random obligation like this thrown in? Why did you put the extra pressure on yourself? Why did you feel the need to bring him into your work life, make him the centre of that, too? Especially when you started feeling tired just after lunch yesterday and were nearly comatose by the time his two friends went home after 6pm. (The main reason you forgot was due to being very, very tired and forgetting to write down that you would mention him last night - thus, forgetting this morning.)

You realise, with the click of recognition that you get when you hit on the right answer, that you did it to impress him. You wanted him to think you were cool and interesting and that you could provide him with benefits like 15 seconds of fame. You were feeling a bit insecure after not seeing him for a week. The easy camaraderie you shared at the end of last week, when you were finishing each other's sentences and laughing at each other's jokes before you even said the punchline, had dissipated on his return, and you are once again feeling your way towards that easy intimacy, and you cheated and thought this might be a nice shortcut.

You write a blog pretty much all about him and most of your writing ends up about him and you think about him all the time. But sometimes it doesn't feel like enough, because he only spends half his time at your house.

But this is all hypothetical, of course ...


Frogdancer said...

It's hypothetically such a bugger when these things happen. Hope he gets over it really quickly.

Penni said...

I feel for hypothetical you.

Ariel said...

Hypothetically ... I was much, MUCH more upset about it than him. He pounced on the CAE books with a yell, threw himself at me with a hug, and when I told him how sorry I was and that I'd wondered how to make it up to him, he said 'oh MUM, you don't need to to do THAT'.

So ... all's well that ends well. I just have a thing about making promises and not delivering on them. And may have been (okay was) suffering sleep deprivation, too!

Kath Lockett said...

Good to hear that he's forgiven you, Ariel. Us mothers always beat ourselves up harder than anyone else needs to.

I was on radio (Adelaide, 5AA yesterday) and brought Sapphire along due to school holidays. Bless Amanda Blair's heart, but she insisted that Sapphire have a go, asked her heaps of questions and we both went home beaming. Coolest. Mum. Ever.

...well until she wouldn't go to sleep and I snapped at her and threatened to throw her Nintendo out of the window and stalked out to the sounds of her sobbing....

Helen said...

Oh I'm glad he wasn't too upset.

I read John Elder Robison's book "Look me in the Eye" and was quite blown out by how well he's turned out.. with THAT mother (you know, he was Augusten Burroughs brother - 'nuff said! - although I think the Dad was the main problem in that family) I'm glad F has someone who loves him so much.

Ariel said...

Oh Kath, that's a MUCH better radio story. You are coolest mum ever.

Weird (or maybe not so weird) - my mum was talking about that book (which of course I've read, given the topic!) tonight and saying pretty much the same thing. Yes, he's a rare example of someone with AS you read about and feel good afterwards.