Earlier today I carried my sleeping 5-month old to his bed for a nap, thinking as I gazed at his sleeping face how unutterably dear he is to me. Looking at him, I felt ineffable warmth as I held him in the security of my arms. Then I returned to the family room, where I found my 23-month old daughter woofing down a bunch of tiny white teething tablets she had managed to wrestle out of their childproof bottle. As I screamed for her to Stop! Eating! Them! She shoved them quicker into her mouth; matter of fact, she raced me to them as I frantically plucked them off the floor. In a span of one minute, I’d gone from embracing mother love to hysterical mother panic at the thought that my daughter might die from ingesting – how many?!! – teething tablets. Poison Control assured me she wouldn’t die, although she might get really, really hyper from all the sugar in those Little Teethers.
“Momma,” said Michael from Poison Control, “I’ve had kids eat 100 of those things without any change in their behavior. Do you think she ate 100?”
“No,” I said.
“What’s she doing right now?” he said.
“Okay. Call me back if anything changes,” he said.
At best, parenthood is paradoxical. Life and death share the same wall, a thin wall, almost made of mosquito netting. Everyday as a parent, I hold in my heart feelings of security and vulnerability simultaneously; the existential confusion this emotional state can cause is enough to drive a person crazy – and has!
Let's talk about Sylvia Plath for a moment. Everybody knows who she is, right? THE BELL JAR -- which I haven't read. I have read her poetry; ARIEL, for example. Sylvia Plath was indeed mad, with rage at least, as anyone whose read her poetry can attest to. Perhaps most people know that she killed herself by sticking her head in an oven, leaving behind two children and a philandering husband. Perhaps she is one of those people who "should never have become a parent in the first place," a phrase I've heard said about other people too often. Because if she is one of those people, then perhaps I am, too; because there have been days since becoming a mother when, let me assure you, I have known the desire to stick my head in an oven and MAKE THE MADNESS END.
But then I'd miss out on seeing my children everyday, and that would be sadder than being dead.