Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Our Glass Houses

Emma Donoghue's Room examines just a few short weeks in a 5-year-old boy's life. On Jack's 5th birthday, he wakes up in the Room that is all that he is ever known. His mother was kidnapped 7 years earlier, and Jack has only known this Room since the day he was born.

There is a gripping escape, and the second half of the book follows Jack and his Ma's struggles to adapt to the Outside world. Ma loses it when her entire life is being questioned in a TV interview.

The Outside world is eager to judge, demonize, and idolize the heroes and villains that are mere human beings. As much as Jack's Ma is considering a heroine, she is still questioned and judged for every decision she has made from the discovery that she was pregnant with Jack through his five years of life.

What mother among us could survive that kind of scrutiny?

When my daughters were younger, just the stress of worrying how they might behave once Outside, in the grocery store, was exhausting. Would my toddler have a fit? When they were too big to sit in the cart, would they stay with me? Would I be judged harshly if one of them ended up in tears?

My girls are, for the most part, happy and well-behaved children. But they have their moments, and I absolutely hate it when these moments are in public. I am sure that everyone around is judging me as a bad mom.

When I see a mother struggling with a crying child in the grocery store, I want to give her a hug. I want her to know that it's okay, that I'm not judging her. That I'm willing to give this family the benefit of the doubt that they just might be having a bad day.

Having put my daughters in therapy at relatively young ages, I have had to answer some hard questions about their lives, about my X, about our routines and my discipline techniques. I remember once feeling so small because a therapist commented on us moving around so much. What I heard was, "you're not providing a stable home for your children." And that almost broke me. I cried in the car, I cried at work, I cried at night after my children were asleep. My brain kept repeating, "I'm failing them, I'm failing them, I'm failing them."

But there are also so many beautiful moments that no one else sees. All of us belting out a favorite song in the car, moments where we crack each other up, moments where we hold hands for no other reason than to feel connected to one another. And catching my daughters sharing beloved moments as sisters is one of my favorite things of all.

I felt incredibly ill-equipped to take on this task of motherhood. It got that much harder when I took on the role of single parenting.

But last night, as we were talking about why X didn't have shared custody, why I made the decisions I did, Sylvia told me, "I guess it ended up being a good thing, because my life is kind of awesome."

I can breathe now. I can feel that we're going to get through this. I wept; I couldn't help it. All those years of feeling inadequate, all those years of feeling stressed and completely overwhelmed, and not nearly qualified. All of the questions I've had to answer, and those answers that I gave and then questioned, and all of the time-outs and squeezing just another ounce of patience for these beings that I love so that one moment of hearing my daughter call her life awesome, it was all so worth it.

I may have been the only one to hear it, and she might say something with too much attitude to me tonight in public, and I will still wonder what other people think of our family. But deep down, I will know that we are going to be just fine.

Read more posts on Room at the book club site, From Left to Write.

While I was given the book to read for free, I have not been compensated for this post.The link to the book is connected to my Amazon Associates account, and any purchase made from it will generate a small referral fee for me.


Wantapeanut said...

Such a great take on the book. As the mother of a child with autism, I'm trying to develop a thick skin for the inevitable stares when those inappropriate behaviors come out in public. And boy, do I know guilt.

We're all doing the best we can. It sounds like you're doing a great job!

Linsey K said...

We all have our challenges are mothers - single parenting is a BIG one. Hats off to you! It is great that you can look back and see that times are easier.

Penelope said...

So interesting--I was just thinking I want to get "Room" for my next read!

It's comforting to know so many other mothers have moments of inadequacy. But then looking at our amazing children--I think we're doing okay.

Anonymous said...

So, I just finished ROOM today and still have to write my post for FLTW... I have been agonizing all afternoon over what to write about. You have given me some great ideas! Thank you!

Danielle said...

You just brought tears to my eyes. I feel so inadequate when it comes to my daughter all the time. I feel like I am being judged too. I think we are our own worst enemies though. I also see the laughter and the hugs and that she wants me above anyone else even if I just punnished her. In those moments, I know that i am doing ok!