The other day, I got up and wandered into the kitchen, as one does. That's where the coffee is, you know? I found the girl there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, "Mommy, I made my lunch!". "Oh," I said, "whaddja make?" She waved various containers at me: "A hot dog bun with butter and cinnamon sugar, two Mallomars, and some apple cider!"
I groaned. On the one hand, initiative! On the other hand, not so healthy! Granted, it's a modest dilemma, as dilemmas go. I assuaged my guilt about the unhealthiness by insisting she take an apple with her, so I didn't feel like the worst mother in the world.
You know Emily, right?
Emily wrote a book. Emily wrote a book about childhood, her childhood. Emily had an evil stepmother, and Emily's memoir is called Behind the Woodpile.
If you have a Kindle, or a Kindle app for some other smartphone/tablet device, get her book.
It's free today, just today. Tomorrow it'll be $7.99 again. Read her book. She wants you to read her book, because, as she says:
I’ve found that every time I speak or write about my childhood, it reaches people who are then able to finally speak about their own childhood abuse.
She's talking about it, to make it easier for others to do so as well.
You're probably wondering how I got from the buttered hot dog bun and Mallomars to Emily's book. Every day, every week, occasionally, we all think we're bad parents. But Emily, because of her abuse at the hands of her stepmother, has a particularly hard cross to bear. Here's a passage from her book:
Despite the hours spent reading and the endless conversations about steam trains, I felt like a terrible mother. I also felt all alone. I could not tell anyone what a failure I was, because that would involve acknowledging it to myself. I had entered one of the biggest organizations around – the Terrible Mothers’ Club – but because membership is secret, I had no idea how many other people had joined along with me, or even that I was in the group. The club I had joined has a secret litany that its members chant to themselves so quietly that even they cannot hear.
“I am not patient enough,” we whisper in secret.
“I should be gentler,” we grudgingly admit.
“He needs more consistency,” we desperately chastise ourselves.
“If I had handled things differently, it would not have escalated into a tantrum,” we secretly suspect. These are the words we hear from inside and try very hard to ignore for fear of their strength.
And, there are many of us who are Premium Club Members. We have a whole other set of voices, nastier than the first.
“My childhood has left me unfit to be a mother.”
“I am repeating the cycle.”
“He will never know how much I love him.”
And, the constant refrain, a phrase repeated so continuously that it becomes a hum of white noise we no longer acknowledge: “I am acting just like her.”
In light of that, in light of the literally rotten food her stepmother fed her, in light of the cruelties inflicted upon Emily and her sister, I'm pretty happy that my daughter had the unfettered room and comparative luxury to make herself a hot dog bun with butter and cinnamon sugar and be proud to call it lunch.