I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but I kind of am a single mother. I mean a Solo Mother. I have a person in the picture. He does show up every other weekend. He does pay the mortgage and bills. But there are only, on average, when you count the sick days, around 18 waking hours per week where I am not looking after my kid. Solo.
There are a lot of us out there, I know.
But I also know that when I am around my friends — a couple with two kids, for example — and I observe how they negotiate who does what, I am sad.
And when I pick up the Guppins from part-time daycare and there’s some dad guy, a young, strong, healthy male, picking up his kid, I kind of want to murder somebody. Some days. Some days I am just a jerk who feels sorry for herself, even though I know these days are fleeting. Are numbered. I know how joyful it is…being the only mom picking her kid up at daycare on a bike with a European kidseat that sits between you and the handlebars, a novelty in this small town. I enjoy riding her home in this car town, singing, observing the old houses, and painting our life together. But fuck it’s hard.
And because of this hardness, I am making mistakes.
In a rare moment of meditative bliss, while my kid was at daycare (an incredible place…one of the bonuses here), I came to hear Jian Ghomeshi interviewing Marina Abramovic. My ears perked. She is the hugely infamous performance artist who did The Artist Is Present at the MoMA.
In it, she sits across from whomever will sit across from her, silently, for hours days weeks months on end. Exhausting. What I wouldn’t do to be the one who gets to sit and relate with humanity for a hundred years. To be engaged, present, visceral.
And she is performing The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic at the Luminato Festival in Toronto right now. Which I won’t get to see. Because there is no room for that.
Should I be trying harder to make room?
She is speaking to Jian, now, on Q, about suffering and artistic purpose. He asks, “Do we really have to suffer to make art?”
She responds swiftly with, “Give me the names. Of those happy people who make great art. Well, I am waiting, Jian. The list, please.”
She goes on to say that every human being is born suffering because we all know that some day we are going to die. And it is only through the knowing of this that we learn to use our time wisely.
She tells how her mother never showed her any affection and she was raised like a soldier.
So, I think, you take a little wisdom…you leave a little whatever.
I did something dreadful the other day.
I left my kid buckled into her fancy European carrier seat that I am so proud of, and got on craigslist for $30, leaning on the kickstand, her helmet in the front carrier basket, while I literally said out loud, “Okay, no falling over,” and separated myself from the bike completely, it standing there, with a three-year-old, unprotected, buckled in. I opened my car door to get sunglasses instead of unbuckling her and putting her on the ground safely. I turned my back.
I risked it.
The bike crashed to the ground. Her head hit the pavement. She howled. She screamed. She was dying. I scrambled. I got her out. I think I screamed. Her eyes were…her head was lolling…oh god oh god…the hospital…no…I run with her in my arms to the neighbour, a retired nurse… Which door? bang bang bang… No car in the gravel drive…no…the hospital…now.
She is in such pain. She doesn’t vomit. She doesn’t pass out…not right away. She refuses the Tylenol the triage nurse instructs she takes. Not even for two stickers. The nurse says, “Her head is not mushy. That is a very good sign. She cried; she didn’t vomit — these are good signs.”
I say, “It’s my fault.” I don’t remember if I say that. I don’t. But I say it to Sir Dick when he arrives at the emergency waiting room.
She rests in my arms. I tell her stories: Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. Little Red Riding Hood. Cinderella. Her favourites.
Hours later the doctor tells me that Guppins hit her head on a very hard spot on her skull. She says they no longer x-ray for skull fractures. She says since she didn’t vomit, and she didn’t pass out, and she’s behaving like herself (at 11 p.m. with a Reese’s peanut butter cup in her belly), so there is no need for a catscan or an MRI.
She says to just wake her up once in the night. Every hour is old school.
She says, kindly, when I tell her what I’d done, “So you won’t win the mother of the year award.”
I decided to take a risk.
It is now almost 24 hours later. It feels much, much longer. She is safely sleeping in bed. She has a huge welt on the side of her head.
What I am suffering is nothing compared to what my daughter felt when she fell. When her head cracked on the sidewalk. The ache she feels. The betrayal. The helplessness. The throbbing pain. And there she will cling to me, in her pain and suffering, she will cling as though I am the one to be trusted to save her.
It is a dark place I am in.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to tell the story. I don’t understand how I could have possibly done what I did.
Sir Dick is understanding. Perhaps. He might be lying. He says the most dangerous parts of cycling with a kid are the moments of getting on and off the bike. He says this with kindness.
I go around accusing him, silently and otherwise, of doing the wrong thing. Feeding her the wrong thing. Keeping her up.
But look at me.
Look at me now.
Mother of the Year.
“Mommy, we go on the bike again tomorrow. Only this time you don’t let me fall. You keep me safe.”
Yes, my darling. Oh yes I will.
[image source: luminato festival 2013]