I am sharing with you this wonderful and insightful essay by a very dear friend. She published it as an untitled note on her Facebook. I am reposting it here. p.s. I just made up the title of this blog post til my friend can give me a better title … She is far more creative than I am! Thanks for letting me repost this!
“Mothers are all slightly insane.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
By: Celia Peñaflor
Times like this, I feel like I am a modern-day Holden Caulfield, mom version though. I can say I have moved on from the quintessential teenage angst and quarter life crisis to the peaks and valleys of motherhood. I started my day today by jolting out of my sleep as I was about to be late for work. I could not even wash my face, brush my teeth, comb my hair and pin my fringe in place with a hairclip, because the precious remaining minutes of my life usually every morning are meant for preparing my cup of instant coffee and setting up everything for work. Yes, you read it right, “instant”, despite living in a place known for coffee.
So I work from home and during vacations especially this summer, it would mean working and at the same time raising, parenting, and educating my son. My break time is meant to address his needs, like preparing his food, washing his bum, answering his queries, reviewing stuff we study like this week we are learning to count syllables, going through our set of CVC cards, and so on and so forth. And my lunch time is meant for preparing lunch, feeding my starving self and of course my son, washing the dishes, sweeping , waxing, and polishing the floor and cleaning up a bit of the havoc my son has created by putting all toys on the floor, and resuming work. In short, I am at my wit’s end. How I wish sometimes my life as a slave to money is separated from my life being a parent or my life as an individual, like several hours of my day should be meant for work alone and no polishing the floor and washing the dishes in between, at least I could get to compartmentalize my tasks and responsibilities in life.
So what’s Holden Caulfield got to do with it? Looking at my printer and other pieces of furniture around me, I could see dust basking in some form of entitlement, mocking me by nestling comfortably at the surface and looking back at me as they give out that all is well sign, in return they make me give out a silent cry of woe and wailing as I have just dusted two days ago, and there I go again, wiping the dust off during my lunch break. That reminds me of this quote from the Holden Caulfield’s book of origin, The Catcher in the Rye, it says…
“I went down by a different staircase, and I saw another “Fuck you” on the wall. I tried to rub it off with my hand again, but this one was scratched on, with a knife or something. It wouldn’t come off. It’s hopeless, anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world. It’s impossible.” ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
You see, as a housewife and having allergic rhinitis from to time, dust is my ultimate archenemy among many other things. And yes, if I have a million years to obliterate dust, I wouldn’t be able to eliminate even half of the dust in this world. As a parent our plate is always full. We earn a living and we raise a human being, that’s on top of taking care another human being that is us, and the other human being in the form of our better half. We want things to be perfect or the way we want it to be. In this era of social media, we want things to be Instagrammable and Pinterest perfect. And with loads and loads of information that are thrown our way and with tons of trends to keep up with, I have never thought of how overwhelming and suffocating the pressure of parenthood could be. It’s like a deluge of dust daily.
Looking back at how I was raised, I wonder if my mother and my grandparents felt the same. Before the term “free range” is used on humans, it’s first used on animals like chickens and pigs, now we have free-range kids, and long before “baby wearing”, our indigenous brothers and sisters up in the Cordillera have already been tying their babies to themselves with a blanket. So sometimes I just wonder if our parents and the parents before them ever gave too much thought on raising free range kids and making use of baby slings? Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty as well. We all want the best for our kids but don’t we go overboard sometimes?
And as time goes by, I still get surprised sometimes by the latest trends. Babies nowadays even have their own sunglasses that offers 100% UVA and UVB protection.Well, I am aware of this gaping hole in the ozone layer caused by the drastic rise of greenhouse gases thus allowing harmful rays from the sun to land on earth and can be detrimental to our skin. But sometimes I just wonder if not having that for our kid would make us less of a mother we ought to be? It somehow pushes this panic button in me, thinking how my child could have been victimized by this UVA and UVB rays all along for not having worn those protective sunglasses.
Then I came across this article entitled, Raise Your Kids Like It’s 1982, it talks about the art of parenting in the 80s, how things were simple yet it created lasting memories of childhood while it poses a question of how we could have gone overboard with parenting that gave way to terms like “helicopter parents”, constantly hovering over our kid and checking a list of milestones we expect them to comply with. My only concern about this is that, as much as we want to do it the 80’s way, could it be that as Bob Dylan sang in 1964, The Times They Are A-Changin’? It is not as if our surroundings are still the same as that of the 80s, it has become more dangerous that our lives are needed to be watched by CCTV cameras. George Orwell. 1984. Big Brother is watching you. So there goes the chakk-chackk-chak-chak, chak-a-chak-akk-chk-chk-ch sound of rotating helicopter blades. And that our ozone layer is drastically depleting so we really need our babies and toddlers be equipped with those sunnies?
While I am writing this, my son is clipping his nails. I have two choices, stop him from doing it because he might cut his skin or give him the freedom and make him understand that in every action he takes, it is always coupled with consequences he has to live with. My son at 5 makes me fully aware of his need for independence and his desire for undertaking tasks and responsibilities. He can now dress himself up on his own, wash the dishes, run to the kitchen and prep something to eat, can sometimes even wash his bum, and clean up after his mess. But at the end of it all, it will always go down to me doing the sweeping of everything, checking if the buttons are in place, the shirt and the pants are on their correct side, washing the dishes again, washing his bum again, and sorting and organizing his toys.
Most of the time, my husband would prevent him from playing with his toys. I could read his mind, he doesn’t want to be bothered to go after and clean up his son’s mess. It took a thousand and more dialogues with him to make him accept and appreciate the beautiful mess amidst the wreckage. Honestly, it took me a while to learn to let go of things and I still struggle with it from time to time. I admit I have gone too idealistic as a parent, wanting everything to be perfect for my kid and leaving no room for any failures or mistakes. I wanted not to see a single speck of dust, the house to be spick and span as much as possible, my son acing the list of milestones and worksheets from school. I wanted to be always there, making sure things are perfect or as planned, like Holden Caulfield thinking of catching every kid that goes over the cliff at the edge of a field of rye all day.
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.” ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Oh You Pretty Things Don’t you know you’re driving your Mamas and Papas insane- David Bowie, “Oh! You Pretty Things”
At the end of these all, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being a “catcher in the rye”. In the book as the story is about to end, the sight of Phobe riding the carousel filled Holden with happiness. Indeed, such a sight to behold a child beaming with joy and innocence. I am trying my best to give my child freedom and independence as much as I can. I am not perfect but I am trying my best to be a mindful parent while restraining myself to be overbearing although I cannot help it sometimes. I have been learning to cancel out the white noise that is eating our brains and to stop scaling walls of data. Life has extended its dimensions to the virtual world, yet I believe that life doesn’t always have to follow the cyber blueprint. I have learned not to be too antagonistic of dust and I look back at them and remind myself that all is well, I let them sit there comfortably even for a few dats, after wiping them off the face of the earth. And there are times like, Daym the CVC cards and worksheets, son, go out and play with soil to your heart’s content. And someday when my son looks back on his childhood, I just hope he remembers that thirst and exhilaration that freedom and independence bring, that joy can be found even in simple things. And that life doesn’t stop when we commit mistakes, failures, or shortcomings as a parent, even when we let dust lounge and chill for a while, even when we cannot get the latest sunnies, baby carrier, or other gizmos meant to aide in raising kids. This never fails, always remember, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world.