As I parent, I always feel like there is something better I could be doing. All the time. There’s this songbird perched on my shoulder, chirping away: “What else? What more? What next?” Maybe that changes once they move out on their own. I don’t know that part yet. Mine are still underfoot… well… underfoot while being taller than me, it’s like having 6 foot tall toddlers sometimes.
In grad school, I developed this particularly brilliant habit for getting my thesis done. When I need to write, I mop the floor first. Yup. While I’m sweeping, scrubbing, rinsing and drying, the desire to be writing builds so I’m writing in my head the whole time too. It’s a great trick for getting things done.
Right now, I’m wanting to write about parenting and oppression. I’m in the final stretch of the Interchange Year Long Training; Weekend 8, also known as “The Oppression Weekend.” This weekend we’re focussing on Social Identities, Oppression, Internalized Oppression, Reclaiming Power, Being an Ally, Leadership, and Mental Health Oppression. You might think one weekend focussing on oppression can’t be effective… Yeaaaaah. No. There’s a method to the madness that we only meet once a month for the weekend intensives. In Interchange, you can go as deep as you want to. You have some ancestral shit to deal with, there’s space for that. You want to stay in the now and focus on your struggles in finding a job that doesn’t suck your soul from your body? There’s room for that too. I’m planning on going hella deep. Like, three generations of oppressed women deep. My direct maternal lineage is not for the faint of heart.
I was 13 when my mother piled on layers of clothes to jump into the pool of our apartment complex mid-winter. She was surprised at how her body automatically started swimming, keeping her alive even though her mind wanted to die… I was a year old when my mother’s mouth is wired shut to repair the bones my father’s fist shattered, yet they were still in love with each other. She leaves him not because they have a violent relationship, but because she judges him as weak…I’m not even conceived but I know my mother’s first memory; her aunt dragged through the yard by two uniformed men then shut into a white wagon. Her grandmother not looking up from the red eye gravy she’s making… My mother’s parents met because they shared the same nickname; two teenagers named Red in Coffee County Alabama. He lied about his age to impress her. Lying was the kindest betrayal he ever showed her… My mother never laughs when she talks about her own mother. There’s no safety to be found there. No way to fend off that sad.
I understand why love scares the hell out of my mother. It’s all very logical. I’m not sure you can have the life she’s had and not hate love. Love is at the root of all pain. Love is the fingerprint at the scene of the crime. Love is why children go hungry and women get beaten, raped and abandoned. Love is a trick and a trap. Love is a weapon.