Oops. I accidentally watched Oprah again. To be fair, I have been struck down with a yucky case of either the gastro or the shouldn’t-have-reheated-that-fried-rice-for-dinner (yes, those are both medical terms). Everyone knows that the only cure for gastro is making yourself feel even sicker by glimpsing Dr. Phil before allowing yourself to feel virtuous when watching another Oprah diet special because you really haven’t comfort eaten anything today! Nevermind that eating today is probably marginally less comfortable than sailing a ship off the Somalian coast.
Anyway, I shouldn’t have watched Oprah today, accident or not, because it was one of those weepy ones. Her guest was Brenda Nesselroad Slaby (now if you want to see some nasty words about someone google that name) who forgot that her two year old daughter was asleep in the back of her car and left her there while she went for work for eight hours, in summer. The poor little girl baked. Literally.
Now I can’t imagine forgetting the Bean for eight minutes, let alone eight hours. But I’m not working as an Assistant Principal on the first day back at school. I don’t have another daughter and a husband who told me at the last minute that he couldn’t do the normal daycare run. So yeah, she fucked up more than anyone ever should but she did it in a way that almost anyone actually could, given the circumstances.
Mothers turn their backs on their babies in the bath, every day. Mothers are too hasty when they reverse out of driveways and run over their own children, every day. Mothers allow themselves to be distracted and don’t hear the desperation in their teenage son’s voice right before he goes and hangs himself, every day.
I almost drowned on my mother’s watch. I still remember looking upwards, in the deep end of our pool, and seeing how far away the light was. I was three.
These stories make us all feel sad and upset and maybe they do us some good because they encourage us to hug our offspring a little tighter and watch them a little closer that night. But they also make me sad and upset because they perpetuate the myth that there is always a little more we can do to be a little more careful and a little more, well, perfect.
I’m not saying that we should just say ‘Ah well Brenda, nobody’s perfect’ and move on. What she did was appalling, accidental though it was. But clearly these events are just the most spectacular examples of the ways in which mothers apparently fail every single day.
It’s really hard feeling as if you’re the person responsible for keeping someone else alive. And not just keeping them alive, but making sure they are in glowing health, have an active, stimulated mind, a good conscience, affectionate side, good manners, a zest for life, and nothing with too much sodium in their lunchbox. At all times, every day, every second. It’s so hard in fact, that it is impossible. And trying to do impossible tasks can make us mad.
There is no way we were meant to do this alone. It’s time we just accepted that The Perfect Mother resides on the same street as the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny – only she’s so busy I doubt she even visits once a year. Unless you’re the Pitt-Jolie kids. She apparently visits them rather often.