Today after dropping off A and J to school, I caught this sweet little tweet of a mother dog pulling her pup up out of a ditch that she was trying unsuccessfully to paw her way out of. You can see it here. It is all the feels. The tweeter said, “Mom is always good.”
Fair point — except for when she is not.
Rarely in nature do mothers abandon their their young in the trench of trauma but some certianly do. Click on the aforementioned link and look long into the face of that struggling pup. Feel the ovwerwhelming urge to collect that wee thing. Look into its hopeful eyes. Watch the wagging tiny tail. Feel the rush of warmth as the mother, full of instinct, grabs the pup by the ear and drags it to safety.
Then humanize it.
Welcome to the innate primacy of maternal protection and then imagine the profound vacuum left by the lack of it.
Last night after a long day with the younger crew, I slipped away with a glass of wine to connect with my 21 year old first born daughter. We laughed and chatted as I laid on the floor of her bedroom and listened about the night before. I offered maternal advice which was soundly rejected.
The fatigue, the wine, and the moment coalesced in the question…
“What is it like to have a Mom?”
I was stretching out my cramped legs from a day in the car as hot tears cut my cheeks — flooding face and floor alike.
“It’s like having someone you know loves you even at your worst. If you didn’t love me, I’d hate myself.”
Fair point, fair one — fair point.
Every predator rode in along parental fault lines.
Every. Single. One.
They took my human longing to be loved, guided, affirmed, encouraged, mentored, and mothered — they used it to feed their own flesh and fetish. I, the hungry, became food. That is traumatic sexualization at its worst.
Not only can the lack of a stable, mirroring mother cause self hatred, self doubt, and identity insecurity — the desire for parental love can cause serial predation.
Son of an actual gun.
It wasn’t until I was revictimized by yet another father figure in my forties as a mother to five, that I recognized any of this. Yet, I am a strong and stable (if not imperfect) mother to my own, and to other peoples children.
I have learned that I must also be the mother to myself, that I am to my own children. That looks like self nurture, self instruction, self protection, self discipline, safe attachment, and tender attunement. That also looks like acknowledging the longing for daughterhood, and the profound loss that I have not only felt — but lived across my lifespan. It looks like sitting with the lack of knowing and being known and reconciling that with both the ruin and the reality. It looks like finding comfort in the gifts I have been given — bright beautiful children to know, to nurture, to delight in, to guide, and to know.
Take if from an orphaned pup who fell into the ditch repeatedly, only to be dragged out by predators — those parental fault lines must be first acknowledged, named, adopted, and then — fiercely protected.