This Motherhood Thing
I’ve known several mothers.
It’s never been my thing.
I don’t know why, other than being male.
You can’t, can you?
You can’t be someone’s mother if you’re not.
Any more than when you meet someone
With children however charming,
However old, however young
You can’t be their father.
You shouldn’t even try.
Some people talk about a sacred trust,
A spirit bond. Some people talk about
The power of pyramids too.
I don’t know how to do this stuff.
Really. I haven’t a clue how it goes.
It never happened for me.
Whether planned or maybe it’s just something
I can’t do. The children thing.
And maybe I shouldn’t.
I remember a woman I still know.
We talk on the phone.
We’ve got to that place where we can
Laugh again, and we do. It’s good.
I like to hear her voice. She has two children.
They did not approve when we met.
They said we’d destroyed their lives;
Both working, one post gap year,
One post grad, now post Phd.
Lives totally not ruined; it’s safe to say that now.
But it was difficult.
He came to visit and smoked (he doesn’t)
And played loud music (he doesn’t)
And stayed up late (that neither)
She ignored all of this. He’s only doing it
To get attention. So don’t, she said.
You don’t reward this behaviour.
I’ll deal with this tomorrow. When it suits me.
You choose your battles with this motherhood thing.
But the noise didn’t suit me then.
I told him something his mother never would
That his comfort and security and well-being,
How he thought about things,
All of this wasn’t actually that interesting,
That his mother’s well-being
And happiness were more important to me
Than him. That he wasn’t so much, in my scheme of things.
We got on after that. It was the first time
This had ever been mooted, that was plain.
It wasn’t something I ever want
To have to say again. It wasn’t motherhood.
But it was true. She mattered to me.
Him not so much. I didn’t see then
How much of a package
Children are. How they’re always there.
On both sides. They can’t stop
Being her children any more than she
Can stop being their mother.
So now when this international lawyer
Is bought fuzzy felt by his mum
And posts the picture on Facebook
I can see these photos and imagine his face
And his voice. It makes me smile,
Four hundred miles away.
I don’t understand how this all works,
This motherhood thing.
It was nice to see it for a while.