Mike Myers did a strange and hilarious movie in 1993 called, So I Married an Axe Murderer. He played a lovelorn version of himself as well as his updated former SNL character: a Scottish soccer hooligan father. One of the best lines in that movie is a small rant before dinner. “Well, it’s a well known fact, Sonny Jim, that there’s a secret society of the five wealthiest people in the world, known as The Pentavirate, who run everything in the world, including the newspapers, and meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as ‘The Meadows.’” He goes on to say that among those five people is Col. Sanders of KFC fame. He hates him because of the addictive chemical present in KFC chicken that “makes you crave it fortnightly.” (Although KFC can be tasty, I think Mr. Mackenzie just never tried Chick-Fil-A, which, as I mentioned in a previous post, is the new undisputed king of fast fried chicken.)
The reason I mention this cult movie favorite of mine is because of the opening line of “It’s a well-known fact, Sonny Jim.” “It’s a well-known fact” can be skewed into opening any random opinion disguising as fact. “It’s a well-known fact that Hitler killed himself and Eva Braun only after learning that she had slept with Goebbels and Himmler in the first (and only) Nazi 3-way earlier in 1945…or…that pigs vocal cords are removed at birth to prevent them from talking to each other creating insurrection Animal Farm style.” However, for today’s purposes we will focus on the less diabolical yet still well-known fact that everybody I know is getting married and having babies. (If you are younger than 24, and don’t live in the Midwest, you have no idea what I’m talking about, but you will one day.) Let’s say I have twenty close friends and family members in their 30’s. At least 15 of them are married and many of that ¾ have a baby or are expecting one now.
It’s an exciting time for those people. Their lives are taking new shapes, shapes of spongy flesh and powdery, bald heads. Their married lives look different than their single lives too, with Bed, Bath and Beyond décor in the living room and bathroom, the classic French poster in the kitchen, matching dishtowels and a large comfy sofa. The fact of growing older is that downtime is limited and therefore it needs to be really comfortable when you get it. All I know of married life is what I can see from the outside, and the exterior good parts seem to be gaining a life-long friend with whom you are attracted to sexually and increased loungewear. (There are lots of sweatpants and hoodies going on in married homes.) The bad parts, I imagine, include enlarged and intensified responsibility, and loss of privacy. Bathroom time becomes shared, family time/holidays are doubled in length, and then babies take away the spontaneity of adult life to be replaced by the impromptu moments of baby life. There are pros and cons of single and married life. Whichever one you are currently in, you see pros of the alternative and the cons of the current very clearly.
Regardless of how you imagine your future, one thing is clear: babies are cute as hell. Babies are fun to watch, children are fun to talk to, and kids are fun to play with. The shape of life only provides a few years with which procreation is possible. It’s only natural that in my early 30’s I see the world of our carefree 20’s melt into the mortgaged, responsible and parental nature of the next decade. Those cute babies and the ego attraction of seeing something burst forth into the world created and comprised of you is quite an intriguing offer. The Facebook posts I see from new moms/dads are usually of three domains: cute, disgusting or illogical. Those small humans can find many ways to fall asleep or dress adorably, use bodily functions in funny ways and of course, say the darndest things!
Kids are not good for germophobes though. Kids touch, lick, chew, fondle and caress anything they find of interest. Those same hands and mouths will be all over you later, and you don’t want to create children with fear of intimacy because their mommy never kissed their “dirty little face.” I don’t have children, but I do teach children. Korean kids like to share food due to the cultural method of eating being many plates on the table shared by all. So, naturally, they want to share with the respected figure of teacher. Kids approach me with little potato sticks stuck in the webs of their fingers, half-melted Choco balls, bread ripped from a communal loaf and pre-peeled fruits. Some of the more germy aware teachers politely take the treats and put them to the side before depositing that nice gesture into the trash receptacle. I eat all they give me immediately. I need their germ resistance. It’s like eating your flu shot! Plus, all their snacks are delicious. It is something that must go away the minute you have kids: the need for clean/non-sticky hands, or at least to carry wet wipes everywhere. Kids are rewarding but demanding. The many teachers I’ve met over my 7 years in education have been a varied bunch, but a theme that is oft repeated is: “I love these kids, but I’m glad I can give them back at the end of the day.” My responsibility ends when the school day ends. It’s hard to imagine 24 hours of care and anxiety. Parents deserve the credit the kids give via hand-traced turkeys, macaroni necklaces and disproportionate family drawings.
Yesterday, after teaching a lesson, we played a game of charades. I gave Cathy, a smart girl with a Harry Potter obsession, the word ‘mother’ to act out. She did a quick gesture of a person shaking her finger and demanding something, no response. She did a quick gesture of a person stirring food in a pot, no response. She repeated the process in more outlandish fashion and got nothing from the other 6 students. Finally, I asked the crowd, “Who cooks food and yells at you?” Simultaneously and vociferously, they all leapt up, pushing tables forward and chairs hurtling backwards to the floor: “MOTHER!” They knew at once, who is that person who can both make you feel full and satisfied and then empty and disappointed.
A mother’s job is not easy, she needs to be, at different times, both adoring and chastising. Mothers keep therapists in business and artists creative. Mothers are the universal symbol of love. We’ve all seen the mama cat carrying her cubs delicately by the scruff, the mama gorilla carrying a youngling on her back, the mama whale pushing her calf to the surface for its first breath, the mama panda in her den cleaning the little ones, or the mama penguin walking 60km to puke up some fish for her fluffy little newborn. Moms are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva rolled into one. They can be the creators, the maintainers and the destroyers of a child’s world. Moms are like the coaches of the world; they get too much credit for a loss and not enough credit for a win. Moms are constantly being formed in the cycle with which they help produce. It’s a beautiful thing. I love you Mom.