The Many Personalities of A Mother
By Aileen Santos
The Enraged Mother
“If I come downstairs, someone’s gonna be in trouble!” I slam the bannister and stomp my feet, standing on the landing of the basement. My heart pumps loudly, a throbbing sound in my ears. I just want to finish marking these damn essays. Why can’t these fucking kids stop fighting?
I hear whimpering then one quietly says to the other, “Ssshh. We’re gonna be in trouble. Stop crying. It’s okay, stop crying.” The whimpering stops then silence. A little while later, laughter. I trudge back up the three steps, back into my office.
I don’t know why I get like this, why my adrenaline makes me want to whip a stapler against the wall, punch a hole to show them I mean it. That was the way it was with my father and I hated him. Whenever I saw his face darken, lips tightened, eyes wide, brows furrowed in a upending arch, I cowered in his shadow, ducked for fists and arms for protection over my head. I said I wouldn’t do it to my own kids. At least I don’t hit them, just raise my voice so loudly it shatters the ground they stand on, an eruption in their world. I don’t know why I get like this. It just happens sometimes.
Sometimes I have no patience so I scream and yell. Usually, when their dad’s not around, because I can’t handle it, two kids, three and six years old. I’m scared for them to get older. What will I do then? When they tower over me, challenge me, defy me, rebel… what will I do, then?
The Perfect Mother
I cuddle them, having just awoken from our collective slumber, they jump in our bed. We tickle, kiss necks, praises of love and encouragement. Or around the dinner table—we pray together, share highlights of our day, safe and loved in our cocoon. Or watch movies on a Friday night, on our couch, snuggle bugs under blankets, the perfect looking family, perfect children to perfect parents in our perfect looking world.
Out in the world, the performance intensifies, in front of others, smiles and soft words. Going down to their level, patting them nicely on the head, others looking on, “You have such a beautiful family,” strangers tell us. Puffed out chests, pregnant with pride, we have a beautiful family, so blessed, we tell each other. The enraged mother stays away on these days, out in public, in front of others, in our perfectly posed world.
The Sorry Mother
“Stop laughing I said!” My daughter rages at my son. They sit side by side, watching TV on our bed. She shoves him hard as he falls back on the bed.
“Don’t tell your brother not to laugh!” I command, “And don’t push him! Do you want to be a bully?” I eat my words as I feel their sharpness. I look at her face, see familiar darkness on innocent eyes, agitation in small limbs.
“I’m just trying to listen and he’s being too loud!” She responds aggressively, then turns her back and hides her face in her knees, a curled up ball of fire. She looks up, searches the room to see if I’ve gone. I soften when I see her bottom lip quiver and she begins to cry. I hold my arms open and she sluggishly complies. I rub her back and hug her, not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do.
I need to change.
I see her anger model my frustration, mimicking my words. She’s only six but I see my traits bleed into hers, my eyes—her eyes, enraged, upset, hurt and afraid.
Apologetic, still holding her near, I kiss her neck, pat her hair and try to make her giggle.
“I’m sorry Mama,” She says.
“I’m sorry too,” I say too quickly.
I pick up my pen and open my journal.
I close my eyes and remember, swaying hips, on top of tables, belly shirts, my form fitting figure, travelling freely from city to city, being in love and feeling sexy.
“Babe?” I hear a voice over my shoulder. I turn to face my children’s father.
A mother. A wife. A daughter.
Who am I, but the un-mother?
Uninterested in homework, cooking or baking, none of the roles I fit into easy. Red eyes from being rubbed too often, tiredness soaks into my skin.
“Yeah?” I ask, his arms wrap around me, enveloped in warmth, he kisses me sweetly.
A mother. A wife. A daughter. A lover.
A woman. Survivor. A fighter.
A pink line brushes the sky. Enraged mother slips away into the night. Perfect mother’s illusion is broken. Sorry mother’s voice remains, but eventually, it softens.
Aileen Santos is a high school teacher and mother to two adorable children. Her work can be read at literary zines and journals such as commuterlit.com, Ginosko Literary and Words, Pauses, Noises. She has a novel forthcoming in 2015.