Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pink Frilly Underpants

The young green-eyed boy reaches out for his mother, who is sitting on the thread-worn couch and not in the mood for hugging. She lifts an arm to block his advance. Not right now. She is tired and her afternoon show is coming on. Today the world will find out if Hansen really is baby Amelia’s father. This can’t be missed.

“Go finish your lunch,” she instructs him pointing to an open Ramen noodle cup sitting spoon-less on the edge of the coffee table. He is insistent and pushes back toward her. “Love you mommy,” he says, ending with a high note that turns this proclamation into a request.

Familiar music plays on the television set announcing the start of today’s episode. The mother leans forward, edging around the boy, and squashes her cigarette down into the crowded green glass ashtray where it continues to smoke for a few more seconds. Her eyes are fixed on the handsome dark-haired man who has just stormed into the camera’s eye. The child pulls at her sweatshirt sleeve, “Can I have a drink?” The mother does not hear him anymore and does not answer. Louder now, “Mommy, I‘m thirsty!”

A beautiful woman is leaning against a high-backed gold upholstered chair in an elegant t.v. livingroom. There are tears welling up in her mascara-ringed eyes. Her right hand is covering her mouth as if some great big secret is trying to escape. Handsome Hansen is watching her intently and asking something very important.

“Maaah...meee” The mother turns toward her whining child just long enough to shout, “What is the problem? Eat your freakin’ lunch. I am trying to watch this.” The chastised child holds still and quiet. His lip trembles as he sizes up the moment.

“Hansen, there is something I have to tell you...” the honeyed t.v. voice says and then pauses.

The child tries to climb up onto his mother’s lap. He is crying now. The television scene jumps to a dishwashing soap commercial and suddenly he has his mother’s full attention. She takes him by his arms and gives him a shake, “What is wrong with you? What are you bawling about? Do I need to buy you a pair of pink frilly underpants?”

I know this mother. If you ever questioned her love for her children, she would probably attack you, physically, really. So I wonder, can love still be love when it isn’t 1 Cor 13 love?


Frank said...

wow, thats disturbing. and we wonder why kids grow up with social problems.

L.L. Barkat said...

I'm thinking that love can still be love... except that it is maybe turned in the wrong direction at times. Maybe she is better in the morning, or when she kisses him goodnight. (Walter Wangerin wrote an amazing essay about his mother, who was both abusive and nurturing in turn. The day saw one mother, the night another. Eventually, it was through the experience of reading fairy tales that he was able to join these two sides of his mother into a whole. Google his name; the essay is on his site and I think is about reading fairytales.)

Okay, which is a long way to say that I think we are all on this continuum. Some of us barely know how to give C13 love but we ache to (and is this partly love, if we desire to love?) and others of us have been trained how to give C13 love or we draw on God's (or however that works).

Thanks for you contribution to the challenge, btw!

Billy Coffey said...

I would echo L.L.'s remarks. You have to be so attentive when it comes to children. Not just towards them, but towards yourself and how you deal with them.

The 1 Cor. love we want is the kind we should give.

Anonysister said...

A part of me wants to say "how could she"?!

Another part of me feels great sympathy for this mother (at least the way you've portrayed her). Is she not lonely? Is she not also in need of Corinthians love? Is she not tired? Toddlers are so demanding and at some point we collapse, want to shake them and say, "What about me?!"

Anyway, I find I can neither love nor hate this woman, much the way I often can neither love nor hate myself in the face of parenting's great challenges.

Katrina said...

I completely echo Anonysister's comment. Sometimes it is so tough, this parenting, and the desire is to escape once in a while. I don't agree with the method of her escape, but I understand... I'm so thankful to have been freed from the lure of soaps when my oldest was just a baby.
Thank you for sharing this... you write so well... I could picture it all clearly in my head.

Joelle said...

Oh my. I see much of self in that dear, depleted woman who was entirely absorbed with her own needs. Not a comfortable look in the mirror, for sure. And yet, if Love is Love, it is truly enough to love even someone like her. She is lovable. I am lovable. That shoved and ignored little boy is loved. Only I hope she--I--finds the healing to free what already waits within her so that she can live from that great depth of Love. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

What is most surprising to me is when parents abuse children to the point those children are taken away and placed in a foster home and the parents are arrested. The children still mention their love towards their parent. So can love still be love when it isn't 1 Cor 13 love? I guess but I cannot say yes totally. Because what is taught becomes a learned pattern that is sometimes hard to recognize and hard to change especially if it has been passed from generation to generation.

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