I know what it is to be a perfect mother. I was one once. But it didn’t last.
I was shocked into perfection by the surprise adoption of this two-year old boy from Nicaragua. He was small and thin, birdlike. And he was very sick. This was worrisome at the same time it was a perverse gift. Sick orphans have low standards. I measured up.
I know that now. I didn’t know it then. Then, I thought God himself had delivered this boy to my arms. I believed I was put on earth to be his mother. Think about this. Think about what a halo I had. I was golden. I could do no wrong.
And neither could he. Everything he did was tiny and precious. He clung to me like a spider monkey in a tall tree, wrapping his long arms around my neck, only letting go long enough to point at something, a bird, a cookie.
He laid on my chest while I sang a song I made up for him. It only had two lines. Do you like being a baby? Do you like it very much? It seemed that he did like it very much. It suited him. He was good at being a baby. Perfect. It’s what happens when a child has a perfect mother.
And then he got bigger. He stopped pointing and started talking. He grew impatient with my two-line song and went off in search of toys with batteries. He wanted to run around and chase things. He liked throwing balls everywhere. He hid under tables and headed the other way when I called.
And then I pretty much forgot the part about God choosing me to be his mother and I just ran after him. Sometimes I yelled at him and made him cry. Sometimes carrying him and an armload of groceries made me cry. I lost my halo and just became his mom.
Now he’s grown and works running a machine that makes metal parts. The machine throws off grey dust that, by the end of the day, covers his arms. Sometimes, the grinders on the machine nick his knuckles. He laughs about this. I tell him he should wear a mask at work. He nods but I know he won’t.
He doesn’t remember anything about my two-line song. He doesn’t remember being a baby and liking it very much. He doesn’t remember me when I had a halo, when I was golden and could do no wrong. He just remembers me the way I am.