Friday, July 25, 2008


The routine may be ideal, but the devil is in the details.

In the abstract, I do a great job knowing that I am a fine mother, that I am making good decisions about balancing my time with my girls and my writing. But every day presents a pang, a moment of real doubt and grief. I long to be free of these feelings.

What to do, for example, about swim lessons?

The town pool is 20 minutes away. Lessons are in the morning, cutting into prime writing time. But the big girl is 5 ½ and needs to learn to swim.

For the first session, the lessons were full, so we didn’t pursue it. I worked on my writing and tried to teach a bit of this or that during our afternoon time in the River. But little girls don’t like to learn from their mommies. They are so dependent on us for so many things, the last thing they need is our telling them “You can’t float if you don’t put your head back! Tummy to the sky! I’ve got you. Just jump in! Blow bubbles. Kick! Kick! Don’t forget to kick, honey!”

The second session began on Monday. I spent Sunday brooding. I called the pool. Session two was full, too, but lots and lots of kids hadn’t showed up for session one, so I could call back in the afternoon.

Thus, everyday at 11, I drive to the pool, tense with resentment and the sense of interruption, to watch my daughter try to get through a half-hour long swim lesson without getting her head wet. I turn the music up loud both ways and we sing.

I know that this is precisely the right compromise: I got enough work under my belt in our first two weeks here to make the interruptions now less painful. I know that she needs the lessons. I adore her. I have such happy memories of the swim lessons in Lake Washington that my mom got for us when we were little girls. And, of course, I would never want to be the kind of mom who didn’t give her daughter swim lessons because she was too busy working on her book.

Still….well, as I said before, the devil is in the details: the decisions may be rationally utterly right, but the feelings are strong and confusing.


amcorrea said...

Although I won't be getting married until next year, I think about this issue a lot...with vague dread. But it seems that succeeding marvelously with both parts of yourself (as you so clearly do) isn't enough to drive these doubts away. It is oddly comforting to hear this. It doesn't mean failure of any kind, but a contradiction of success, perhaps.

There are so many lives we could choose to live--one doesn't seem to be enough. We choose "both/and" rather than "either/or"--and I believe that takes courage. And here you are, living with grace and embracing difficult questions--which takes even more.

Thank you for sharing this, Anne.

Anonymous said...

Unless you have a pool in your backyard, swimming lessons aren't critical at 5. Your child will sense your resentment. Don't put your child in the middle of your conflict fit swimming lessons in at a more mutually acceptable time. Good luck.

Unknown said...

You're welcome, Ana Maria! The notion of both/and is very appealing and fruitful. I'm sure you'll find your own balance, too, when the moment comes!!!

We don't have a pool in our backyard, but we are spending a month on the St. Lawrence River--it's just a few feet from the front door--, boating and swimming, and we plan to do so every July. So, yes, swimming lessons at 5 are pretty essential to her participation in our life.

My resentment is pretty even with my pleasure and so I'm not too worried about this: she knows that I adore her and that I am a writer and professor whose work is really important, too.

Anonymous said...

snippy snippy

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