20 Jan You Don’t Own your Leg. I DO.
Sometimes, being a mum makes you a horrible person. Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. Truly. Sometimes, I hear things coming outta of my mouth that have me thinking, ‘What did I just say?!!” Like this beauty –
“I got news for you girl. That’s not your leg. It’s mine. I own it. Until you have a job to pay for your own trip to the hospital and the car to take you there, until you can take your bleeding dying self to the emergency room and get stitched up all by your damn self – then NO, it’s not your leg. It belongs to me. And until you can handle ALL BY YOURSELF having your leg chopped off because it’s infected – you will do as I damn well tell you, when I tell you.”
In the interest of full disclosure, the conversation wasn’t finished. I also said this, “I don’t care how grown up you think you are. You still live under my roof and eat my food and use my cashpower. I say when your leg is allowed to rot, y’hear me?! When you move out, THEN you can hack your own leg off if you want to, I don’t care. But until then, you aren’t the boss of anything. I am.”
What brought this on?
Big Daughter got injured at work. She fell and cut a chunk out of her leg. I took her to the hospital and went through the waiting, the injections and the stiches with her. I was calm, cool and collected as a parent is supposed to be in an emergency. Reassuring, patient and NICE are all words that can best describe my #GoodMother persona on that day. Inside, I was crying and praying for her. Wishing I could take her stitches for her. Parents everywhere – you can relate right?
Fast forward a few days. Big Daughter is supposed to clean her wound and change the dressing daily. She does it fine the first few days. But then she slacks off and I have to keep reminding her. Slacking off in this country is bad. Very bad. It’s stupid. Very stupid. I’ve seen people with a tiny scratch that turned into an infection so bizarre and so dangerous that they had to get air lifted out of here and admitted into a critical care ward where everybody wears suits and masks. Like they live on Mars. Or like you have ebola. Big Daughter could not afford to slack off. More importantly (because it’s all about me) I did not want to have to be that worry-stricken devastated parent selling my soul to pay for a medivac plane and then spending days/weeks/months praying over my kid who’s in a coma.
I’m trying to be patient and nice, but the pressure is building.
One morning I remind her sternly to fix her dressing. Another reminder again in the afternoon. Then late at night after picking her up from a friend’s house, I ask, “Did you fix your leg today?”
“No,” she says. “I was too busy.”
“What do you mean, you were too busy?” She was lying in bed most of the day. On her phone. Doing nuthin useful because her leg had gotten her out of work and chores and making a useful contribution to
Lani’s society. “I told you this morning to clean your leg. And again in the afternoon.”
“I didn’t want to,” she says. Nonchalant. “I didn’t feel like it. I can do it later.”
“It’s ten o’clock at night. How much later were you planning on?” My voice is razor calm. The kind of calm that most people would recognize as a warning sign that I’m about to. Lose. My. Shit. Danger, danger, red alert…
But because Big Daughter is often quite clueless about social cues for impending death and destruction, she doesn’t notice.
Or, she doesn’t care. (Knowing Big Daughter the way I do, this is much more likely.)
“I can fix my leg when I want to. When it’s convenient for me,” she says. Then she adds this nugget of wisdom, “It’s my leg, y’know. My body.”
I almost drive off the road and kill us both.
Is this child really trying to play the feminist I-own-my-body-card with me? Me, the kickass feminist mother who’s been teaching her that her vulva belongs to her since she was two? Every body-empowerment conversation I’ve ever had with this child flashes before my eyes. How dare she throw them back in my face now? When I’m trying to save her from a flesh-eating bacteria that will get her leg amputated? And maybe fry half her brain too? Which will mean (because it’s all about me. Of course.) that then I will have to cry and pray and wish I could take her place. And then I’ll have to look after her forever and I’ll never get to escape this motherlife servitude.
Rage. “DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME THAT ITS YOUR LEG. Not after I took you to the hospital and had my heart cut out watching you get stitched up, wishing that I could take your place. You SPOILT ROTTEN BRAT!!!”
The I said alllllll those words up there from the beginning. And some more that I’m embarrassed to tell you about. Ending with, “If you’re going to be so flippant about looking after it, then I will cut your leg off myself.”
It’s moments like these that a time-out is necessary. For the parent who has Lost It. So she can breathe. Eat some ice-cream. Reflect on the conversation. And cringe as she realizes that maybe, just maybe, she went a little overboard? Which usually means she needs to apologize and make an ice-cream peace offering.
Please tell me I’m not the only parent who’s Lost It with their kid? And said some strange things?