Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Failure of the Day: Maternity

Now that the Monstrous Child who was staying with my neighbors next door has gone home, I have returned to the relative peace and quiet of just the one screaming boy. The visiting child was a horror show of the results of bad parenting—he couldn't have been older than 7 and he was such a horrible nightmarish screaming brat that I find myself leaning all the more toward the childless side of the fence.

The Horror Of Andrew, the visiting boy, whose name I know because the mom screams it at 60 second intervals, starts off his day, and mine, and everyone else within a one block radius, by screaming "Trix! I want Trix! Trix Trix Trix! Did you HEAR me? I! WANT! TRIX!" for about 10 minutes. Once fed, he and ADD boy resume their usual activities of Tarzan calls, airplane screeches, and arguments over who is the champion of whatever they are doing. This is punctuated by the mother shouting his name back at him, which I think is what passes for discipline.

By noon, he is back in their kitchen, some 5 feet from where I sit, loudly and repeatedly demanding more food. "I'm hungry NOW!" he shouts and stomps his feet. "For the LAST TIME, I want ice cream RIGHT NOW!" The mother shouts his name a few more times. This is repeated for some 30 minutes, and then again several more times throughout the rest of the day. The boy who lives there, whose name I also hear screamed regularly but could not begin to guess how to spell, should be starting kindergarten in the Fall. It's terrifying to think what these children's schoolyard behavior will be like.

And even as I sit here this morning, my left ovary is starting to pound in preparation for this weekend's ovulation as if to say All This Can Be Yours. To which I can only reply Huh? Who, me? I am not in possession of the world's most maternal spirit, after all. I do have lovely and brief fantasies about a little girl whom I would make curly-haired and whom Chris would make tall…The fantasy involves me in a London hotel room just finishing up being interviewed by Martin Amis for the Observer, who had many interesting questions about my novel. Chris comes in from taking Isabel, who is 3 or 4, out to breakfast. Chris is respectful, as he would be, not wanting to disturb my Quality Martin Amis Time. Isabel has no such hesitations though, and runs across the room and pounces on me to relate the story of the giant pancake she ate. Chris says quietly and with mock irritation, Sure, she's happy now, but she cried her eyes out when she discovered that there were no elephants in Piccadilly Circus.

This is my fantasy life. And on better self-image days, I can admit that it is not entirely impossible, even if seriously improbable. But the idea has its pull even without the literary fame accoutrements. And although I don't imagine that parenthood is comprised solely of such warm snapshots, I expect those occasions, however rare, in which they do occur make it All Worthwhile. At least that’s what they tell me.

But then again, that's a pretty big gamble if the rest of the time the little monster is screaming for Trix.


Post a Comment

<< Home