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Feb 4 2011

Sometimes You Just Want Your Mom Back

By at 2:52 pm

Fruma Sarah in a Miami production of Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Joan Marcu

Thank you, Susie Felber for your meaningful post on the Motherless Jewish Mother.

In my dreams, my mom and I have a dysfunctional relationship.

Sometimes, when I’m tangled up in sleep, she comes back from the dead–not in a comforting, gentle, loving way, but in a Fruma Sarah from Fiddler on the Roof rattling her chains and screaming obsenities in Yiddish way. Nevermind that when she was alive my mom never spoke Yiddish… in my dreams, she’s transformed into some sort of creature from the Shtetl of Doom.

But even though I don’t understand the curses flying out of her mouth, I know that she’s unhappy with me. Some sin, something I’ve done either now or a thousand lifetimes ago, has shaken her from eternal slumber, and… She. Is. Pissed.

It’s hard enough to reason with a Jewish Mama in real life (just ask Woody Allen) let alone a cartoon-nightmare Jewish Mama with maggots crawling down her chin.

And inevitably, I wake up with a gasp, staggering into consciousness, feeling as though the air has been sucked out of the room. So, I lay there in the dark, trying my hand at a little amateur-hour Freud.

My mother died before I became a mama, and sometimes–ok, a lot of times–I wonder what she’d think of my approach to parenting. In the beginning, I was this hyper neurotic, germ-obsessed, crazy person, terrified of life. I wouldn’t leave the house without–not one, but TWO–bottles of Purel Hand Sanitizer, and if anyone got within a foot of the stroller, I’d go all mama-lion on their ass. When M. got old enough to crawl, I covered the floor in sheets that had been cleaned in hospital grade bleach. I only played Mozart, and made sure never to cuss.

And I hated living like this. I watched other mamas laughing with their children and laughing at themselves as they inevitably stumbled through their days and nights, sleep-deprived, spit-up soaked, but saturated in the moment. I was too busy waiting for something bad to happen to marvel in the tiny changes taking place.

So, when I got knocked up with Little Homie, I swore I’d do it differently. But instead of finding some happy middle ground, I swung hard to the other extreme. I’ve become the mama that yells “get out of my way F*ckturd” to the slow driver on Sepulveda Boulevard while her babies are sitting in the back.  (“Fuh-tur Fuh-tur!” M. shrieks. She even knows how to flip the bird.) When Little Homie is playing on the unwashed kitchen floor (!!!) whining–not full-on crying–but doing that in-between-dinosaur-on-steroids-thing I ‘ve been known to say, “You’re fine. Cut the crap.” And between everything–breathing and being–OCD has fallen by the way-side. I guess this is a good thing, but sometimes I feel like I’ve missed a step–or 10– and have fallen so hard on my ass as a parent that my kids will be on drugs or hooking by the time they’re 9. Or maybe not.

But through it all, as I sift through the insecurities to find my inner-mama, I realize just how hard it is to do it without my own mama to guide me. While my Fairy-Godmother-in-Law has been a wonderful source of help, there are hiccups in my personality that come from the little traumas in my relationship with my mom–things that shape who I am now as a mama–and it would be nice to talk with her about these things. In English, not Yiddish. And minus the maggots.

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One Response to Sometimes You Just Want Your Mom Back

  1. Tamar says:

    I totally agree, Sarah. I’m not a parent, but my man has a three year old, and as I struggle through the whole semi-parenting process, I think all the time about what my mom would say. It’s so hard to even imagine parenting without a parent to guide you–I live in fear, is what I’m saying. But I’m in awe of how you’re handling it–you go mama!

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