Thoughts on motherhood

SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2016 - 9:00am

Have you ever watched birds building nests? They choose a site, then the male flies off to gather the materials while the female sort of guides the site. Or so I think because sparrows all look alike and one never knows who the male or the female is.  I just sit and watch. Then the female lays eggs and sits on them. She seems to have a way of determining which eggs are good and which are bad.

 I remember one morning in my house is Calamba, which was surrounded with a pond on three sides, sitting on the bridge that connected my living to my dining room. Up on the roof there was a bird I heard flapping around and then an egg dropped into the pond and my carp swallowed it whole. My eyes grew wide with surprise. I figured the mother bird was clearing out her nest and got rid of the bad egg. And my fish — the white one with orange and black spots, the one that’s always hungry — just happened to swim by and swallowed it.

 That got me thinking about animals and their mothering habits. Birds mate, bear eggs, sit on them until they hatch, at some point sorting out and throwing out the bad ones with no qualm of conscience, don’t care if a fish swallows the egg whole. The egg is thrown, it’s forgotten.

 Finally the good eggshells crack and the hungry little birds hatch. Now they must be fed.  Both husband and wife birds hunt for food. Then the birdlings grow feathers and they are pushed out of the nest and taught to fly. At last the strenuous task of parenthood is over. Mom and Dad say good-bye and fly off to find other partners.

 The male lion is vain, proud, powerful. He has a pride full of wives. In my Western horoscope I am a Leo, a lioness because I am female. Lionesses are plain but hardworking. They hunt for food for their mates first, then his leftovers go to her cubs, and their leftovers are for her. But when the cubs are grown, she never sees them again. She lets them go, waits for another male to mate or dies old and alone.  I’m willing to bet she dies happily old and alone but there’s no way of knowing that, no way of interviewing lionesses.

 Bears mate and are happy for a short while but once the children are born you don’t often see the male around but you see the mother bear with her two little cubs. She teaches them to hunt, fish, find bees and their honey and when they learn everything she can teach them, she disappears to search for her next mate who will give her two little cubs again, to watch over again, teach again and leave again. That’s the cycle of motherhood for animals.

 How come we are different? We share the poetic wooing rituals with all animals.  Think back. Wasn’t courtship the most poetic part of your relationship? Then you married, had children and the poetry just slipped out replaced by laughter-filled moments of parenting, of playing with your babies, smelling their sweaty little necks, kissing them, hugging them, teaching them nursery rhymes recited in their own baby talk, thinking of loving them forever.

 That’s what I miss most. I miss my children’s baby days when they were mine to play with and they adored me. Those are the memories I cherish. Then yikes — they hit puberty, answered you back, accused you of violating their privacy because you asked for the handbag they were carrying and found inside a cigarette holder you had long lost and were going crazy looking for filled with forbidden sticks and pillboxes filled with forbidden pills. That was a long time ago and yes forgiven but not forgotten. A mother never forgets. A mother hurts deeply, forgives, but never, never forgets. Unless they get Alzheimer’s. Maybe that’s why my mother got Alzheimer’s. To forget the moments I had unforgivably hurt her when I was younger.

 In the end I will admit that motherhood was the toughest job I ever had. I look at my children, each of them proud, head held high, successful. I am proud of them.  Maybe I contributed something to the way they grew up. Maybe I taught them the value of work, which I had to do to support them or maybe I taught them that being children of a working mother was no fun at all and so they should not work.  Sometimes I was a good witch of a mother and other times they thought I was a bitch of a mother.  Now they are nearing their fifties, all grown up.  In the end when I think of motherhood, all I can say is I did my best. Thank God all the work is done.

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