Saturday, April 3, 2010

Operating Instructions


Another book review.


“Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year” by Anne Lamott (of Traveling Mercies fame)

I love this book and I’m only ¾’s of the way into it.


Oh, it has GEMS!


Bright sparkly GEMS all over!


Here is one I can relate to: “I have these secret pangs of shame about being single, like I wasn’t good enough to get a husband.”


Or how about: “ …one of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage. I have always known, or at least believed, that way down deep, past being kind and religious and trying to take care of everyone, I was seething.” Wow-sa, does that hit home. Those sleepless nights when the baby is colicky and you think you could ram your head straight into a wall from desperation…

About a decade ago, I recall an astrologist doing my chart, he put my birth date, birth place, etc into a computer program, looked up at me and said: “You are completely unbalanced.” I said, “Tell me something I don’t already know.” He said, “You are unbalanced in that you take care of everyone and no one takes care of you.” At the time it was so true. I had a dog, two cats, a townhouse, 14 residents in a halfway house I was directing, and 13 staff members who were mostly looney-tunes themselves. Nowadays, take away 2 cats, replace them with 2 more dogs and a toddler, and I’m in the same position. Except with more responsibility, another house and 200 clients. I can feel rage bubbling up at any given moment, at the slightest provocation. On the other hand, I’m blessed with a great job, a loving family, good health and everything is fine. Go figure. Is every mother like this? Or just me and Anne Lamott??



And the way she describes the dichotomy of motherly emotions is FUNNY: “I wish he could take longer naps in the afternoon. He falls asleep and I feel I could die of love when I watch him, and I think to myself that he is what angels look like. Then I doze off, too, and it’s like heaven, but sometimes only twenty minutes later he wakes up and begins to make his gritchy rodent noises, scanning the room wildly. I look blearily over at him and think, with great hostility, Oh, God, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again.”


She confides about her fears about giving birth to a son, rather than the more familiar gender. She writes: “…of course I’m edgy about the whole thing, about having my child having a penis instead of a nice delicate little lamb of a vagina…” and goes on to describe in colorful language the assaults she has endured at the receiving end of penis’ (penii?). I also thought it would be impossible for my body to create a male. When I decided to adopt, it never occurred to me to ask for a boy. I thought I wouldn’t be able to love a boy… they are so different. So foreign. Now that I’m a mom, I realize I COULD love a boy, very much, but it didn’t seem that way during the imagining stage.


She writes about the pain her son will inevitably go through not having a father: “ I don’t have any idea what I will tell Sam when he is old enough to ask about his father. I’ll say that everyone doesn’t have something and that he doesn’t have this one thing, but that we have each other and that is a lot…” I can see myself saying something similar to Charlie.

To try and fill the gap of fatherlessness Anne is amassing a “tribe" to help take care of him, made up of family and friends. Asking for help no matter how difficult that can be. She has people stopping by every day, bringing groceries, cooking, doing laundry, babysitting, taking her son to the park. Jeez! I’m missing out! I’ve been taking care of Charlie 24/7 when not at work, except for when her grandparents visit. Reading that part motivated me to pick up the phone and call a mom I know and suggest we trade babysitting hours on the weekends, which she agreed would be a great idea.


It’s not often I find a book that is both motivating, relatable, AND funny, so I highly recommend this one for all new mothers and even old ones. The love she feels for her son absolutely comes through, this is not a “bashing motherhood” book. Just a realistic, no holds barred type of motherhood book. There’s a gem on every page, every few lines for Pete’s sake! Too many to transcribe here. Go out and buy this book. It would also make a great gift for any pregnant woman, especially singles.

2 comments:

Megan Day said...

I loved this book! I read it while Ella was only a few months old and it really hit home! She really makes it real.

Hillary Bolter said...

Right on the nose Mika. That book was so good and so exact it was delightfully and painfully surprising. You are a phenomenal woman doing what you are doing alone. Much respect to you!!