The True Genius of Mothers
The piece below originally appeared in this month’s Creative Times newsletter.
By Suzi Banks Baum
I strive for One Thing Only. But I was not doing one thing only last week at my 18-year-old’s ski race. I’m not sure exactly what I was doing when I left the sidelines and accepted my son’s invitation to step onto the back of his skis for a “little ride” down the mountain. He’d just fallen during his ski race — not badly, but a fall that disqualified him. I wanted to be near him, just to make sure he was okay. That was one thing.
The other thing, the idea of a “little ride,” is what gave me a black eye.
That ride on the slick skis of a slalom racer landed me face-first in the icy snow on the downward slope of a small mountain in the frigid evening air, where I never would have ended up if I’d listened to my inner guidance and stayed home to make soup, but I did not heed that thought, no, there I was on the slopes to cheer. (Something of the crowd’s response told me that cheering is just not done at races. Maybe that is why my boy fell?)
Well. I yelled anyway. I believe in my kids knowing they are being seen.
But I did not yell when I fell.
No, headfirst in the snow, then sitting up with my cold hand pressed to my hot cheek, I silently beheld the egg blooming under my skin. Now, doing one simple thing, but holding about 10 other thoughts in my mind. “Is anything broken? Why did I listen to my kid? Argh, he makes me nuts! Oh, but he fell too. How is he? Hurt? Embarrassed? Do I need an EMT? What about dinner now? I hate dinner! Will I be able to teach this weekend?”
This morning, I read: “True genius is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts simultaneously without losing your mind.” Charles Baudelaire wrote that. I’d say he was describing the genius of mother-thoughts entirely.
Some days, I ace thinking one thing at a time. Quiet prevails, the phone is ignored, the Wi-Fi is off, and the laundry dries peacefully on the line, no one needs me, no one is hollering my name from another part of the house, no meal awaits creation, no ski race demands my yelling, just me. Here. With you, the little black tendrils that I coax into letters that make these words that give form to my thoughts.
It is a simple as that.
When I have been multi-tasking too much, I doodle to settle myself. Then, with my concentration engaged, I can write.
One little black thread of a line leads to another.
And of those thoughts, those layers and layers of mother-thoughts, I work around them, never truly shedding them, but today, I can see they are part of my genius.
Merci, Monsieur Baudelaire. Now please pass the ice pack.
Growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan made author, blogger, artist, and fulltime mom Suzi Banks Baum a lover of winter. Not afraid of the blank page, blank canvas, or wide expanse of snow, she makes patterns and trails, worlds and visions with her work. Suzi is about to launch an anthology of writings by women on mothering and creativity entitled An Anthology of Babes: Thirty-six Women Give Motherhood a Voice. The book will be sold at her March 1, 2013 event for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers called Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others. You can find Suzi at Laundry Line Divine or at the 10X10on10 Arts Festival in Pittsfield, MA, this month or better yet, out ice-skating.