Were I to quantify my mother’s identity I would say she was 90% mother and 10% other (wife, sister, relative, friend, house keeper, cook). Unfortunately, for her self-esteem, she lacked any nurturing capacities whatsoever. She mothered as it were by remote control; in her later years, she did much reading on the subject of being a mother and so kept up to date by that means. But given her nearly complete self-absorption she was unable to recognize her children’s’ feelings. If one was sick, one had to tell her. If one was upset, one had to go around sighing deeply or groaning.
She did of course observe us. She noticed when we tracked dust onto the hard wood floors. She noticed when I did not empty the catch in the sink after washing the dishes. She noticed when we did not pick up the dog poop on the back lawn or when we had not taken out the trash. She noticed especially our language. She noticed if we had crap behind our ears. She noticed when we did not observe proper table manners.
She kept a log of my first year of life on which she noted having noticed many things. She noticed there that I was bowel trained before the age of one. Several persons to whom I mentioned this considered it an abomination. Why, one person said, a baby isn’t physically equipped to be bowel trained before the age of one. Nonetheless I was. When a child should or shouldn’t be bowel trained seems to be determined by the fad of the moment. And my mother is on record as having found the experience of feeding me at one end as I pooped at the other “disgusting.”
Also her breasts caked making nursing a very painful experience. Mostly I was bottle fed and since she got most of her nurturing tips from reading she actually tried to feed me by the clock. I consider this practice an abomination; a form of torture inflicted by the so-called parent upon the infant. People so readily give up their simple human sense when some bug of an idea gets into their empty heads. How could a parent let a child wail in its crib at night, knowing the child was crying because it was hungry, and not feed the child because it was “not the right time?” Would a human being do this to his dog?
But my mother had no extended family; no one to help or counsel her. Her husband was off in the Army somewhere washing out as a pilot. And her Aunt Kitty had died sometime during the months of her pregnancy with me. So her breasts were caked, she was alone and in need herself, and I was jaundiced and starving to death. No wonder she experienced me as “needy.”