Ayelete Waldman’s BAD MOTHER and Faye Quam’s “TV Torture”am

Dear Reader,

Author Ayelet Waldman has a book out called Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace (Doubleday, May 5, 2009), in which she challenges society’s definition of a good mother: a blob of selflessness. “A blob of selflessness” is my take on what’s a “good mother”, but I think Waldman would approve of it. This blob gushes sickeningly about her children, never reveals dislike for her children, and never ever ever spells out her parenting fantasies, like I do in “TV Torture.” (Note: this could just as easily be called “Cell Phone Torture.”) Why not? Because whenever I read this poem out loud in pubic I’m stoned by horrified looks.  See what you think.

TV Torture

I lop off my daughter’s toe

Its veins pump indifferent blood

I shove a molten railroad spike into her ear

She yawns I skin our cat

Slow blinks

I banish all sweets

She lets go a few big tears

I say, “No television for three days.”

She screams, “I don’t care!”

“Ok, four days.”

“That’s not fair!”

I cut the TV cord

She writhes, foams at the mouth

Day five she’s hoarse, still sputtering, but …

Breathing on her own

(This poem appears in Scarf Dancer: Poems and Other Writing)

I know, I know, I’m a bad mother. You don’t have to convince me. But I’m not the only one. There are plenty of mothers approach me after I read and confess they know exactly what I mean; they’re the mother’s I want to hang around with. It’s the ones who look at me with with born-again smiles who make me nervous. I know what they’re thinking: We pity her poor poor children. They will never know a mother’s servile love. And I resent it.

Walman, too, has been criticized for stating her parenting opinions, verbally attacked even.  This is was she says about this.  “There is little I do as a mother that can’t be criticized, not least by myself. Parenting is incredibly hard work, even without having to look over your shoulder to make sure you’re doing it the way the neighbors (actual and cyper) think you should. Let’s all commit ourselves to the basic civility of minding our own business. Failing that, let’s just go back to a time when we were nasty and judgmental, but only behind one another’s backs.”


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April 2009
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Photo Credits: Header - Barbara McNichol, Author - Bernadette Garcia

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