This experience has of course made me reflect somewhat on motherhood, so I revisited J.M.Coetzee's fabulous BOYHOOD. As a memoir rather than autobiography it is of course not entirely clear how much is truth and how much fictionalized, but what I recalled starkly was the boy Coetzee's relationship with his parents, and particularly with his mother:
Her blinding, overwhelming, self-sacrificial love, for both him and his brother but for him in particular, disturbs him. He wishes she did not love him so much. She loves him absolutely, therefore he must love her absolutely: that is the logic she compels upon him. Never will he be able to pay back all the love she pours out upon him. The thought of a lifetime bowed under a debt of love baffles and infuriates him to the point where he will not kiss her, refuses to be touched by her. When she turns away in silent hurt, he deliberately hardens his heart against her, refusing to give in (p. 47).It is as I remember, a strange love-hate relationship on his part, because his love for her is of course also immense and the closing parts of the book recount his defence of his mother and breakdown of his relationship with a father he has come to despise as much as he feels trapped by his mother. All very strange to me, yet fascinating. Whatever happened to love as a gift, rather than obligation?
Perhaps it is a boy thing. Cornflower is hosting a reading group and a recent title selected there, William Maxwell's THEY CAME LIKE SWALLOWS, had this wonderful passage which made me laugh:
When Bunny was very small he used to wake in the night sometimes with a parched throat and call for a drink of water. Then he would hear stumbling and lurching, and the sound of water running in the bathroom. The side of a glass struck his teeth. He drank thirstily and fell back into sleep.... Until one night across the intervening darkness, from the room directly across the hall, a voice said, Oh, get it yourself! For the first time in his life Bunny was made aware of the fact that he had a father. And thoroughly shocked, he did as he was told. (pp.15-16)Are little boys really so mother-centric, and should one assume that contrast little girls are equally father-centric? I can't tell you just yet, but perhaps I will learn something of that in the coming years with a determined little person in the house.