I wrote the following piece for a contest. Your submission had to fall under one of two categories: 1) How I changed motherhood or 2) How motherhood changed me. I struggled with a topic for a long time, but finally decided to go with something under "how motherhood changed me". I didn't win (this is getting a bit depressing to only put stuff on here that has been rejected), but since this piece was current events when I wrote it I won't submit it elsewhere as it is now becoming old news. So here you go:
Mamas Don't Love Trainwrecks
As soon as the video begins rolling, I'm shocked. Before Charlie Sheen opens his mouth, the sight of him is disturbing. He's haggard, twitching and erratic. Nothing he says makes any sense and he's rude and obstinate. I'm so uncomfortable looking at him that I open another window on my laptop screen so I can cover the visual while still hearing the audio. I feel increasingly awkward as the video continues, so I eventually close it all together before it finishes.
I immediately fire off an email to my husband at work. He's seen the video and I want to know what he thinks.
“I'm not bi-polar, I'm bi-winning!” he responds, thinking he's so clever.
“Think of his parents watching this in the media. It's so sad!” I type back, undoubtedly disappointing my husband with no reaction to his joke.
Seeing the latest Hollywood celebrity to self-combust all over the Internet used to be my idea of fun as much as the next guy's - that is, until I became a mother. Now when I see someone in a sad and pathetic state like his, I can only think that they are someone's child. No mother ever intended her son to turn out as a stark-raving lunatic for all the world to see, and the thought of that breaks my heart. What does his mom think of this? I can assure you she is devastated that her son not only needs immediate medical attention, but has single-handedly made himself a global object of ridicule.
My husband has yet another story about a scumbag at the maximum security prison where he's a registered nurse. He doesn't usually know the details of their crimes, but has in-depth conversations with the inmates about their history, frequently including their family life and upbringing. Their situations are often horrible; some of them don't stand a chance to succeed in life, much less grow up to be anything but criminals.
Without fail, every time I hear these stories I cry. I lose perspective and don't think of them as thieves, rapists and murderers, but as scared little boys who were once innocent babies. I wonder what caused their downfall. Do they have loving mothers out there somewhere, grieving their sons' life choices, wondering what went wrong? Or worse yet, was it their mothers who failed them in the first place?
It's not just celebrities and convicts that get to me, my compassion lies especially close to home: my baby boy suffered a brain injury shortly after his extremely premature birth, causing permanent disabilities. I look at him every day and wonder what it will be like to be constantly compared to his typically developing identical twin brother and older sister. I worry about the struggles he will be up against, and I torment myself with thoughts of him facing ridicule by ignorant people. Motherhood definitely softened me with the birth of each child, but having a baby who is up against the odds sealed the deal on making me a first-rate bleeding heart.
I'm not going to lie to you. Of course I've chuckled at references to “adonis DNA”, “bitchin' rock star from mars” and all the rest of the garbage spewing from Charlie Sheen's mouth. How could I not? The quotes are everywhere. And If you haven't had at least one snicker at his expense, I think you're either fibbing or a much better person than I am.
The difference is that now I don't want to laugh at him, I want to look away from the train wreck that is his life and help him in some way. Ridiculous as he may be, he is after all, someone's baby.