05/18/2015 02:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

We Are on the Same Team, Take Off Your Cape

Monica Stevens-Kirby

I had to hide my cape, so I hid it. Progressively, like a possession of grief, I remembered it. I located the shelf where I had put it down with all my other stuff -- clutter, once useful. It needs dusting like every collected image I store in my "what makes a 'good mother'" drawer. It's a designated junk drawer, one of too many.

"Supermoms" (and "superdads") are hovering social constructs we cling to despite our diplomas, despite easier access to deeper catalogues of knowledge, despite advancements in the wider media to uphold a standard for parents to be OK with who we are and what we do. 

I don't view motherhood as a tidy symbol of false humility. I'm not "saving" my daughter. I can't. She will need to know how, and I will need to teach her. I won't see motherhood as perceived perfection. I don't need to be anybody's hero. That is damaging and dangerous.

Parenting is a territorial and full-contact sport. I tend to lack gracious acceptance that I am "good enough."

I follow Pinterest boards that are gorgeous. I get invited to parties with hired princesses in elaborate costumes. They do tricks, sing songs and play games. My mouth drops when I remember paper hats, a piece of cake, a candle, wishes made in our humble carport without a gang of tiny princess witnesses.

"Superparenting" leaves me spinning, a cheap party favor top, bought for change, placed in a plastic baggie, spun and tossed out or lost. I apply "standards" to my ego.

"Superparenting" is an arrow launched at a paper party dartboard. We are setting ourselves up for failure. The pin isn't tailed on the donkey. Playing Supermom is taking a tack and sticking it in our own eyes. We are donkeys, asses, Jocastas-in-waiting. We are only hurting ourselves.

The flood of social media "faces" sorts us into camps. We light fires under our competitiveness. We get drained and feel less-than. The idea of "Facebook" hinges on a loaded word: "face."

We show off our faces, well-made ones that got nine hours sleep last night in preparation for photo shoots, makeup artists and wardrobe stylists in tow. We have craft service tables bearing only fresh fruit and detox waters.

I want you to know my face and to see it. Memorize all the crags and stress-induced breakouts, the purple bags that underline my sleepless nights, satin coffin linings holding dead eyes. See me for who I am, the heaping mess that wants to meet you for coffee, but cannot find a clean shirt this morning. 

I want you to know that, after my daughter pees on her plastic Minnie Mouse potty, she wants to "flush" it. She dumps her pee on the floor and brings me the seat. She wears it like a statement necklace around her crayon-tattooed neck. She claps her hands, delighted for pleasing me.

I wish I were as celebratory as she when this happens. I wish I didn't grit my teeth, biting through my tongue to prevent acting on exasperation. I have hot words in my head I do not use. Instead, I explain to her again what I thought she understood. I kiss her on the head. It's the only thing to do.

We are women warriors by virtue of being mothers. We are steely bodies, beaten by birth, with hearts too thick to hold all the love we know. 

Can we unite for the sake of our children? If I show up wearing heels and pearls, and you show up in cutoffs and a tank top, can we assume the best of one another?

Let us cast our arrows at what matters: hunger, poverty, abuse. Let us turn our arrows away from ourselves and each other. Let us lay them down, no questions asked. When we encounter one another along the way, our loyalties and methods need not agree. 

Let us shoot off one-upping with a slick, soundless bite. Only our weapons, united, can break the wax-lip seal of Eve's lusty apple. We will configure a handmade poultice of leaves, dried and pressed upon her supple, life-bearing body, to draw out the poison, to extinguish our desires to be "the best."

Never before has so much been at stake, so much worth fighting for, or so much to lose. Permeable as Joan of Arc, freed by a purpose, imprisoned by a plan, we will carry the wounds of our worlds and wear the scars of our days. What is before us is also what must be. The walking into, destiny, lures us onto fields, ready or not. We must go together.

We are never prepared for parenting. Freedom comes in doing and in being.  

I am weary, like you, and I will not pretend. If you meet me there, I think we will love one another. I should not justify anything to you, nor you to me. I won't offer you advice. I'll trust your hand to guide me when you find me, after midnight, huddled under sheets, naked, whispering, shaky with a candle, reading Go the Fuck to Sleep for my bedtime story. 

Please be gentle with me. Leave my cape where you know that I hide it. Keep it. Honor it for a day when I ask you to drape it over my body, stand before the mirror and say, "You can only save yourself!" Keep it there until I go scrambling for it, needing to know that I can love me, too. I can love me in the same way that I love you.