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I keep thinking about Matthew.

He was twelve when I met him. Did he even make it to thirteen? I don’t know, because by October he’d already been through two more surgeries and was staying home for the duration of the school year (until he could recover from his brain tumor, the one he’d been battling since he was three years old).

I remember him, toothy, blonde, smiling, donning himself “Medical Matthew” during a nickname activity the first week of school. We used inexpensive video cameras to make a class film, explaining the significance of our selected names. He smiled broadly for the camera and explained energetically that he always got through his surgeries with a smile. But by the third take, I could see he was getting tired.

Gently fingering the dark cross hatch of stitches that held together the incision from his latest surgery (did that make it number fifteen?) he explained to me that he might cry unexpectedly and get tired a lot, and would I mind if he put his head down on his desk for a while. I hugged him and touched his shoulder and sat down next to him while I helped students with their drafts. They knew Matthew. They were used to this by now.

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Dear Reader,

There are a few things you should know about me. First things first. Despite the fact that I love my son, I am not a good mother.

Good mothers are not whiny, sarcastic, cynical and mean. Good mothers do not have vices like vodka, two bottles of wine and a stolen cigarette. Good mothers do not have sex (or at least, they don’t talk about it)–-don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about it—and they certainly aren’t sexy. They do not play poker on Saturday nights. They are not obsessed and obsessive freaks who feel they sometimes do not belong at polite dinner parties. They do not question what good mothers are and what good mothers do. They make do and move on and clean up and stay quiet and calmly handle the mess that is always, always, always coming their way. Good mothers are not x, y, and z, or so I had come to believe through the stories our culture and our corporations had sold me.

I’ll admit, it’s still hard to resist or deny the seductive hard-sell of sainthood that is sold to women. It is protective and polite, beautiful and glorified. It is everything that the alternative is not. Slut? Whore? But these aren’t really options, now are they? Perhaps, you too, have found that parenthood exceeds all your expectations. For myself, I have never, truly, felt more exhausted, wacked out, imperfect, wonderful (and full of wonder) in my entire life.

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