How To Be A Bad MotherHold your baby girl too tight. Or don’t
hold her at all. Transfer her from bassinet
to carriage wearing Kevlar gloves, lest your love
burn through your skin, brand her with your need.
Leave her in the care of nannies, neighbors,
the mailman, while you walk the dog. Or never
leave her alone, take her to school in the morning,
wait for her before the afternoon bell, hover
in the hall outside her bedroom, eavesdrop
on whispered conversations with her friends.
Let her dress her two-year-old self in stripes and flower prints
because she’s a “Big girl,”
because she’s one “No” away from a tantrum,
because her baby brother’s crying in the next room,
because you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Smile
when your mother asks, “You’re letting her go out in that?”
Scream at your daughter when you find her crouching
in a forest of winter coats at Macy’s after ten minutes
of calling her name, plowing through clothing racks,
shoving aside other shoppers. Threaten to show her naked
baby pictures to future boyfriends. Always hug her
as she leaves the house.
Or never hug her.
Sing at the top of your lungs
to your favorite Madonna song on the radio
while you’re driving her and her friends to a party. Demand
that she apologize to Amanda, the girl she shunned in 5th grade,
the girl she said she didn’t notice, didn’t know,
couldn’t care less about. You were once Amanda.
Don’t let your daughter be one of “those girls.”
Force her to wear sunscreen every day; so what
if she whines about the white streaks on her nose.
Drag her to mother/daughter classes
on the joys of puberty, then cry when she hides
her first bloody panties from you the way you did
from your mother. Walk out the door, move to another state,
change your name and leave her with her father, the one
she always loved more.
Copyright © 2015 Elya Braden
Elya Braden took a long detour from her creative endeavours to pursue a career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and collage artist living in Los Angeles where she leads workshops for other writers. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cultural Weekly, Dogwood, Euphony, Forge, poemmemoirstory, Red Earth Review, Shark Reef, Split Lip Magazine, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Willow Review and elsewhere.