I had to hear it through a half-dozen other mouths before I realized it’d been in my head first, and for possibly years.
“What am I doing wrong?”
It’s the mother whose child isn’t sleeping, and the wife whose husband isn’t emoting, the daughter whose father is still in rehab and the 25-year-old who is still in the same cubicle, with the same title, three years into her job who are all saying it.
Haven’t we all said it? When was the last time you did?
The Wrong Question We All Ask
We brought our second two children home from Uganda, which meant we were now parents of four, and this question roiled around in my head at 11 p.m., just hours after another child’s meltdown. This was the first time they’d known the safety of a Daddy’s strong-arms, but my husband’s arms still seemed to feel anything but safe. This was the first time they’d known family dinners and full bellies and rhythm, yet here I was staring at their sobs and asking that question: What am I doing wrong?
And I remember six months into wearing wedding bands and sharing bed covers. I was six months into knowing how to use a stove for more than macaroni and cheese when the wind blew through the thin walls of our 1930’s cottage at night, and it felt like the living metaphor of the tension between us. So, of course, I asked that question: What am I doing wrong?
We had read many marriage books, but where was there room for difficulty when you were supposed to be “young and in love”?
And later … I gripped my handbag while round-bellied women held their girths, all of us circling up to celebrate a young friend preparing to have her first baby. They shared birth stories and I stared at the clock wondering why they had their stories, and I had only my empty womb. What am I doing wrong? echoed through my mind like distant footsteps down a long and sterile corridor with no end. I was barren and my friends were birthing families.
No Room for Conversation
This simple question seems harmless. Wouldn’t we naturally want to course correct if we’d gone astray? I believe firmly in learning, at every stage of life. We’re searching Craigslist for more bookshelves to hold all the books, and I’m looking down the aisle at church for more older women from whom I can glean.