A few years ago my kids reached ages that I vividly remember being. Every song from the ‘70s serves to keep those memories fresh, and they translate, somehow, to my parenting. Those memories inform the way I talk to my kids, respond to them, make requests, challenge them, congratulate them. I remember the roller-coaster emotions, the raging hormones, the displaced anger, the confusion. I remember the “being with friends” moments from which emerged life memories.
I feel like I’m a better mother for having been a child.
And then I remember that this part of it – the mother part, being the mother of teens – is all new to me, just as every other stage has been. And I continue to be stunned at how painful each stage can be, in its own way. Knowing the pain isn’t in the stage, but in knowing that the stage will end.
When my son was an infant, I remember crying one evening at the sheer intensity of my love for him, and the thought that somehow, it may not last. I memorized as much as I could, but in a way I was right; it didn’t last. The love certainly did … the stage, necessarily, did not.
It gave way to another stage, where he could walk, and talk, and laugh, and give spontaneous hugs. And the next, when I stood with him at the bus stop, knowing that his learnings, his world exposure, were no longer under my exclusive control. It was terrifying, and a little bit of my mother-cord was cut – snipped so surreptitiously, really, that it was almost imperceptible in the moment. But he always got off that bus and ran to me.
The cut became more perceptible as he became more independent, which of course is supposed to happen. We raise our kids to be their own people, to work hard at what they love, to get back up when they fall. We do this so we can eventually send them out in the world and not spend every moment of the rest of our lives biting our nails. And as my son grew, started spreading his wings, started heading to his room from the bus, he still, on occasion, would come up to me with the spontaneous hug.
And now, at 17, he has a girlfriend, and we are in yet another stage for which I was totally unprepared – a stage where I am no longer the one he comes to first to share, to celebrate, to mourn, to rail, or to just converse. I’m a pretty close second, I think, but after being first for 17 years, second is a pretty distant place to be. His girlfriend is absolutely lovely, and I couldn’t be happier for him – for them. But the cord has taken a pretty significant hit. And I miss my son.
It’s an odd feeling, to miss a person who is sitting next to you at dinner. Thank God for the random hugs; they remind me that even though he’s grown, that little boy is still in there, somewhere. And that my goal now is not just to remember my own childhood, but to remember his.