It’s normal, they say. It’s bound to happen. My sons. They’re growing up. Not just up. Up and away. Like that superhero I told them they could be. Like the superhero I gave up my dreams and my sleep and my life to be for them.
My sons are growing up. And they are sweet humans. They really are. They have their moments but they are souls I love to be with. I love their brains and their senses of humor. I love their resistance to order and I love their obsession with it.
But it’s time. It’s normal. They are growing up and away. Just as I weaned them from my breast and from my bed, it’s time for the next level of distance.
I’ve noticed they are more physically autonomous; there is a slight pulling away physically if I go to inspect a splinter or help with flossing teeth. They don’t want me combing their hair after the shower the way I used to: I would make funny patterns in their locks and we would laugh. Now they comb it down like little men and inspect themselves in the mirror as I watch from the hallway.
And there is an emotional shift too. A bit less offering of information. Much more “It’s no big deal” kind of utterances when I ask about accomplishments in their classes. As the working parent, I am less in touch with their schoolwork; I am used to them filling me in. Now I have to ask their dad.
And I’m not ready. I mean, I am. But also I’m not. They give me so much with their cuddles and their devotion. And now it is shifting.
They want to be with their dad in ways I never noticed before. They gravitate towards the other men in our lives: neighbors, friends, acquaintances. They like to be around dudes. They are dudes. I get it.
I thought I might be spared. If I’m being totally honest, I really did think that. Because I’m a guy’s gal, right? I wrestle more than their dad does. I love sports cars and getting dirty and wiping my hands on my shirt. I blow my nose loud, and I don’t really do girl stuff, like shop or get manicures or do my hair. I thought this made me immune from them realizing I am…Mom.
People tell me two things. They tell me my boys will come back to me. And they tell me boys go the way of the partner they choose and I’ll rarely see them once they find a partner.
So. If the first theory is right, I think: What if they don’t come back?
And if the second theory is right, I think: Oh my God, I don’t have a daughter—I’ll be all alone!
I would be lying if I didn’t admit: I wonder if those moms who seem so perfect in their immaculate linen trousers and nice earrings and freshly-scrubbed rosy cheeks and expert mascara parented “right,” so that their boys wouldn’t grow away from them. I wonder if all of the times I embarrass my boys by not looking like the other moms is why they are pushing me away. I wonder if I’m too loud, too messy, too mismatched, too weird…I wonder.
I have to accept myself where I am and pray that they can do so, too.
I bet those perfect moms have sons who also get embarrassed by them, right? They are not always perfect. They have emotional, hormonal days and weeks. They get depressed and overwhelmed. They lose their cool. They curse. They sit down and cry sometimes.
And maybe, just maybe, their sons do what mine do when I sit down and cry. Maybe their sons also put a small hand on their shoulder and say, “Mama, it’s ok.” Maybe they will see that Mama is tired and offer to set the table. Or maybe they will offer to feed the cats even though the smell of food makes them gag. Because they can see that Mama could use a break.
When they grow away, I will be left with myself. And my memories. And the feeling in my heart of what a small hand feels like. And the sound I waited my whole life to hear: Mama, it’s ok.