A few weeks ago, my eldest son went to a school dance. With 50 Kroner in his pocket and a spot quiz of my mobile number, he went off to shake his 8 year old groove, Gangnam Style. He had a grand old time, but confessed that he was a bit confused about the girls who were chasing him around, to the extent that at one point, he had to hide under a chair. Upon explaining to him that sometimes boys and girls do this to each other when they like someone, he shot us a look of such incredulity that my husband and I had to go into the other room to laugh. Of course, this is just the beginning. We often wish such swift growth upon our children to get through the daily grind, the monotony of the day to day chores and car-pools and activities and play-dates and bedtimes that we sometimes wish their childhood away. Soon my son will be old enough to understand what those girls (or boys) are doing. Then he will be old enough to chase them back. Soon after he will be old enough to swallow his pride and muster his courage and ask someone out. He will experience the butterflies of his first kiss, the heady perfume of first love. He will sling an arm over someone’s shoulder or put a casual hand in a back pocket and saunter down the street wrapped in the warm cocoon of young coupledom.
And then, almost inevitably, someone will break his heart.
He will survive, we all do. But the real question is, will I?
I have had to fight back tears when I have seen one of my children standing alone at the edge of a playground. I have gone soft and misty hearing about other people’s children getting excluded at school. How will I survive my son’s first heartbreak? I am going to have to sit on my hands to stop from wringing the neck of the person that breaks my son’s heart. I may have to strait jacket myself to stop myself going all Texas Cheerleader Mom on their ass. How dare someone not love my son. Who in the world do they think they are? Were they raised by wolves?
In 2011, thanks to Amy Chua, ‘tiger Mom‘ entered the urban lexicon stage right. But to me, a tiger mom shouldn’t be the violin-toting, math tutoring, college prepping your kindergartener that it has come to be associated with. To me a tiger mom is a mom that defends her young with a ferociousness that borders on feral. I can remember the shattering of my heart, the feeling of not being able to breathe for a time, of almost literally drowning in sorrow. When I think of my son experiencing that for the first time, the claws come out. Tiger mom indeed.
If you’ve ever watched a show like “A Birth Story” or “A Baby Story” you’ll see women with placenta still dripping from their hospital beds gush about the instantaneous bond they felt with their child. Women who swear that every day during the 72 months of pregnancy they felt that bond growing stronger. I’m sure it happens like that for some people, but not for everyone. Sometimes it takes a few hours, a few days, weeks, even a few months. But barring extraneous circumstances, it almost always does happen.
When my first son was born, there were unexpected complications and he had to spend a few weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit. When you take your birthing classes you learn how to breath and how to ask for an epidural in 17 languages. You take a tour of the hospital and take a sneak peek at the newborns in their little incubators. But no one ever teaches you what to do when you go home, but your baby doesn’t. So in the post-hormonal exhaustion of just having birthed a live human being and watching as doctors whisked him off, I didn’t feel very bonded. The next 2 days were spent waiting for test results and visiting and trying to hold and nurse while not disturbing tubes and iv lines. Not too much bonding then either, more just stunned somnolence. It wasn’t until about a week later, as I lay sobbing in my bed because I’d forgotten my breast pump tubes at the hospital, that I realized I would do just about anything for my son. The idea of someone hurting him was so abhorrent, I realized that I would happily go to prison just to inflict punishment upon the person who made him cry. I tried to think of something I wouldn’t do to save him–and I couldn’t come up with a single thing. Would I lay down my life? In a heartbeat. Would I harm another that was harming him? In the blink of an eye. Would I exact revenge Old Testament style and bring down a plague of locusts upon the house of his enemy? It sure felt like it at the time. So it didn’t happen immediately, but my tiger instinct was aroused. In our house we have always referred to it as the emergence of Mama Lion, but the idea is the same. The ferocious defense of your young.
That burning intensity has of course been tamed. There’s no need to get Kill Bill in the face of the four year-old in the sand box. I don’t need to practice ninja mom moves when my kid doesn’t get picked for the playground soccer. Without a doubt I would still defend my children with my life, but I’ll save it for the big stuff.
Like that first heartbreak.