“Mama” I would say to him, making sure to enunciate.
He would bobble his giant baby head and smile and say, yet again, “Dada”.
I’d been a mother for less than a year and already I could see how this parenting gig was going to turn out.
There are all sorts of ways you get shafted when you’re a mother. You sacrifice–sleep, a career, bladder control, sleep—but it’s never enough. You make a fool out of yourself on a regular basis. You wear your ass numb watching recitals and football matches. You routinely put back the expensive stilettos in favor of guitar lessons. You forgo sick days and vacation days and you work all the hours that God sends. And in the end? In the end, if you’ve done your job right…they leave.
It’s like doing all the research and grunt work on an 18 year project just to have someone else take all the credit when it actually works.
It seems cruel and unusual that right around the time you should actually start to reap the benefits of all those sacrifices–all the canceled plans, the dreams on lay-a-way, the stiletto free shoe cupboard–your children are ready to move on. Just when you should be able to sit back and enjoy a conversation with the intelligent, respectful human being you worked so hard to shape and mold, they up and leave, bestowing their lovely manners upon the rest of the world.
The whole point of parenting is to raise a functioning human being. One who is able to step out into the world unafraid and live the life of their choosing. One who is able to wipe his own backside and make her own decisions and screw up and love and dance his way across the spectrum of emotions we call life. If those little beings, the ones who looked you square in the eye and called you Dada when you were really Mama can eventually do all that, it means you done good.
It means you did your job.
Still, seems like a kick in the pants, doesn’t it? By the time you’ve caught up on enough sleep and sex and shoes to really enjoy their company without having to worry about their table manners or whether they’re eating enough protein, they’re not around to anymore.
Doing your job means setting them free for the rest of the world to enjoy. What kind of suck-ass job is that?
That would be parenting.
My oldest son is ten going on eleven and already I feel like I never see him anymore. I know it’s only going to get worse. It seems like only yesterday I was trying to get him to say Mama. As he steps further away, with more confidence in his gait, with surety in his step, I know in my heart that even if I’m not Mama anymore, on some level, I’ll always be Mom. I know I’m doing what I am supposed to do, what I signed up for. I know I’m just doing my job.
This woman’s work.