When my first son was a baby, just learning to goo and gaa and blow little baby raspberries, he would look at me all goo-goo eyed and say:
“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.
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Your blog entries on parenting are always so nicely balanced and thoughtful.
Thanks for that. Balance seems to be the keyword of my 40s. It is something I seem to constantly be striving for and sometimes actually achieving. Not always, not even close, but sometimes.
You are so right. The hard part for me has been that even though I have a perfectly lovely career now, the best, most fulfilling and joy-inducing thing I ever did was raise our three. And now they’re gone, so my job is largely over. Even worse (not really), I absolutely adore all of them and truly LOVE their company…which I very rarely get any more. It’s really hard. And bravo to you for recognizing how special the time with them is before they’re gone.
Oh that’s today and only because I just recently went away without them for a week. Catch me next week when they’re driving me bonkers and I’ll be counting down the days until they leave the house ;-).
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I kind of think it is a scary thought that kids would not move out 😉
It is! (Fwiw, the first draft of this contained a paragraph about all the things my husband and I fantasize about when they leave…;-). ) And there is satisfaction in that, knowing that you did a good job. Some days (today) it just seems like it’s cruel and unusual ;-).
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There are many reasons I admire parents. This post is one of them. Your boys will be better men because you understand your job.
Thanks, Andra. Most days I’m fine with it. Some days it hurts to think about.