I’ve watched you grow up right before my eyes this summer. In your confidence, in your readiness to face change, in your willingness to tackle whatever comes your way. All summer I listened as the screen door slammed behind you, as you went out on your own to explore the same neighborhood I explored as a girl. I watched as you started middle school without a falter in your step. I stood back, with pride, as you took on the new challenges without a backward glance.
But I wasn’t ready for the last two weeks.
I wasn’t ready for a girl.
When you casually told me you’d asked a girl to the school dance, I was a little taken aback. My mom senses hadn’t tingled, my mom-tennae hadn’t picked up on any unusual activity. Still, I didn’t take it too seriously.
When you told me about the back and forth correspondence I was caught off guard. When I caught you getting up early in the morning to check for new correspondence I started to wonder.
When I caught you doodling her name on bits of scrap paper, my stomach flopped over.
“You.Are.Freaking.Me.Out.” I said. But you just…smiled. A new smile. I smile I didn’t recognize. A smile that maybe, could be (oh-God-already???) for someone else.
During this last two weeks of young–let’s not call it love, let’s call it curiosity–I’ve gone from oh, isn’t that cute to full-blown stomach dropping panic. The same feeling I get when you dangle a foot too close to the edge–when one false step can send you hurtling into nothingness.
Your dad asked if I was afraid you would get your feelings hurt. But that’s not it. That’s not it at all.
I’m not ready to give you up.
You see, for some reason us boy moms are expected to back off when it comes to other females. Oh, sure, we’ll probably be consulted here and there on matters of the heart. We’ll engage you in thousands of conversations about respect and consent. But when you are mom to a boy, there are ingrained expectations that one day you’re going to up and leave, not just physically, but emotionally. Us boy moms are indoctrinated to expect that someday you’ll hitch your wagon to another gal’s star and take off for the moon. And us boy moms? We are advised to stay out of it, not become too involved, do everything we can to avoid becoming the dreaded stereotype of the meddling mother-in-law. We are urged to accept that fact that some day another woman will replace us in your hearts and that’s just the way it should be. A daughter is a daughter for life, a son is a son until he takes a wife and all that malarkey. I don’t necessarily believe it has to be true, but I’m also not one to take chances.
Oh, I know you’re so, so young. This will be the first of many crushes, the first of many moments of hummingbird heart flutters, of butterflies and stomach flips. I remember them. I remember them with the first boy I kissed and I remember the way they made me feel when I met your Dad all those years ago. There will be plenty of flits and flutters for you as well. There will be disappointments and heartaches. There is so much ahead of you. But if this is your first faltering step, there is something I want you to know.
You are worth fighting for.
I fought for you. I fought hard to bring you into the world when it looked like it wasn’t meant to be and I fought hard to keep you here. For nine months I shielded you with my body, with the comfort of my very own self, but just because you were born doesn’t mean that I stopped cradling you, stopped cocooning you. I protect you with every fiber of myself. I still fight for you every day, though you may not see it or be aware of it or know it. I am a mother. I do what mothers do.
You are worth fighting for.
Don’t give your heart away to someone who isn’t worthy of looking after it. There will be those along the way who have temporary custody, those from whom you will learn. Love, like many things, can take time to learn to practice well. There will be those who love you more and those you love more. You will think you can’t go on, can’t tolerate the pain of a reciprocity not given, but you can. I promise. It’s often out of the ashes of those flames that the best parts of yourself are born. But whether it’s for a day or a week or a vow of forever, make sure whoever holds your heart is strong enough to keep it safe.
I hope some day you meet the right person, the one who will fight for you as hard as I have. The one whose chest will dance with the beats of your heart and the music of your breath. Look for the warrior in their soul, that core of shining armor willing to battle for you. Not fight for your love or for your respect, but willing to protect the squishy inner bits of you, the ones so delicate and ancient we keep them hidden. Summon the warrior within as well. Do the same for her. May you both close your eyes at night knowing there is someone there to shield your heart.
I know this is all a long way off. I hope this is a long way off; but if the last two weeks are any indicator, probably not as long as I’d like it to be.
If I do have to turn you over one day, I’ll sleep easier knowing you’ve hitched your heart to someone who will battle just as hard as I do.
*I’m using the pronoun she for the sake of flow. Right now it’s a she. In the end it could be a he. It could be a they. Love is love, heartbreak is heartbreak, and my hopes holds true regardless.
15 Comments Add yours
Love, love. LOVE this. I’ve been dealing with all these same thoughts for several years. Our son has had several girlfriends, and the current one seems to be pretty serious. He’s changed significantly as they’ve gotten closer (in a good way, except that he’s moving away from me to some extent), and it’s not always easy for me to deal with, for all the reasons you mention. I have a major dread of being the pain in the ass mother-in-law. And yet, I have the sense that – as much as he really seems to care for current girlfriend – she may not be the right lifetime person for him. It’s a whole new phase of parenting that I don’t feel quite equipped for yet, but it’s SO important that I handle it well. Thanks for putting all your thoughts out there.
Oh God, I got queasy just reading that. I’m not even sure I can handle this, let alone the next few years! As much as I want my sons to find someone who they want to spend their lives and time with, the idea of it freaks me out to no end. I also think the idea that mothers of boys should just be able to walk away and cut those emotional ties is outdated and hurtful. Yet I see very few people talk about it.
Oh Dina! You made my eyes wet! Not cool, not cool at all. It’s terrifying. Also, sending this to my daughter so she can understand her current paramour’s mother…and how she must be feeling. Thank you xx
I had to do something to stop myself freaking out too badly–for me that something is always to get the words down on paper. Usually they make me feel better. Sometimes it just makes it worse! I hope L gets a little glimmer into what it’s like to be a ‘boy mom’ ;-). Maybe she’ll go a little easier on the one in question :-).
Elyse your relationship with your son always strikes me as one of balance. You’ve grown together, not apart. I hope I have the same.
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Oh man! Girls…please please please let it be a long time before I have to navigate those waters. I will come back to this when that happens. I’m sure I’ll be that awful mother who resists relinquishing my claim to my boy. He’s 5, I have time. But not much. You articulated this so well. I hope I can do the same when my time comes–for my son and my daughter.
Well, it started out as a way to make sense of my own feelings, which surprised me a little. I think the doodling of her name really threw me over the edge–it’s the first time I’ve seen him do anything like that and frankly, it freaked me out badly. Now, the real test will be to practice what I preach. Always easier said than done.
Does he know how to whistle? It’s easy, just put his lips together and just blow….All the knowledge he needs…..
I’m thinking any advice that has the word blow in it, however innocuous, is one I want to steer clear of for the time being!!
My eldest just celebrated his tenth anniversary with his magnificent wife. My youngest is on his second and I hope every single day this is the one who keeps him steady and stable. Your letter to your son, it was wonderful I hope someday you let him read it.
I hope that he wants to read it someday! You sound like the mother-in-law I aim to be. Whether or not that actually happens….well, that’s a whole ‘bother story ;-).
I’m a boy, and I approve this message.
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Love your footnote!
Thank you. And I do actually mean it. I love that my kids are growing up in a more accepting world. May it only become more so for their children and their children’s children.