Last night I was watching The Middle. I’m not a huge fan of comedies on television, but there are times the channel is on and I’m planted on the floor by the fireplace and can’t get up…puppy on my lap, laptop over my legs, wine glass in my left hand, you know how it is. One main part of last night’s episode was the mom realizing that her son was growing up. He had gone to buy pants on his own, and while she hated to go pant shopping with him, she realized she’d missed the last time to do it because her son could now do it on his own. She cried about it and the husband sort of blew her off on his way into the bathroom. When she said her kids were grown up, he reminds her: Isn’t that the point? The show ended with her son in the car, with a friend rather than spending time with her alone, and not speaking to her at all as a result, but she was okay with that because she was still with him.
Moms, you know how it is.
We get tired, we get frustrated and some days, we just don’t want to deal with some of the stuff that comes up. We sigh and deal with it, thinking about how we can resolve it and put it behind us. But what if that was the last time?
I really could identify with the story line. My youngest is now 15, and I’ve been a mom for over 27 years now. 27 years, and that’s just the age of my oldest. I have four kids, that’s a lot of parenting hours, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Even if we don’t enjoy the activity, we still want to be a part of it and feel bad when we miss it. The list of things I miss is long:
rubbing “night night” balm on his upper lip to help him sleep — when did that stop? Do I even remember the last time? Was it because I didn’t want to do it that one last night or did he stop wanting me to?
morning snuggles on the couch before getting ready for school
bi-weekly trips to get ice cream
playing board games after homework
I could go on, but it’ll make me sad. Sadder. I love being a mom, it’s all I ever wanted to do, and now that my older three are essentially on their own, I have only the 15 year old who really needs me in the way that I’m used to, and even that is waning. The father on The Middle is right — that’s the goal — but that doesn’t mean we want it to be over with.
So what do we do? There are days I want to force Little Dude to go somewhere with me, like a movie, or to get ice cream, but he’s not always into it. He’s got friends or homework or football practice, and if I push too much, he feels bad. He tells me he gets sentimental, so I don’t want to push my feelings onto him. I just wish I could go back to the Little People village set up next to my desk that I finally put all 5322 pieces away after he hadn’t played with it in a couple of weeks and not put it away. I wish I could go back to the Spongebob puppet show that sat in the middle of my livingroom forever, with him putting on spontaneous shows, but I moved it to the playroom for some event and it never got moved back down, and I saw few puppet shows after.
Some people say “no regrets,” but there are regrets. I don’t know if they are regrets I could fix, because for every moment I didn’t do something, I was doing something else. I honestly can look back and feel like I spent so much time focusing on the kids that I don’t have guilt, despite being a working mom. My jobs at home allowed me to be there when the school called, to see them go out the door in the morning and be there when they returned. I homeschooled for many years, which gave me the opportunity to get to know my kids so well, in ways that I wouldn’t have if they’d spent half their day out of the house at the public school. I took them with me to the bank, the doctor, the mall. We had Disney passes and Knott’s passes and visited botanical gardens, aquariums and every little museum we could find. I really think we gave them so many experiences that I can’t be sorry…yet I am, I miss being “mom.” When you’re mom for so long — or at all — it’s such a big part of your identity, what comes next?
I’ve got a growing business and a happy marriage and hobbies and friends, so I’m not bereft of things to do. I just want to be sure that no matter what I do now, I give it the attention it deserves, because what if it is the last time? When Little Dude comes home from school, I try to be there to make him a snack. I like making his homemade waffles each morning, sitting with him at the table with my coffee as he eats, talking about what we see on the news or what he sees on his phone as he eats. (I don’t mind him being on the phone in the morning, sometimes it helps him transition to leaving the house and opens up a lot of topics of conversation. We’ve had some of our best, most important conversations after seeing something on the phone or on the news. When the Inland Regional Center shooting occurred, we needed to approach it, as he was a client there for years, and his friend’s mom was one of the victims. We had to be able to talk about it but at his comfort level.) I don’t want him to lose out on opportunities to still be a kid because I’m too busy, so we’ve set another date for an indoor trampoline zone and I make sure that we still do our trips for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Things don’t need to be big, but even just sitting on the couch by him before he goes to bed is a big deal. He’s more calm and I’ve gotten a little more time with my little man before he doesn’t want to sit by me anymore.
Moms of littles, it really does fly by. One day you’re changing a diaper, the next you’re dropping them off to middle school. Eventually, they graduate high school, go to college, get jobs, get married and others in their lives are more important — it’s how life goes. Things do fade away as they grow from one phase to the next, and we need to let them do it on their own, but we need to remember to enjoy it all. There was a lot of crazy things I could have done without, but each thing brought the opportunity to be closer and to have a different perspective. I’ll still feel bad that I missed the “last” of some things, but I can’t let that overwhelm the “first” of other things. Those are important, too. Kids still need us as they grow and I don’t want to undervalue that but I also am not pushing them out the door. They grow and mature fast enough, there are many years for them to be adults and make major decisions; right now, I like that the decisions can still be things like “do I want hot cocoa or tea with honey after school?” That works for me.