When it comes to mothering, some things never change. And I don’t just mean the laundry.
Really. No matter how you try to alter your behavior, you repeat patterns in spite of your best intentions.
Okay. Maybe you can change a little.
If you make a concerted effort. If you think before you speak. If you mutter to yourself before you go running to help (where you aren’t wanted), before you sink into years of self-inflicted guilt, and before you allow the fist in your stomach to send you into lioness mode protecting your cubs.
Cubs need to stand on their own.
Cubs become young lions – and they do stand on their own.
It’s holiday season. I’m swamped. Unlike the “regular” working world to which I belonged for years, my busy-bee independent consultant constellation does not slow down at year end. On the contrary, it is often the case that it speeds up.
I have more work, not less. Not necessarily more money, mind you, but more work.
Then there’s the holidays, the kids coming home, their friends in and out. And my desire – my tendency – to want to make it a marvelous, memorable, cozy experience even if I have to turn myself inside out to do it.
And I can’t. Not in the way I once could. And it’s not about creating an abundance of gifts beneath the tree, but rather, an abundance of good cheer, good food, laughter, and a relaxed self – me – able to truly enjoy them. And as a consequence, allow them to truly enjoy being home.
That is what I wish to give them.
That mother. That sense of home. That experience.
But some things never change.
Deadlines, at the most inconvenient times. Money stress, always worse at the end of the year. Holiday stress as the days count down. Commitments to others – and myself – to help here, to bake there.
And yet, since my younger son returned from college just a few nights ago, there have been discussions around the table – some with laughter and others on topics of a serious nature. I am reminded that my cub is, indeed, becoming a young lion.
His brother will return to the nest soon (I can hardly wait), and his voice will join in conversation.
Still, I had to stop myself two days ago when I heard my kid angry over something in the living room. I could feel my stomach twist, the way it always did when he was angry in middle school or high school, and somehow I always felt responsible. Single Mother Guilt. No other words for it.
So when I knew he was upset over something – no idea what – I had to stop myself from offering an ear, or interrupting my work day, or interfering in any way with whatever he was angered about, reminding myself that it’s his business, and he’ll share what he wants, if he wants, when he wants.
It turns out his computer was crashing as he was trying to email a final project. No wonder he was mad; but he didn’t need me for anything. This was a good reminder that if our college kids are living away from home just fine, when they return for the holidays we do NOT need to micromanage them.
Of course, my young man was more than pleased when I dashed out for a few errands yesterday and brought home a quick bite that we shared before he got back to his tasks and I got back to mine. (We mothers love to feed our kids, don’t we?)
And I was delighted when I was burning dinner on the stove, answering emails, and tackling a new project all at the same time last evening.
“Can you check the stove and take care of things for me?” I asked.
He stopped what he was doing and manned the spatula and the saucepan until I was able to pause my documents, then finish making the meal.
(Let’s hear it for kids who cook, and let’s remind mothers to let them do so!)
Naturally, I’ve already apologized to him for the non-heap of gifts that will be under the (as yet non-present) tree this year. And that, I always forget, triggers guilt in him – as he tells me not to apologize.
Mothers, mothers, mothers. We can be a pain. We really do need to know how to police ourselves, and try to pick our way through the good, the bad and the ugly. (Keep the former; ditch the latter.)
And I find myself wondering if the years of being a single mother have freed me from some worry-tendencies and chained me to others. For example – I feel freed from the most petty (like whether or not kids clean their rooms); I feel forever linked to their financial and emotional survival. (Is there enough money to cover meals at school? Are they able to trust another person with their hearts?)
The holidays, fortunately, will offer several weeks with one son home – so far, his company is a pleasure – and several days with my firstborn, already “out in the world,” and making this mother proud.
But my boys have always made me proud.
Some things never change. Mothers will be mothers will be mothers.