every day is mother’s day. i see her all the time. i have stuff to do today.
these were the words my oldest son told his younger brother just before announcing he would not be coming home from his father’s for the weekend to celebrate mother’s day with me. certainly, the words of a naive teenager, who clearly is going through that selfish phase i believe kids go through where their time is precious, and can’t be moved for most people. even their mothers. on mothers day.
to say i was hurt. understatement of the decade. i was really hurt. i didn’t suffer in silence either. i am just not that graceful. my middle son is 16, and has always been more in tune with me. perhaps it is the fact that we are very alike or that i had him when i was really young and we essentially grew up together, but he knew my feelings would be hurt by this and he could tell my feelings were hurt all day. he made jokes. he tried to lighten the mood. he attempted to share ways in which my older son was just trying to throw around his new found adulthood with him. i wanted to hug him all day. i bought him a video game and ice cream. he probably could have asked for a horse farm, and gotten it.
the day wore on, and i checked my phone, hoping for at least a “happy mothers day” text. maybe even a personal phone call. nothing. until about 8pm.
mom. hi. did you order my prom flowers yet?
happy mothers day, mom! that would be the right way to start this conversation.
happy mothers day, mom!
oh, right. yeah. i was going to get to that.
you should start with that.
oh. right. happy mothers day. did you order my prom flowers yet?
we can talk about this tomorrow.
oh, okay. well, talk to you tomorrow.
honestly, i wasn’t sure if he was dense or just that egocentric right now. g. convinced me he was just the center of his own universe right now. it’s part of the age, g. kept repeating. it felt shitty whatever it was.
i stewed over it for a whole night, and honestly, part of me worried about it. TR struggled his whole life with attachment, being adopted and living through some real emotional trauma. our relationship as mother and son was tested by this, and at times, it was very difficult to know if he truly felt connected to me in the way that peanut did. peanut was always loyal to me. he loved me, and if i left a room, he would look for me. he identified with me, because i was the only mother he had ever known. TR and i, well, we had to foster a connection where there was none, and for him, it was even more of a challenge, because he had never been taught that was safe to do. loving people meant loss. it meant that you would be hurt and left. he trusted only himself. he looked out for the only person he knew he could depend on. that person was him.
children, by nature, are selfish. they want. they need. they expect the world to be brought to them. for a short time, we indulge those whims, as parents. for some kids, that never happens, though, and they learn to take. TR was one of those takers. i had to indulge him the way a parent indulges a baby, but i had to do it for him as an older child. i had to do it, so he would learn he could trust me.
i will bring the world to you, little boy. trust me.
there comes a point, though, when all parents start backing down. they start handing that responsibility to their children. the needs and wants they have? they have to learn to satiate on their own. the parents become guides instead of gods, and you find out, to a certain extent, where you stand. do they want your help, or do they try to stand alone? do they attack problems alone, or do they crave your input? do they come to you for comfort, or do they create relationships outside the family? do they tell you about their lives, or do you suddenly find you have a stranger living in the upstairs bedroom? what kind of job have you done, parent?
these things ran through my head as a laid in bed on mothers day. wondering if this was how things would shake out now that my son really had no obligation to me. i began second guessing parenting choices i’d made a decade before. wondering if i had done something to make him forsake me. wondering why he didn’t feel compelled to come and eat dinner with me on MY day. dramatic, right?
he came home later that day after school, and immediately went to his room. he said nothing to me. dinner came and went, and he didn’t come out of his room. he didn’t eat or join us. i went in to see what his problem was, and of course, this was not without a chip squarely on my shoulder.
what is your problem? why have you come in and not said a word to anyone? if anyone has a reason to be mad at ANYONE, it should be me, upset with YOU.
seriously. you made about the most selfish choice i can think of. it’s like me saying i don’t want to spend your birthday with you, because i’ve got better things to do.
selfish!? are you serious? i had homework and other stuff to do. i wanted to visit with dad. i don’t see him that often.
you could have done your homework earlier in the weekend. i think dad would understand if you came home early on sunday because it was MOTHERS DAY.
the argument went on and on. i got more upset. he got increasingly more upset as i characterized his behavior as self-centered. it was not my finest moment. finally, i stopped talking to him, because it was going nowhere. i realized, as an adult, it was not productive, and i walked away.
when i calmed down, i returned to talk to him, and he was crying. my oldest son was crying. an 18 year old young man. crying. i felt bad. as a mother.
i sat across from him, and asked him what he was thinking about. he shrugged his shoulders. i waited.
i’m tired of people telling me i’m not doing the right thing. whether it’s not getting good grades in school. not studying hard enough. or not coming home from mothers day. i’m always doing something wrong.
it sounds a bit like a pity party for one, but indeed, growing up is hard to do. it’s tough to go from being a child where people delight in the things you do. put your artwork on the fridge and laugh at all your jokes. to being an adult. the latter is certainly harder work. it’s harder to make people fuss over you. it takes more, because those around you expect more from you. they expect you to be a little less selfish, like you were when you were a child. they expect you to be a little more generous and independent. they expect you to think a little more critically. the brother and sisterhood of man is not an exclusive club, but the rules are a little different than they were for the under 18 set.
the problem is you don’t know what you don’t know. you don’t know that the rule is, “think about others” until you haven’t done just that, and it didn’t work out well for you. maybe you didn’t share well in the sandbox and your mom scolded you. maybe you called someone a name in grade three and a teacher corrected you with a couple minutes of lost recess. it doesn’t quite sting in the same way that those lessons learned as an adult do. you remember the times you fuck up as an adult, because you do it with no one to run to afterwards. that is a lesson learned on your own, and it hurts in a way that stays with awhile. hopefully, long enough to not repeat it again. i think for TR this phase of life is going to be especially hard. he is coming into his own a little later than his peers. his rough start in life put him behind the curve instead of ahead of it. adulthood is coming to him like a punch in the face. unfortunately, he is greeting his attack with his hands at his sides most days, and his hands tied behind his back some.
we talked for a long time. over an hour. we talked about how he feels pressure to be an adult. how he is worried about all the changes coming. responsibility. college. work. friends moving to different schools and relationships changing. how he didn’t think missing mothers day would hurt my feelings as much as it did. how he doesn’t mean to come across in the way that he does sometimes. and then i took a minute to remind him of something. something that is always true. that most of the time, i’m not angry with him. most of the time, i’m just hurt. sometimes my hurt looks angry. i told him that i loved him, and i would always love him. there wasn’t a thing he could do to make that stop. not even not coming home on mothers day. i just hoped that he would understand that i really felt like i was missing a third of my heart that day. i had peanut. i had fish. i missed him. he nodded. looked down. wiped his last tears up.
i didn’t feel like putting the kid on the spot anymore. i touched his head like i did when he was small. told him i loved him. that i was excited for his prom and all the things coming up in his life. and i walked out.
adult lessons suck. they stick with us. they suck.