I spent the day trying to pinpoint a moment. I spent the day trying to remember when this attitude started, when this smarter-than-thou, I’m-my-own-person-give-me-my-space, phase began.
I spent the day wondering if I am too hard on him. I worried that he is angry, but unwilling to hurt me by saying so, about being plucked from his circle of friends in public school. I questioned the weight of responsibility that I place on his eight-year-old shoulders, the sharpness of my tongue when I discipline.
Vinnie and I are both at a loss with his need-to-be-right and have the last word mentality. The stomping of feet and recent huffing over every little request, the sobs that came as I swept up his unfinished puzzle this morning, scattered in pieces over my living room floor.
But, Alex, I said, you had time to clean this yourself. We warned you of this consequence.
Instead, early this morning, he fed the pets and then came to ask if he could play his X-box games before the other kids woke up. He played, his feet standing inches from the pieces of puzzle, not even. He had time. Still, he wept as they fell from the dustpan into the garbage.
Who are you? I want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. I think of his cherubic white face, laughing at me, making me laugh, from his perch in his exersaucer, oh so many years ago. How did we get here? How does anyone get here? About a million miles apart in a 1200 square foot house.
In our van, we have about a dozen CDs. We also have a giant seamless backdrop that is running the entire length of our van, stopping and blocking the console where the discs are now held captive. And so, Matthew West has been playing on a loop. As a result, this song came to mind today as I stared at Alex, not knowing if I should hug him harder or let him just run off into the woods and away from me. (Or, more accurately, secretly wishing I could take off into the woods myself.)
The song repeats the phrase, Go back, to the moment of truth. (Meaning, in moments of doubt or anger- go back to when you first said I do, or when you first held your child.)
So, tonight, I went back. I went back and searched through my old, old blog, where Alex was first introduced to the world as The Boss, an only child. And in reading, I found a humorous account of our first “fight” (when he was three and we went back and forth over whether an alphabet block said “I” or “1”), but I also think I found a little peace.
November 28, 2006 (Alex, one, going on two.)
Today. I held it for only a moment, ran my thumb over the smooth ivory skin, marveled at his growth – but only for a moment, a breath – before he pulled away and filled his small palm with a fistful of blanket.
After church on Sunday, I went to pick him up from the nursery and he barely cast me a glance acknowledging my arrival. If anything, the look in his eyes was panic – that I was going to take him away from his friends.
Yesterday, leaning in to buckle him into his car seat we played a game with our eyes. Blinking. Smiling. Winking, then laughing. But when I leaned close enough to brush my lips on the apple of his cheeks, he turned away and threw his hands against my face.
And so we have the first physical signs of what I’ve known all along – I’m losing him.
I know it sounds melodramatic: My toddler is getting ready to leave me, but on some levels, it’s true. And natural, of course. We all discover our own personhood and embark on our own journeys. Who am I to wish something different for my own children? I’m not exactly living at home with my mother now am I?
Even before he was even born, I knew that he wasn’t mine to keep. I just didn’t think he’d remind me so quickly that he is his own person. A person who might not want his hand held whenever I have the urge to hold it. A person who can decline his mother’s kiss in a public parking lot if he so chooses.
I know that it’s the start of a phase, of something new. Or perhaps it’s only a manifestation of his feelings toward me since I brought home his wriggly, crying little sister. Either way, it hurts more than I’d thought it would. More than I’d prepared myself for.
And I know it’s only going to get both better and worse, both sweet and bitter – this lifelong journey of letting go.
Tonight, it’s nearly seven years later to the date since I wrote that first post, and I’m feeling the same stretching and pulling. The same distance is carving it’s path between us, creating the landscape that will become our geography as mother and son.
I’m here, reminded that it’s the start of a phase, or perhaps it is a manifestation of feelings towards me since we started homeschooling. Either way, it hurts more than I thought it would. More than I prepared myself for.
But the same can be said for motherhood at large. For all of the beautiful, heart melting, this-is-why-I’m-here-on-this-earth moments of clarity and wonder, this is still an inescapable part. Motherhood hurts more than I thought it would. More than I prepared myself for.
And I must be a glutton for such punishment, because I wouldn’t trade even this, for anything else in the world.