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I had just settled myself into our empty nest when our youngest son, Dylan, decided to ditch dorm living and move back home. It had been a rough entry to University for him — with pain and back surgery overshadowing his first year of freedom — so while I knew that his return would ruffle some of our routines, I was secretly breathing a sigh of relief to have my youngest child near me again. The kid had barely unpacked his suitcase and I was back into full-time mom mode.
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Have you eaten anything today?”
“Did you study?”
“What time did you go to sleep? You need more sleep.”
“When are you going to get a haircut?”
“Didn’t you wear that yesterday?”
“Where ya going?”
“Who’s going to be there?”
And so on.
Dylan humors me, most of the time. Thankfully he’s well past the eye-rolling stage of teenage-hood, and a tad more understanding of my necessary mothering (I think?). He knows I can’t help myself. He knows I’m just looking out for him. And I’m sure he knows that one day he will be free from my constant reminders to brush his teeth or pick up his clothes.
What he doesn’t know–what none of my children could possibly know — is that it’s not the act of letting go that I struggle with, it’s the being let go of that does me in. And the letting go usually starts with the “I got this.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” “I got this, Mom.”
“Do you want me to go shopping for jeans with you?” “Mom, I got this.”
“Did you sign up for classes yet? You know…” “I got this.”
And they do. My children are making decisions about their future. They are managing adult relationships and negotiating car loans. They are decorating their homes, picking out furniture and learning new skills. And half of these children of mine are taking care of babies! They’ve clearly got this. Making this shift from first string mother, always in the game — to one that sits on the bench, suited up and waiting to be called — is not easy.
Sitting on the bench, I don’t have any input into what’s going on in the game. The plays are made without my approval. As skilled as I am in my position, the kids have drafted other (life) players on their team now and so I wait. Don’t want contribute to “too many men on the field” or have a penalty flag thrown at me for encroachment, so I wait to be called. Ok, yes, I’m a football fan, and the more I think about it, the more similarities I see between the game of football and motherhood. Our careers typically last less than 20 years. And even when we’re good for a few more years, we’re tired. As many times as we fall down, we know we have to get up and keep playing. We have to stay conditioned, both physically and mentally, because we never know where the next “hit” is coming from. And as hard as we try, we don’t always win.
There are disappointments. And there are celebrations. And, we hope, lots of touchdowns and happy dances in the end zone. And just when we think we’ve figured out “our” game, one of the plays change and we are forced to adjust. Accepting the fact that my youngest child has benched me is getting easier. It helps to have him close, where I can watch from the sidelines. From the bench, I’ve learned that he will give his last $20 to a homeless man. That he takes his new role as uncle to his two adorable nieces so seriously. I’ve learned that family is the most important thing to him. And I’ve learned that he wants to learn sign language and loves algebra (what!?).
During these past few months, I’ve learned that he’s got this. And I couldn’t be prouder.