“Mom, you are being so mean to me. You are so much nicer to Peter. You love him more than me.”
I looked at my soon-to-be 19-year-old son, my first born child, and simply said, “No, of course I don’t love him more. I adore you both.”
But I like your 12-year-old brother a heck of a lot more right now. This thought ran through my head, but thankfully I didn’t speak it aloud.
For the last few weeks, Tom and I have been bringing out the worst in each other. We can’t seem to go more than an hour before one of us snaps at the other.
This isn’t typical of our relationship. We’ve always been close.
It’s easy for my mind to wander back 19 years ago, at a time when I was extremely pregnant and a week past my due date. I was sitting at our kitchen table feeling the constant kicks and rolls inside of me.
I had become so accustomed to my prenatal tenant, that I barely could remember a time when I wasn’t feeling a hiccup or jab in my ribs.
Being pregnant and expecting this child was a dream come true. After four miscarriages, fertility treatments, and a sad decision to stop trying and start looking into other options, I was pregnant. This time it stuck. I finally filled out the maternity dresses I had been longing to wear.
For as long as I could remember, I had always wanted to be a mother. It wasn’t just a dull ache that stirred from time to time as I went through my twenties and entered my thirties. My desire to have and care for a child was a constant yearning that was finally being realized.
At 33 I had been lucky enough to have lived on my own, met and married my best friend, go to college and have a job I liked. I didn’t feel I had to have a family to be fulfilled because of an arbitrary standard society imposed on me. I knew in my soul that being a mother was the one thing I was truly meant to be.
When my gorgeous, perfect son finally arrived, 10 days past his due date, I was in love. I was also terrified. This was it. This was what I wanted my whole life. What if it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be?
It turned out that despite the crazy hours, lack of sleep, and all-encompassing nature of the job, not to mention the times I wished I could run away to Hawaii and not leave a forwarding address, I adore being a mother. I love being Tom’s mother.
The first night after he was born, I remember physically missing him inside me. We were separated now. From this day forward every new thing he learned to do, from nursing, and learning to steady his huge head, to crawling and feeding himself Cheerios, was meant to move him one more teeny tiny step away from needing me.
He learned it all. We progressed from Mommy-and-Me classes to preschool and then on to grade school. In June he graduated high school, and in the fall he started college.
Although I realize a mother’s job is never over, Tom is grown and learning to fly. He doesn’t always want my opinion or feedback. Knowing that he needs to find his own way, I do my best to back off.
But then just when I think he’s done with me, he looks at me the way he would when he was three, and he would ask me to dry his tears before I left him at nursery school for two hours. I’m not going to lie, a piece of me is thrilled. He wants me. He needs me.
My desire to step in and help comes on strong and occasionally takes over. Which, quite naturally, makes him want to run away from me. He’s as conflicted as I am as we face this new stage of our relationship.
Hence all the fireworks that my, until now, relatively peaceful house has been experiencing.
I looked up at my son and wanted to take him in my arms and tell him everything will be all right. I wanted to let him know how much he means to me and how proud I am of him.
Just as I was about to say something he spoke first.
“I’m sorry mom. I know I was being difficult. It’s just sometimes I really do want your help, and then I get frustrated and want to do it myself, without you. I guess I’m just getting use to all these changes.”
I smiled at him and was glad to feel his arms go around me for a quick hug. The frustration and anger I felt just a few minutes ago melted away.
He’s right. There are an awful lot of changes happening to both of us, and they’re not unlike the changes we both went through when he came into the world almost 19 years ago.