My 13yo son and I had "a moment" last night. He came to me upset about something that's been bothering him a lot recently, and he just wanted to talk. To me. His mother. He didn't want me to fix the problem, so I didn't try. I just listened while he got it all off his chest. And then I said, "I'm sorry you're feeling like this." He sighed. We watched a half hour of TV together. And then he went to bed laughing about something one of us had said.
I feel like I'm faking this whole "mom" thing more often than not. I feel like someone is going to show up at my door any minute and say, "Uh... you're not doing this right. The trial period is up." They'll ask me to turn in my credentials and when they see I don't have any, they'll make me vow to never again try to impersonate a parent.
My husband has been out of town for two long weeks, made longer by the fact that he's not just out of town but out of the country. The time difference really matters, because I can't just call him on his cell when I'm feeling stressed or frustrated. I have to figure it all out on my own--something single parents do all the time.
So my coping mechanisms have been:
1. virtually no cooking (this means lots of oatmeal or popcorn for dinner)
2. paying the kids to do chores
3. paying the older kids to put the younger ones to bed when I need to breathe
4. paying the younger kids to stay in bed
5. taking all of the kids to the movies mid-way through the two weeks
We saw "Toy Story 3" and I bought popcorn (again, it's all about coping). Andy's heading off to college in this sequel, and the toys all end up (by mistake) at a daycare run by a dictator bear. There are lots of sweet moments, sad ones, funny ones--your typical Pixar film. But I didn't actually tear up until the last few minutes, while Andy was playing with his toys one last time before driving off to school.
My 13yo was sitting next to me, so I couldn't cry, of course. I imagine fewer things are more embarrassing to a teenager than having your mother cry about you getting older--except perhaps having her dance in front of your friends.
When he turned five, we had a Toy Story-themed party for him. I made a cookie cake with Bullseye on it. He loved it.
When he turned thirteen, he skipped the party. In fact, he hasn't had one in three years now. They're just not his "thing" anymore, so I don't push him. He's growing up. I can't stop it from happening.
I'm not naive enough to believe our relationship will continue as it has as he goes through 8th grade and then through high school. He'll clam up any second now and won't open up again until . . . until who knows?
But I realized something last night that I'll have to remind myself of time and again as my kids all grow up: Parenting is much more about restraint than I ever thought it would be. It's about not crying in front of them about how much you hate that they'll be leaving home one day. It's about not throwing your arms around them the first time they really talk to you and saying, "You love me! You really love me!" It's about not fixing their problems. It's about not hovering and smothering and hand-holding. It's about not making a seven-course meal when a bowl of Cheerios will suffice.
This morning, my son said, "Thanks for talking to me last night, Mom."
I didn't talk. But if he thinks I did--and if he thinks whatever I said helped--then that's as perfect a moment as I've had in a long time.