I became a mother by accident. At least that’s what I thought at the time. Now, with hindsight, I understand that my son was a gift from an all-knowing and loving Universe, God, a mystical force and arranger of fates. I have no argument with the timing.
When my son Alex was placed on my chest after a difficult labor ending in an emergency casearean section, I remember eyeing him up and wondering…what now? As is the case for most mothers, there was no way for me to know what blessings and lessons ( read challenges) would come from my new role.
Mama. Mom. Mother.
To say that I fell in love with my child does little justice to the depth and overwhelm of love I felt for this little blue-eyed creature. I still remember driving with one hand on the steering wheel and the other arm bent behind me so I could reach into the back seat and hold his tiny index finger while I drove. Like most moms I checked his bed every night to make sure he was still breathing. Unlike most moms, I did this through high school (unbeknown to him, I hope).
I joke now that I invented the term helicopter mom. I hovered over him like a fighter pilot ready to battle any sign of danger, a fall, a scraped knee, a schoolyard bully.
As he got a little older (let’s say six), I would play catch with him in the backyard of our Maryland home. His dad often worked late so I was the sports mom, except for the fact that I hated sports and didn’t know a thing about baseball.
But we did okay, Alex and me. I’d toss the ball to him and sneak in a few life lessons along the way. I’d start off with a few “gimmees”, balls he could easily catch. Then, I’d toss it hard to the right, a little further out of his reach, so he had to work for it. The next ball would be a little further away and a little further, barely getable…unless he dived hard to catch it. All of the while I’d coach him, saying,
“Alex, life is a lot like baseball. You can’t just expect the ball to land in your glove. You’ve got to work for it, go for it, streeeeeeeetch……….reach…………”
Sometimes I find myself still quoting this line to him, and he’s 28. You can imagine the reaction I get now. LOL.
I’ll spare you too many more stories. Like how I followed his school bus when it picked him up for his first day of school. How I made him wear a specially-ordered swat-like vest, other wise known as a chest/heart protecter, when he pitched baseball games until he turned 11 (and pitched a fit). Sadly, I had seen a 60 Minutes report on TV about how a young pitcher had been hit in the chest by a fast ball and died of a heart attack.
I knew I couldn’t bare the thought of his heart stopping, of mine stopping, so I made him wear it under the guise he looked “cool,” like a member of a swat team. He bought it the first year. Not the next season.
Oh gosh, how did he survive me? Fast forward… time for college. It was no surprise that he begged to attend an out of state college. I finally relented, filled with guilt over all of my hovering. I knew my helicopter days had to end, and it was best for both of us, that he be away from me.
The morning he left Louisiana to drive to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, I woke up early. I went outside and placed yard signs by the entrance of the subdivision that read:
Good luck at college, Alex. Don’t forget to write!
I knew when he left I could no longer protect him from life’s hurts. A broken heart. Friends who might disappoint. And all of the other things that life can teach us on our road to adulthood. It was his to discover now and I had to turn in the keys to the chopper.
I grieved when he left, and even told friends later that empty nest can feel like a loss, a death of sorts, EXCEPT NO ONE BRINGS YOU LASAGNA. I struggled with the grief for a while.
College turned out fine, for the most part, and he was happy. And that made me happy. After college, he moved back to our state, and then later, moved 1,200 miles away. Again.
It’s been a road to independence—mine, not his. This mothering thing…all of the second guessing, all of the do overs I wish I had, all of the needless worrying and controlling and attempts to shape him into someone I thought he needed to be, was , is, still a source of guilt, sometimes regret. I realize now, Monday morning quarterbacking, that it was more about controlling my fears, my worries. (It’s times like these that self-awareness really stinks.)
I wish I had known then, what I know now. He would have had it so much easier. I would have helped to fill his head with philosophy, not useless stats and multiplication tables. He would have learned the Tao. We would have played more. Lots more. And I would have worried less.
Yet, somehow, in spite of me, he turned into a beautiful man. Kind. Compassionate. Soulful. A person of integrity. Even without learning the Tao. And yes, gainifully employed, even if he’s still not sure of his passion. Props to him, to his dad, and maybe a little to me, too.
Too bad that baseball thing didn’t work out. But I think he remembers the lessons. And I hope he remembers his mom was right there, night after night, tossing the ball to him after a long day at work, coaching him, loving him, and cheering him on to victory.
I still am.