I saw a meme on-line the other day that really spoke to me. It said, “No one prepares you for the transition from Mama to Mommy to Mom.”
No one tells you. You’re not even aware there even is a transition, let alone emotionally prepared for it. It hits you one day, like a ton of bricks, even though, by the time you become aware of it, it’s been happening for a while.
For me, it was Halloween last year when I really felt my first shot of transition pain. For the first time in 20 years, I had no one to take trick-or-treating. My youngest went out with his friends in town, and aside from chauffeuring back and forth; my only function was to pass out treats at my house. I was not prepared for how sad it would make me.
My older son lives a few hours away while he’s attending school. He comes back to Cape Breton for a day here and there on weekends, but he stays with his girlfriend and spends most of his time out and about. (Socially, they’re very much in demand at that age, you know.)
He stopped by to visit this past weekend. He walked through the door, said hi to the dog, leafed through his mail that I had been saving for him on a shelf in the kitchen. His father and I put him through the usual questions: how is school going? Is your car working okay? Is there anything you need? (Last time it was a frying pan and a hoodie from Dad’s stash.) After he robotically responded to the third degree, he scanned the fridge to see if there was anything interesting and then went upstairs to hang out with his brother.
I remember so well listening to the kids downstairs in the rec room, making such a racket that I thought my head would explode. They were banging toys around and the TV would always be cranked, and it was a constant echo of a combination of shrill laughter and fighting like cats and dogs. I remember thinking, “Will there ever be a day when I can’t hear that unbearable noise coming from downstairs?”
Yes, there would be. It’s here.
And it’s sad.
My experience of parenting was very hands-on. I was a stay-at-home mom for years and by kids both lived in my house all the time. I was always there during the morning rush and evening bedtime, and when they were out of the house they were almost always either in school or with me. For more than a decade there wasn’t a single 24-hour period that passed without me seeing them.
It’s different now. I’m not on call 24/7 in the same way I was just a few years ago. I don’t have to leave work at noon because someone fell in a puddle and they’re sitting in the office at school waiting for clean pants. I don’t have to pour the milk into the cereal or cut up the chicken. I don’t have to arrange a babysitter if we want to go out for a few hours.
I’m learning the things that they like, as opposed to teaching them what they like. I had been the house manager and stocked our lives with everything we used for so long, that seeing them pick out their own things is a bit of a foreign concept for me. I’ve come to find out about their taste, instead of just what they’ve used by default because it’s what I provided for them. The older one prefers Coke to Pepsi, which I didn’t know until he moved out. I bought Irish Spring body wash for so long, it didn’t register that there is a whole aisle of other products they may like better, and that the day would come when they’d get to choose for themselves.
But the other day I spent 20 minutes on the phone giving my oldest son my recipe for meatballs and explaining how to thicken a sauce, and my younger son asked me to help him pick out a shirt for the winter ball. And they both flatter me by regularly saying, to each other and others, “Mom will know.”
I just have to get used to them needing me differently.