My window of opportunity is shrinking. I can actually see the pane of glass quietly closing as I struggle to manage work, home and kid responsibilities. You see, I never actually thought this would happen; that my kids would one day become self-sufficient. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They’re needing me less and less. And honestly, I’ve been dreaming of this very scenario for over a decade. But, much like the Chanukah let down of being gifted with a Dyson vacuum cleaner a few years back, this feels shockingly depressing.
Because along with not needing me as much, comes the accompanying reality that they also don’t want me that much anymore. That’s what hurts. Sure, I’m still they’re ticket to play dates, after school activities and the mall. But they can do almost everything else by themselves. Suddenly the threat of obsoleteness is overwhelming.
I do understand that this is a necessary part of growing up. My boys are separating from me. The ironic thing is that I loathed a lot of the clingy neediness that colored their early years. I felt guilty and trapped and could never seem to do or be enough for them. It was frustrating. But I guess there comes a time when we moms have to realize that individuation really will happen and it’s up to us to find new ways to interact and relate if we want to keep the connections with our kids strong and viable.
It’s not an easy adjustment. You need to be there for them emotionally, just as they’re needing you less and less for the routine, day-to-day physical tasks. That means finding new ways to have fun with them, and different techniques for connection. It also means taking what you can get whenever it’s offered.
The other day I was driving to rehearsal around 6pm. It had been a long day and I was already running behind as I endured my trek out to the Theatre in Peoria. My phone rang, and I saw that it was Levi, my 11 year old son. I flashed back to the way my dad used to answer the phone whenever I called him during the last few years of his life. No matter what pain he was battling, he always picked up the receiver with an exuberant tone and a lilt that made me feel like I’d just made his day by simply dialing his phone number.
“Hi Sweetie,” I chirped. “What’s going on?”
“I just called to talk…I was missing you,” he added.
The words felt like honey dripping into my soul. I knew the truth. That his “missing me” was more a function of the fact that our nanny had taken my younger son, Eli, to karate and Levi was likely a bit anxious about being home alone. But that didn’t matter to me at all. This was my moment of connection and I wasn’t gonna blow it. I pulled into my parking spot and noted that I could be right on time if I hurried up the steps and into the theatre immediately.
“Wanna talk?” he asked invitingly, “Or are you in the middle of something?”
“No, sweetie,” I answered. “I’ve got all the time in the world. Tell me about your day.”
We talked for 5 or 10 minutes and hung up when he felt secure enough to get back to his homework. Then I gathered my stuff and ran into the rehearsal hall.
No one even noticed my tardiness and I was thankful that I’d accepted my son’s invitation to chat instead of neurotically focusing on being a few minutes late. Because when it all comes down to it, it’s not about being on time. It’s about being where you are, when you are, with whom you are.