I wasn’t ready for my children to enter adulthood. They disobeyed me by growing up, leaving home, and having lives that did not include asking for my permission to get jobs or even cross the street by themselves.
Whenever we get together I encourage them to stay overnight so they’ll be rested and fed before making the arduous journey home, four blocks away.
Ever since my son moved to Philadelphia I’ve been watching the news while holding a map, just so I can measure the distance between reported violence and his home. When the violence comes close I frantically text him and insist he stay indoors. If he doesn’t text back, I call him. If he doesn’t answer, I start digging at the bottom of my purse, hoping to find five bucks to cross the bridge.
When they were little I couldn’t give them everything they wanted but somehow, I managed to give them what they needed. The same holds true today. However, I have a tendency to define what they need and am surprised when they disagree on the definition of “need”.
Me: You needed new shoes so I bought you these (holding up comfortable, sturdy shoes with reflective strips for safety).
Adult Child: (recoiling) Mother, we talked about this!
Just trying to help, kid.
Once, we were shopping in Chinatown and a man began speaking in angry tones to my son. I immediately stepped between them to protect my son from potential danger. Later, I was lectured sternly about this.
Me: I was trying to save you.
Adult Child: He was four feet tall and about a hundred years old.
Me: But he could have had a weapon!
I remember their tiny faces looking up at me, knowing I’d protect them with my last breath. I dream that they still call me “Mama” and that they can’t wait to tell me all about their day at school. I dream of telling them stories, singing songs, reading poetry, all the things a child needs. I hope they remember these things as clearly as I do.
I’m in my sixties, now and they’ve been living successful lives for many years. I’m proud of their achievements and thrilled with their independence. However, I know my maternal instincts won’t give up without a fight and I’m not ready to stop worrying about their well-being.
I imagine most parents go through the yin and yang of child-rearing and letting go. I hope my kids will remember a particular poem I used to read to them, too and loosen those apron strings gently.
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”
Excerpt by Robert Munsch