8 January 2016
Parenting sucks. More to the point, being a mother sucks.
It was simpler two hundred or more years ago. You had the kid, and then you died a week later at age 17. Or maybe you pumped out seven or eight kids, which definitely sucked, but chances were you died by the time the oldest was married at age 17, so you didn’t have to put up with their infernal late-teen/early-twenty-year-old crap.
It was even simpler in prehistorical times. You reproduced, grew old by 20, and died in a famine or sudden cataclysm.
The bottom line is, we were not designed to tolerate these alien people who think they’re adults. We women were designed to incubate and expire, leaving the marriage arrangements and dowries to the children’s sire and his teenaged fourth wife.
However, as a result of science, medicine, and women’s liberation, we now typically live long enough to have our kids treat us like fungi. Fungi with built-in cash machines. Yippee.
If I sound negative, it’s because I just dropped off a twenty-year-old kid at the train, a kid who stayed out last night until 2 am, slept till 11 am, showered, packed like a tornado, and needed me break the land-speed record to reach the station in time. He boarded with nanoseconds to spare before the doors closed, otherwise I would’ve been in for a five hour round trip drive to Midway Airport. Yippee.
I love this boy to pieces, but never during his visit did he stick around long enough to give me the chance to remind him, nor did I get a hug as he flew from the car. Will it be another eleven months before he comes home? Does it matter anymore? Each sojourn is fraught with silence or over-reactive behavior. Resentment simmers on both sides as boundaries are constantly broached. He thinks he’s an adult, though his future still depends on my money and advice…but only on request. He’s making cringeworthy choices, but god forbid I should say so. It’s all I can do to hang on and watch. Hopefully, he’ll clue in soon that the purpose of college is to expand his young mind, as opposed to his liver.
Anyway, mothering two man-children is worse than mothering recalcitrant toddlers, who can be picked up and locked in their rooms. It’s worse than mothering moody teens, who must obey the house rules, including access to cars. Man-children glower and pout for two weeks, and then they go away. They feel burdened by having to decide what to DO with their lives, so they avoid deciding at all. They sort of love you and miss you, but they’ll be damned to admit it. That would be weak. Heck, five hundred years ago, man-children had their fates handed out on platters. They ruled countries and fought wars. By their early twenties they were already on their third wives, whom they left behind in dank castles. Their mothers were long buried.
Am I being dramatic? Probably. But that’s how I feel today in the aftermath of dropping off my middle man-child. He’s broody, imperious, brilliant but stubborn, handsome, loving when he wants to be, and perceptive when it suits his needs. It may be years before he realizes how much I have sacrificed for his well-being. Or maybe he’ll never figure it out. All I know is I feel a bit wounded today. Not to tears. No, I’m not new to the process of losing one’s children. When a child first leaves the nest, it feels like divorce, which keeps winding down and unspooling for years after the fact.
He thinks he doesn’t need me anymore, so in a way I feel dead. As dead as the mothers of yore, who never lived to see their kids reach the age when they no longer needed their mamas, when they thought they knew everything there was to know about life.
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