Insights from the hood
(Parenthood, that is) / 4
The first ten years are the easiest
By Mona Andrei
Did you know that otters hold hands while they sleep?
Yup, it’s true. While sleeping on their backs, a mother and her pup will often hold hands so that they don’t drift away from each other. From a parenting perspective, this invokes an endearing mental image because no one wants their kid to drift away.
But they do.
Sadly, our children are not “ours” forever. They crash into our lives like a wrecking ball, and with tender impact they manage to break down our concrete exteriors and open us up to feelings we didn’t even know we had. Our babies have immediate power over us; changing us from green, one dimensional amateur beings, into perfectly ripened peaches, full of juicy love.
And then they grow into teenagers.
Unlike the sleeping otter that instinctively holds its mothers hand, our teens go through organic phases of detachment as the world touches them with lessons that are theirs and theirs alone. We want to protect them – shield them – but at the same time we know that this would be unnatural.
…our teens go through organic phases of detachment as the world touches them with lessons that are theirs and theirs alone.
Throughout the lessons and growing awareness, our kids begin to take possession of who they are. Sometimes enlightening, other times hurtful, the process takes them on a journey of discovery as they begin to experiment with their place in the world.
Meanwhile the parent side of us, still the same emotion-filled, juicy peach, becomes aware of our capacity to easily bruise at the slight of a tone… an attitude… periods of poignant absence.
Where once we were the hero of our child’s life, now we’ve become bystanders throughout their transformations. Present yet not a part of their struggles, we stand unarmed, except for the emotional straightjacket that prevents us from intervening.
From the sidelines, we watch.
We watch our kids rise.
We watch them fall.
We hold our breaths as we watch them rise again.
When my eldest daughter was first born, I remember the words from a friend of my parents: “The first ten years are the easiest,” she had said.
My response was silence. I had no idea what she was talking about. At the time, we were sitting in the kitchen and my baby was sleeping in my arms, swaddled in her tiny blanket. I remember believing that innocence and parenting were a bliss that lasted forever.
‘Where once we were the hero of our child’s life, now we’ve become bystanders throughout their transformations.’
My kids are grown now and every once in a while, the small child that still resides inside their grown-ass bodies climbs out and I get a glimpse of what it feels like to be “mom” again.
Oh I know. I’m always mom. But there’s a big divide between being the mom of young kids and being the mom of teenagers and young adults. As parents, we’re the same. It’s our children’s needs that change.
Just recently one of my teenagers walked into the living room where I was writing, and sat down on the couch. Not a word was said and I took this as a sign. (When you’re a mom, you develop a superhero ability to recognize the signs.)
“Yo!” (Me, using my everything-is-cool, “s’up?” voice.)
A gap of silence came over the room that lasted for about seven years. My patience was a quiet one.
Then suddenly, “Something happened today and I KNOW it’s stupid but it really bothered me.”
“Holy CRAP! And you’re coming to ME??? Wow!” (Of course, this was all said in my head.”
“Oh? What happened?” This is what I said out loud.
I’m imagining that you can imagine how hard it is to sound nonchalant when your internal dialogue is ignited by firecrackers and your imagination is like a wild horse, creating scenes in your brain faster than you can think.
And then my kid’s entire day rolled out like a tsunami.
‘I remember believing that innocence and parenting were a bliss that lasted forever.’
I can’t share the details of the conversation because if I did, my kid would put me up for adoption. But I can describe the *air quotes* horrible wave of events.
Think big. Think roaring build-up. Think RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.
Yes. THAT kind of day. We all have them. My job in all this was to make my kid see the tsunami for what it really was: An ant splashing in a drop of water.
Suddenly I had my job back. I felt like a mom again. A REAL mom.
The great, wonderful, positive part of this story is that for the next part of the afternoon, my kid and I got to share a bag of cookies as we sat on the couch together with open hearts. The cookies (chocolate chip) were great but more than that, we got to share words. A real conversation. And I got to save my kid from the little villainous happenstances that Life likes to throw on our paths once in a while.
It was a good day.
*Sigh* If only it was that easy to keep them safe all the time.
From Mona Andrei’s forthcoming book, SUPERWOMAN: Confessions of a Single Mom, a funny, messy, reflective look at single motherhood.
Mona Andrei is a digital copywriter, writer, and social media strategist with over 20 years of experience, both on the advertising agency and corporate sides of the communication spectrum. When she’s not working on client projects, she likes to write irreverent posts for her personal blog, Moxie-Dude, where she writes about life updates gone wrong. Or right. She’s undecided. You can connect with Mona on Twitter or email her at Mona@MonaAndrei.com