I stared at the boxes and overflowing trash bags of the not-so-distant past; sitting upon our front porch. As I placed the last bag upon the Hot Wheels table, I silently hoped the books, toys and clothes (some never worn with tags still hanging) would bring other boys hours of joy, warmth and contentment. With a sigh I placed the donation slip in one of the boxes. As I exited my driveway I glanced at the pile, once more, before heading off to work.
I remind myself that it’s just stuff; to not be sentimental.
Today I sit. Very still. I am unmotivated to do anything as the to-do lists run in my head, the seconds ticking away on the analog clock. I want to yank out the battery and make time stop in a vacuum as the days of summer wane. Fall is my favorite time; yet I’m unwilling to join the “back-to-school” anticipation; hoping to savor these last days without time constraints and bell schedules. I am procrastinating. I try to recall the tips of self-motivation I’ve gleaned over the past months to push through this mental block. The piles on our porch for donation are the physical evidence of a season ending.
Years ago my hubs would watch me tend to our young sons, casually commenting that the boys needed me more than they needed him. During these years he constantly deployed and absorbed what little precious time he had, with our sons. He looked forward to the day when he, too, could have the strong bonds; where he could be included in their sphere of influence. Seasoned dads told him that boys needed their mother, most, when they were young. But as boys got older, his paternal turn, would come. There would be a time when his sons would need him, the most.
In the silent museum gallery I smirked as we gazed at modern art; deciphering what the portrait actually was. What did it mean? Who decided these pieces were art worthy? The hubs concocted stories of an 800 pound tuna fish leaping from a vase as we gazed at the artist’s renderings. As we strolled through the exhibit each person was allowed their interpretations; excitedly spinning more fantastic tales. We grinned from ear-to-ear.
I watched the older boys create straw structures together, and the youngest built a hovercraft with his father. It was as I observed the males in my family interact with one another, that the thought came unbidden.
My husband’s time had arrived. I must hand over the sphere.
In this realization came a certain sadness; knowing that my sons must grow independently away from me, the mom, to establish their own identities. I share this with the hubs during our break, his eyes wide with a noticeable sheen. Your time has come. Wield your sphere with care. Silently I want to yell to him, Don’t waste it!
But he understands the weight of the sphere’s passage, welcoming and acknowledging his role with outstretched hands. The boys guffaw when javelins are thrust into walking zombies, exchange glances when a beautiful woman passes by. They quietly ask their Dad what he’s thinking and ponder the world of testosterone that puberty has brought with it.
These are the impressionable years, I tell him, when they learn how to respect a woman. As a mother, I cannot instill this value in my sons. “This, ” I say, “is all you.”
- Convey to them that looks don’t define beauty. To respect a woman for what’s on the inside.
- Show them, with your actions, what a healthy, loving relationship is.
- Foster their curiosity with the world and to explore the outdoors.
- Make them believe that they can problem solve and that the joy is in the process; not the solution.
- Help them build confidence; to be true to themselves.
- Give them the space to create their own art; that diversity is what makes the world go round.
- Allow them to question their beliefs and values; to know there is something bigger.
- Model manners and etiquette. To open doors for women, the young and the elderly.
- Guide them to be contributing sons. That it is in the giving; not the receiving, that is worthy.
- Let them exercise physical strength only in self-defense; not in brutality or weapons.
- Teach them to listen. To read non-verbal cues. Women are complex creatures and do not always say what they mean.
Make them become just like you, I think to myself. And then I chuckle, Okay minus the unshaven, messy part! I want to see their faces and pick up after themselves too.
It is a badge of honor to widen the sphere; to make the hubs its center. One day I hope that center will reside within my children’s own selves.
But where does that leave me, the mom?
It is this thought that was buried in my subconscious all summer. One of my girlfriends openly discussed this; how her sons seemed to push her away. Another girlfriend shared she was having a tough time reconciling that her eldest would soon be leaving the nest. When my third girlfriend texted she was as antisocial as I was; I realized something was amiss. We try to put these into words; we mothers with kids growing away. But we also know that we must then answer the question of our own existence and ponder the next step in our lives.
As I re-enter the world of booster and PTA meetings, fundraising and back-to-school events I consider where it is that I fit. How do I find my life balance, to be present for my own children and work at the same time?
Last evening, after attending my third booster meeting, the hubs made an observation. A lot of these parents are really into themselves. Do they choose to volunteer to keep tabs on their kids’ friends? Two said that was the case. Most of the twelve parents on the board, though, noted that their teenagers pretend to not know them. They have a strong desire to contribute; to become involved in an amazing program. It was later, in the bleachers, that we met the husband and wife, who had dedicated over five years. They had burnt out. For once, they were sitting in the stands, watching their son without any added jobs or responsibilities. The hubs had that knowing look. Will I fill my newfound space with yet another thing to do? What is my compulsion to throw myself into the fray?
And the answer, when it came, was loud and clear. It is only as I walk through the corridors of my own son’s high school that I am left to confront the old hallway ghosts from my own. I have not returned to one class reunion. I take myself off the Facebook pages when classmates find me. I do not use my maiden name. I wish to remember nothing of my high school years because it was in those four years that I discovered the world’s inequities and how I could not compare to them. I did not have the PTA/ booster parents who were in-the-know to fight for their child. I did not fit in with my fellow GATE peers; whose hovering helicopter parents daily monitored their grades to make them college-ready.
For all the accolades and accomplishments of my high school years and beyond; the hardware collected dust in my mother’s home. None of that could ease the ache that I could never belong. I credit my success and survival in high school to both my high school counselor and songleading coach; the two people who chose to protect the poor girl with the dad dying of colon cancer. With my mother’s passing in 2003, the hardware was finally lain to rest in the circular file. It’s just stuff. There are no physical reminders of those years besides yearbooks, photo albums and my letterman jacket.
I had erred, thinking becoming involved in these organizations would keep me in-the -know; to give my sons opportunities I didn’t have. Ironically the answer has been within me this entire time. I only had to open my mind to see them. To understand why I parent the way I do; I really need to know why I am the person that I am. Just as in Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, I have returned to my own center; my sphere’s origins. I am modeling an ideal that does not exist.
And so my answer of how I define myself isn’t how I parent. I define myself, by knowing who I am. Yes, I am the mom of three boys and wife of a man; all of whom I love dearly and equally drive me to distraction. But in this new season of life it has to be all about me. To rediscover the person without the junk and baggage. I am decluttering my mind to make room. To confront the mental blocks of my past to become fully present. I still have time. I don’t want to waste it.