“Wow. I’m sorry you’re spending Friday night out with your mother.”
Yeah. That’s like your bookie telling you why you shouldn’t bet and showing you the odds to prove it. I don’t like odds.
But, this is what I was told Friday night. With more that a small shot of pity on the side. Said by my own, actual mother. Who was sitting right beside me and buying me a noodle bowl. She was not impressed with my order of vermicelli with tofu. And she was really not impressed that I was alone and available on a Friday night. My instinct was to be righteous and offended. But mothers have an infuriating way of being right. Her pad thai was better than my tofu.
Adult relationships are odd beasts. Mothers are the oddest. And I get it. My relationship with my mother changed when I had a kid. Hers changed with me when she became a grandmother. There are similarities. I want the absolute best for my kid. I’m sure my mother wants the same for me, and as an extension, for him. But, those two might be squarely at odds, if not in direct opposition. What is good for my son, might be the thing that breaks me. Or what I want more than anything could bring a change that disrupts his little world with something less than his happy first choice.
Modern parenting dogma says the child wins this battle. His choice and happy over yours. You sacrifice. You choose the best you can for him. You make the kid the priority. That last one is a fairly new concept.
Maybe not one, but let’s go two generations ago. The idea of making a kid a top concern would have been laughed out of the jammed up multi-generational house. First, of course, there would have been ten kids, not one. So, obviously no one kid took priority. Only by bleeding or puking or becoming quarterback drew enough attention to merit attention and featured precedence. (Feminist sidebar: girls weren’t supposed to play hard enough to get hurt; they probably puked silently alone in bathrooms and their job was to date the quarterback and give him just enough pert boob and moist hand to keep him interested and her uncompromised. So good luck taking priority, young lady. There’s still some overlap of that in my current situation. But, that’s another post.)
I feel expectation, self-imposed and external, to always make my son a priority. Always. Friday night. Wednesday at noon. Thursday at midnight. Saturdays morning at 6 AM. And that’s okay. I auditioned for this role, and I got it, so I’ll play it as hard as I can.
But here’s the rub. When there’s one priority, everything else lines up for second place. And, sadly, that includes every one else. I have willingly given up vital parts of who I am for motherhood. Willingly. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Doesn’t mean it isn’t hard as hell to sit and witness my friends succeed at doing the thing I love, while I sit and watch. Except on the nights when it’s too hard to watch and I instead eat all the take-out sushi while driving home and all that’s left when I get there is a droopy wasabi flower with mushy ginger petals. Sometimes you just want to run away. Run away to, I don’t know, Detroit, just to get out of the house and out of my head. But I don’t, because the kid got there first and gets his way. And just reading that, oh my gods, am I building a selfish and entitled little jerk? Making a world where his in the always and only way? Because that’s not my intention with this part. Someone has to live with this kid someday when he’s flown away from me, and I’m afraid I’m not making it easy for that future partner. Or maybe I’m just rationalizing a pending selfish decision of my own.
People go to school, start careers, get re-married and move to Michigan after having a kid. They do. It’s not an urban myth or sidewalk fairytale. It’s a thing. It happens. I’ve seen it.
How in the hot and sparkling hell do they do it?
How do you maintain the core focus and feeling of love and importance that your kids needs while maintaining any kind of real and palpable and salvageable relationship as an adult? Because I have no idea. I’ve tried. And I’ve failed. Failed in big-scale, impressive fashion. I can’t…no…that’s not fair or true. I won’t get out of my head long enough to set it right. I’m taking steps to fix that one. (Expensive steps. Why does sitting and talking cost so much? Again, another post.)
There has to be a way to make your kid feel loved and make him know that he is a critical, irreplaceable part of your life and heart but still make space in your life to make someone else important too. It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive, does it? Because I really don’t want it to be. Now, I don’t need that. I don’t need that something or someone else in my life. But I really do want it. Being back on stage and have that One in the audience watching. Not just because I don’t want to spend Friday night with my mother. Because that was nice. But, because I think I can. I think I can make something new and lovely and something that can be a good place for me and my son. I know it can be.
The odds are against it. I know. Don’t care. I’m trying.