Today is the first day of the rest of my life. And no, I am not embarking on sobriety.
I refer to the fact that my three and a half year old son is on his way to being re-nestled in to the daily grind of nursery school.
Three weeks ago, I couldn’t wait for him to be on holiday break. I missed having my little nugget at home with me and was excited to have him all day. “Oh the fun we would have!” I thought.
The first day we baked cookies and played with his trains, the second day we made play dough at home with a friend and played with his trains, the third day… me and the boys painted on canvas (non-toxic tempera paint is, apparently, considered a delicacy by 16 month olds) and let’s just say I cannot print what I wanted to do with those trains.
We did have fun for two weeks. It was the third week really put this mommy/maid/cook/social director/tour guide/indentured servant over the edge!. And I wasn’t alone.
These are actual quotes from actual mothers:
“Christmas creates monsters!” (my exasperated neighbor as her four-year-old son kicked and screamed on the ground).
“Can I say that I hate my son today? Is that bad?” (mother of two).
“If it weren’t for school starting today, I might be looking for a Foster home for my kids!” (jokes are often based on a morsel of truth).
For me, motherhood started out like a passionate love affair. Like when you had that cute college boyfriend and you thought, “I could live inside this dorm room with him forever.” But then eventually you thought, “Okay, we do need to eat. So, I could live inside this dorm room with him forever, along with frequent trips to the dining hall.”
Then, more time passed and you realized you really need to study so you amended it again: “I could live inside this dorm room with him forever, along with frequent trips to the dining hall and nightly visits to the library.”
Then, even more time passed and you though… “He really needs to get the hell out of my room.” And it wasn’t that you didn’t love him… but science says that the starry eyed, gaga, Serotonin-induced head-over-heels thing can only last for two-and-a-half years to three years max — unless you have co dependency issues.* (*Check with the Discovery Channel or ALANON on that, since my one fact-checker, me, is busy with a teething toddler.)
What I am saying is this… our kids are not our college boyfriends (because that would be illegal, wrong and weird), but sometimes we do want them to get the hell out of our rooms.
And that’s okay. Especially if we spent the first few years loving up on one another. The natural progression of motherhood includes distance. One of my best friends recently told me, “You want your kids to want you… but not need you. That’s your job as a mother.”
Not only does that sound right, but she also has three really great kids. Her sage-like words have become my latest mommy mantra (which is much more useful than my last mantra: “Please, please let Daddy come home with a bottle of Sangiovese!”).
Truth be told, parenting has recently become much more labor intensive. It started with the play date (a term I abhor; I mean, can’t babies just hang out and be free without anyone putting an appointment in their smart phone?)
Gone are the days when kids could go outside and just run around with other kids. Afternoons and weekends are now structured events that entail a chauffeur, a benefactor and a cheerleader. School involves more homework than any parent I know can stomach.
Back in the day my mother would holler, “Go out and play on the Beltway!” (Our cue to get outside and play). She also made us responsible for our own homework (“It doesn’t hurt me if you do poorly in school. And it doesn’t help me if you do well. It hurts or helps you!”)
These were the golden days of parenting, when seat belts seemed absurd and there was nothing SUPER about serving sizes. Now, we’re all supposed to be SUPER parents. Doing all and being all. I may not wholeheartedly agree with the approach, but the times are what they are.
SUPER requires stamina. Maternity becomes like a marathon. There are 26.2 miles and almost as many years of parenting. I am at mile 3.5 and 1.5 (I have two racers). I’ve begun with a slow jog and everything is pretty manageable. I hear mile 13 can be tricky and that mile 16 is a real bitch, but I’m hoping that if I do my job well, they might both sprint to the finish line faster. Because I want them to want me, but not need me.