Back when Max was in middle school, I was going shopping and I asked him, “Do you need any new clothes?” He said, “Yes, I need some new underwear.” I asked him, “What size do you wear now?” He went into the bathroom, closed the door for a few minutes then yelled out to me, “100% cotton M!”
Max leaves for college in the fall. Well, that’s the plan right now anyway. University of Northern Colorado is setting up to hold classes according to the protocols of these times: masks, social distancing. Shane called me this morning from Oregon as he headed into work, to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day. He asked me, “Do you think I’ll actually be able to go on campus to go to college this fall?” I checked University of Oregon’s website. It looks like he will – under the same protocols. And I will have an empty nest.
I know the best indicator that you have done your job as a parent is when your kids are independent and can solo out in the world. When Shane left, I learned pretty quickly what I didn’t teach him. How to write a check. How to pick out a good pineapple from the produce department. Now that Max is going away in the fall, I’m running through lists in my mind. Does he know how long it takes to boil an egg? Did I tell him how to balance his checking account? Write a check? Buy his own underwear?
I realize now, as my sons become more independent and adult-ish-like, what it must have been like for my mom when I headed off for college. My mom used to say to me, “I wish you could learn from my mistakes.” I know now what she meant. I wish my sons could learn from my mistakes, so they don’t have to make their own. I wish my sons never have to experience heartbreak or loss or fear. I know they already have. Just living through this pandemic has given them more life experience than I ever had at their ages.
My mom and dad got divorced when I was six years old. My mom drove us cross-country from Missouri to Colorado in a Volkswagen square back. We ended up in a little town in Colorado. My mom was a teacher there for three decades before she retired. Although she eventually remarried, she essentially raised my brother and I by herself, on a teacher’s salary.
I remember watching her get ready for work in the mornings. She would sit at her dresser and put on her makeup and do her hair, listening to AM radio. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I couldn’t wait to do my hair and makeup like her someday. She was strict and she set the bar high for me and my brother. Once I became a mom, I understood she did this because she didn’t have the time or energy to deal with any bullshit from us.
One of my mom’s past students referred to her as “a force of nature.” My tiny, soft-spoken mother enforced rules, made us mind our manners, do our chores, and do our homework. And she loved us, fiercely. She still does.
I am definitely my mother’s daughter. I inherited my love of music and art from my mother. I have her stubbornness and determination. And her love of shoes and funky jewelry. I do my hair and makeup every morning before work, music blaring. I fiercely love my children. And her.
Many of us who are parents look at our kids through the lens of our own expectations of ourselves. We often hope for lives for them that we don’t give ourselves. I used to do that. Having my mom live with me softened my agenda. I realize that life is sweet and short and it’s meant to be lived moment to moment with love and attention. I realize that my kids, like me, and like my mom, are absolutely their own beautiful badass selves. Which makes it all the sweeter every time they say, “I love you, Mom.” However and wherever you did it, and whomever you celebrated it with, I hope you had a good Mother’s Day.