Here’s a piece I wrote this past weekend. Motherhood is slipping from my fingers, it seems, but I was lucky to be a participant.
“I’ll go with you if you want me to,” I said, “but don’t feel obligated to take me.” “It won’t hurt my feelings if you say you don’t want me to go. In fact, it would hurt my feelings more if you took me and didn’t really want me there.” I continued rinsing the dishes, while he drank his milk.
“Yeah.” He seemed to be responding just to let me know that he was hearing me, and now was considering his feelings and whether or not he could truly be honest with me.
“You don’t have to make a decision right now,” I added, “just let me know this evening.” I secretly wondered whom I was giving this grace period to. Was it really for my own need to prepare for his answer – build up a resistance to the truth I knew was coming? My mind went back to his fourth grade camping trip. “Do you remember in fourth grade how all the classes went on the camping trip, and I wanted to go chaperone and help with it? And you said you didn’t want me to go, that if I were your dad, then it would be okay, but you didn’t want your mom there.”
“Nuh-uh! I said that?” Alex, now sixteen, sat in astonishment at his youthful frankness.
“Yes, but my point is that it’s okay if you don’t want me to go. I understood then and I understand now.”
“Well, that is kind of how I feel now. I mean, I’d rather Dad go, but I know he won’t want to go.” His words trailed off down the path of lost hope and known truths.
“I guess if you want him to go, you need to ask him.” I, too, knew that Mike wouldn’t want to go, but felt it was my duty as a parent to instill good communication skills in my son – not teach him to make assumptions by a person’s past behavior, even if down deep, I was doing the same thing.
Mike rarely wanted to go with Alex on his hunting trips or competitions. So since Alex was in 6th grade and decided he wanted to train dogs to hunt, I have been the default hunting companion. But I never saw it that way. I just saw it as supporting Alex’s dreams. It didn’t matter to me what it was he wanted to do. I only knew that he had found a passion for something, something he needed someone else to support him in. To me, it was never a matter of wanting to or not wanting to, it was what parents do – support young dreams.
So Alex introduced me to running the woods and fields with Beagles and Feists. We repeatedly explored the
Forest, a place I had lived so close to for forty years of my life and never fully explored till now. Following whichever pup Alex had decided to take that day, we climbed hills and valleys. I slid down steep ravines on my butt and stumbled clumsily behind my son whose footing was so sure and practiced. Waterfalls that I never knew existed enticed me and wildlife revealed itself to take my breath away and show me the wonders of this beautiful, secret world. It was a world where worries and cares seemed to dissipate like the morning dew.
For four years, I was his driver, so therefore, his companion in his hunting expeditions and competitions. This outdoorswoman was a part of myself that I didn’t even know existed. I was grateful to Alex for giving me the opportunity to find that part of me. And each time we returned home, I would thank him for having me accompany him.
Alex left for school after our conversation, and no decision was made on who or if anyone was going to accompany him to the big squirrel hunt the next morning. I knew in the back of my mind that I was being ruled out, so started making my plans for the time that would otherwise feel deserted and without purpose.
After school Alex stopped by my office to get some money. He was going out for Mexican food with friends. I asked him what he had decided.
“I’ll just go by myself, so no one has to wait around for me, and I won’t feel like I have to hurry or anything.”
“That’s fine,” I responded. “Call me later, okay?”
“Yeah. Thanks, Mom.” And he walked out the door of my office no longer my little boy, now a man.
In the morning I arose early. Old habits die hard. I decided to make French toast to send Alex off to the competition alone. He ate and chatted about friends and the ballgame the night before. Rinsing his plate, he said, “See you later!”
As he waved from the cab of his beautiful, shiny, red, ten-year-old truck with the diamond plate toolbox and bargain dog box in the back, I realized that all of these years, had my husband been interested and actively participated in my son’s interests, I wouldn’t have been included. I would have been left behind, because I was a girl. Each Saturday or summer morning, I would have let them drive off without me and in my ignorance been content to stay home alone. Now the truth was realized – he preferred the company of his own gender. I had been tolerated because I was the only one available.
It doesn’t matter if I was chosen out of default; I still feel that I was the winner. Even if my husband tripped over his own foot on the way to the finish line, it didn’t matter that he should have won. I am the one that walked away with the trophy. The new experiences, the memories and the wonderful bond that my son and I now share, are treasures that are mine forever.