“They say that growing up is haaard to do/now I know/ I know that it’s true…”—what Neil Sedaka almost wrote. A few days after my first child, Max, was born, my mother came to visit. Looking down on her grandson’s bald, red cone-head mom said this to me. “Now I can stop worrying about you. You’re a grown up.” To be honest, her comment baffled and insulted me, which is why it probably stuck with me all these 28 plus years. To my mind, I had already been a “grown-up” for years—since I was at least 16—quite capable of taking care of myself thank you very much.
Now that my babies are 28 and 26, I know what my mother meant. My grandmother had a saying to explain how mother love changes through the years: “When they are little they step on your toes, but when they are big, they trample your heart.” No matter how grown up our children may look, in a mother’s mind they are her babies to worry over and protect. But for how long? We mothers can tell ourselves to let go and let them do and be. We can tell ourselves they are their lives to live, their decisions to make and live with, but saying it and doing it are two different beasts.
I just received the following e-mail from my son. The subject line read: “Doris blew her Radiator.” Doris is Max’s name for our Toyota mini-van which he has decked out for camping and decorated with bumper stickers, thus laying claim to it (actually, while the title and insurance may be ours, I guess that “our Toyota” should read “his” Toyota).
“i was about 70 miles east of encampment, climbing up the pass, and the radiator went. I had it towed in to the cabin, because it is memorial day, and I'll have it towed to the Laramie toyota dealership for them to diagnose tomorrow. I have only used 1 of my 4 AAA uses so far, and it reloads in august. Tell me what you'd like me to do.
It’s happened. Sometime between Max’s last emergency/disaster/situation and this e-mail, I did it! I let go! Upon reading the note I felt sorrow. I felt my bank account shiver as the dollars it would take to repair Doris flew out (shouldn’t “his Toyota” translate “his bill”? But my gut didn’t wrench, my heart didn’t heart, mother’s guilt didn’t ooze from every pore— “oh, I should be there, he needs me, what if something bad happens, I better call him, make it better, fix everything or better, badger him until he fixes everything exactly the way I want it” the way it always had before.
It feels good. Really good. I’m finally—at least, today—the kind of mother I wanted to be when I grew up. (Growing up, as it turns out, is elusive.) I’m feeling puffed up proud, and confidant that Max, is grown up enough to take care of this situation, and I’m grown up enough to sit back and let him.