My son left today, in a car full of clothes, the requisite list of bedding, 2 blue towels, a jar of quarters and his very own laundry soap. He’s driving from upstate New York— the jagged detour of his otherwise happy youth, as he thinks of it — back to his birthplace for college. My identity as a mother feels like an archery target, stabbed up, sharp nibs of straw poking out papery the wounds.
Nearly 20 years ago, strapping his carseat in the car for the trip home from the hospital, a nurse suggested I sit next the baby in the back seat. I did not want to be a fussy, smothering mother. I would not be overprotective. He would be independent, starting on day 2 of life. I sat in front.
I called him my little Chinese baby for his then jet black hair and for his Asian eyes of unknown
provenance — perhaps the 13th century Mongolian invasion of Russia? I stared and stared at him sleeping beside me, stared at a soul some 7 centuries old with the ponderous name Isaiah, “God is Salvation”.
Why didn’t I sit with him in the back seat that hot August day in 1996? Why did I read the damn self-soothing parenting book? I was young for God’s sake. Why couldn’t I have lunged out of bed and fallen blindly towards his room, pulled him out of his crib and hugged him? Babywise, baby-scheduling sadists, mother-haters.
It’s time. It’s really time. He left last summer, and then did a last minute, maybe-Arizona-isn’t-everything ricochet home. Now is his time to leave, to a college he chose that his father and I disapprove of, where the biology professor boasts a Masters of Ed, a program of study we didn’t see coming, a podunk town. Snobby stuff, he says, exerting independence. He’s right.
This past week I performed the sacred rituals of fussy, smothering motherhood. I snuck books I think my son should read into his luggage and more collared shirts than he thinks he needs and a picture of him hugging his old beagle. Live long, beagle. Live long. I hugged my son tightly every time I passed him saying, “Who’s going to hug you?”
Later today I’m mailing a tea kettle and tea. He doesn’t like tea, but just in case. And cough drops. There will be cough drops in the box. And Tang.
Please pray for long-lived beagles. Please hug young men far from their mothers. My straw is falling out.
9 thoughts on “Mother-Hating Baby Sadists Told Me not to Pick Him UP”
Is that all you have to feel bad about? To have considered another’s opinion? To have had the time to spend with your kids and a husband to support you? To have had a father so all you had to be was mother. A mother with a college education! You are fortunate. To be able to afford on campus housing, and devote time for study and have mutual friends who understand not undermine. To help and encourage. To have led the way. He is fortunate. To feel used also even with all that, you may understand the rest of us just a little.
Thanks for reading. I’m not sure I understand who feels used…my industrious son who hates the concept of student loans found a community college with a dorm he is paying for himself by working on a trail crew for the state parks and with Pell Grants. We are proud of him for choosing his own way in spite of what we thought was best.
What a beautiful post… you are indeed blessed to have raised a sensitive, kind and independent young man. He will soon realize just how fortunate he is…parents who loved him unconditionally, parents who imparted the value of a coherent college education, home-cooked meals, sitting under trees, sleeping with dogs, drinking tea… now is his time to spread his wings. You’ll soon find great happiness in his new-found sense of self. And who knew they still made Tang?
Thanks for your sweet comment, Anna. ❤
yesssss Misty …. you got it RIGHT! Roots to come home to & wings to fly!
On September 10, 1966, I left home (Brooklyn, NY) for the wilds of Syracuse University. My excitement and trepidation were in equal parts. A vast unknown lay before me – I had never even visited the campus! But I was always pretty self-confident (a gift from my upbringing, I’m sure), and I packed with righteousness and assurance. My mother appeared, and proceeded to re-pack my suitcases, clucking with what I felt was disapprovement. My immaturity surfaced, and we had a pretty good row. I did not see her tears of separation, her pain of loss. I was only concerned with myself and my new adventure, and my selfishness only exacerbated her pain.
Now 50 years later, with my mother long gone, your story touched me deeply. I am truly sorry I did not see or appreciate her mourning.
I know that this was a common and understandable reaction – at 18, I was world-wise, and my mother was over-reacting, as usual. But the stark truth is clear, and I regret deeply the hurt I inflicted on this wonderful and all-loving person. There are so many things I would love to be able to say to my mother now. I don’t believe in afterlife, so the moment is gone forever.
So may it be with you, Misty. We all do the best we can, and we all fail. Isaiah is a smart kid, and he’s making his mistakes. Let him. He’ll come around. Just don’t wait for it. Feel free to mourn. We all do.
Jeez, Bob. Making me cry. And you inadvertently made me feel much better because Isaiah has never visited the campus either. Thanks for sharing your story. Will be seeing you Sunday. ❤
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