I don’t like my son’s wife. I don’t like that he spends Christmas with her family. I don’t like that he does whatever his wife wants.
My son is 10 years old so, technically, there’s no wife. But there will be, and I like to be prepared.
I love to talk about this whenever I meet women with sons. When I confess that I am preemptively resentful of his faceless wife-of-the-future, they will sometimes give me a polite yet curious look. Some will nod a sad, knowing smile, and then one of us will invariably say that quote I’ve grown to detest, “A son is a son ’til he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter for life.” (I have a daughter, but I know she’s not going anywhere, so this isn’t about her.)
Then there are the mothers who do not agree with me. They say things like, “You have to let them go,” “We all grow up,” or “I love my daughter-in-law!” That is when I give them the same look I might give to anyone who ever asks me to go down to the basement in the middle of the night to see what made that noise.
So when my son got off the bus, clutching a scrap of paper in his hand, his serious face in place, I knew.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” he says. He tells me he likes a girl and she likes him, and she’s moving away in two weeks, so he’d like to call her.
I do not panic. I am not angry. Instead, I find myself excited for him. With my best attempt at nonchalance, I say, “Uh, okay. Let’s go.”
I watch as he dials her number, his brows knit with concentration. I listen as he uses his ma’ams and his pleases, and I feel a surge of excitement when the mother says he can talk to her daughter. He fist pumps the air, victorious. He attempts his first phone conversation with a girl. I hear him say, “So–(long pause)–how’s your family?” I laugh from my eavesdropping spot at the bottom of the stairs.
Two days later, I pick her up after school, and we go for ice cream. I pay and then scuttle to the corner of the shop and pretend I don’t know them. They are talking and smiling and laughing and eating their ice cream.
I’m near tears. He looks happy, which makes me happy. It was one of those epiphanies, the kind delivered in crowded yogurt shops on Friday afternoons. I had always viewed my son growing up and sharing his life with someone else as my loss.
I was a selfish idiot. I was so busy fretting over me, I didn’t realize my loss was his gain. I live for my son’s gains. When he gets a hit at bat, when he gets a good grade on a test, when he gets invited to a birthday party, when he tells a joke that makes the other kids laugh, it’s my victory too.
His joy is my joy.
(Sidebar: Whoever coined the phrase, “You’re only as happy as your least happy child,” was a genius.)
All this time, I failed to consider how it might be for him, to feel those first stomach flutters, to fall in love (LATER, MUCH LATER, PLEASE!), to choose to spend his life with someone.
His dad is my everything, and raising our kids together is amazing and scary and difficult and so very worth it. I want all of that for my son. Of course I do.
He still dances with me in the bathroom, holding my hands and twirling me, singing Jim James’s “A New Life.” He still hugs me around the waist and says “I love you, Mama” (and sometimes pokes me in the stomach and asks me if I’m having another baby).
When we lie on his bed at night, a head on each pillow, his eyes are so open, so accepting, it sends hairline cracks across my heart. My love for him is staggering in its depth and has taught me the true meaning of the word bittersweet. The days and years are sprinting away from us, leaving me winded and knee-deep in achingly beautiful memories. I will always believe that whoever lands my son is the luckiest woman alive. But I no longer see her as a thief, stealing him away.
If this story can still be found when he does find the girl of his dreams, and she reads it and is wondering what she can do to make her batshit crazy mother-in-law happy, here’s my advice:
Christmas at our place!
And welcome to the family.