I was a bit of control freak right from the beginning, never bottle feeding any of my children, always latching them to me like they were attached to me (which I guess they were). I reveled in that time when I wandered covered in milk stains, barely able to keep my eyes open, children dripping off of me.
I wanted no help, embracing the martyr’s way and spending my days soothing, rocking, and strolling with a child on my hip, or on my back, or in my lap.
As they grew, I was always nostalgic for the year past — for when my 4-year-old was 3, for when my 6-year-old was 5, before my 1-year-old could walk, before the zipping from one room to another instead of lying lazily in my arms. I worried that they were growing too fast. I was the ultimate smother mother, wallowing in the sap, working on five hours of broken sleep a night, and kind of loving it.
It’s because of the mother I was then — one who stalked the nursery school halls, who volunteered for every single class project and trip, who baked cupcakes for reasons as nonsensical as “It’s Tuesday!” — that I am still amazed at how I’ve changed.
My boys are now 14, 11, and 8 years-old. They are in high school, middle school, and third grade. They still need me to do a million mommy things for them, but now I also expect them to help themselves a lot more. And when they don’t, I am no longer the sweet loving mama — I am the nagging cranky mama.
“Move your asses,” I’ll say when it’s time to shower and they’ve procrastinated too long. “Pick up your shit” and “Get it yourself” are other favorites. I don’t sugarcoat things. I expect things done, and my patience is minimal.
Maybe it sounds selfish and maybe it is, but I have turned a corner. Things are starting to be about me again and I am embracing this new cycle in my life. I am writing and loving it. But like any job, it takes time, and if I’m constantly nagging then I am not sitting on my fabulous chair in my computer room, tapping away.
I no longer want them hanging on me (although a good hug is always appreciated). I want them to be more independent so I can be more independent as well. I want them to do more for themselves so I can do less.
It makes me feel like a bad mother sometimes when I remember how emotional I was when my oldest gave up his stuffed animals or when my youngest went to school without crying for me. But I’ve changed. The mother who always had the playdates at her house because she wanted the children near now doesn’t mind so much when the boys are all engaged at a friend’s house. Back then, I needed them to need me, but now there are many days when I just want to be left alone, not doing anything for anyone but myself.
I know there will be a time in the not too distant future when my beautiful boys are no longer always underfoot, and I will long for them to ask me to make them an egg sandwich, find their baseball pants, or pick them up a friend’s house. I will remember how lucky I was to be so present in their lives and so available to them.
But for now, I’d just like them to pick up their shit.