My son has been home sick for the past few days with a bad cold. At 16, he’s perfectly capable of heating up soup himself and slurping it down to ease his stuffy nose and sore throat—after all, he’s been playing video games all day. But still I make the soup. And he certainly doesn’t need me to find his favorite blanket that disappeared sometime last spring, but I dug around for it and bundled him up like I used to when he was little and getting settled for his nap.
He doesn’t argue with me. He knows he won’t win this battle. It doesn’t matter if he’s almost 200 pounds and has six inches on me. I insist on doing certain things and he knows I am going to do them for his sake, but mostly for mine.
There are mornings when one of my kids wakes up and I see them rushing around, trying to find things in the pantry so they can get some lunch thrown in their backpack even though I’ve told them time and time again they should pack it the night before. I tell them to go upstairs to finish getting ready and I’ll get their lunch.
Yes, my three kids have all reached teenage status and can do most things on their own. I’ve taught them how to do laundry, clean toilets, and cook things like grilled cheese and pasta.
But there are times I see their favorite sweatshirt slung in the backseat of the car, knowing they’ve forgotten about it, and I throw it in the wash for them so they will have it the next day. There are times when I’m rushing out the door to make some appointment but I still prepare their favorite meal first. And I’ve been known to walk in their bathroom in shambles — with towels on the floor, their Q-tip container empty, and zero toilet paper on the roll — and I make it nice in there for them again. (I have to be feeling really fine to do this one for them, but when I’ve done it, I feel extra in love with them.)
I am all about raising independent, self-sufficient kids who don’t think they were brought into this world to be served by their mother.
I am also all about showing them how much I really care about them. This is how I do it these days.
It’s killing me a little bit that they don’t need me as much as they used to. I thought these years would feel like freedom and I’d be doing a Julie Andrews spin on the top of a mountain Sound of Music style. But that’s not how it’s going down.
Making them a sandwich takes me back to the afternoons when they were little and the sound of cartoons filled the house each afternoon. Times when I still cut the bread in little triangles, and stuff my youngest son’s peanut butter and jelly full of potato chips and crunch it all down really flat.
Doing their laundry and folding their hoodies takes me back to washing their onesies and tiny socks.
Throwing soup in the microwave and getting my son’s favorite blanket and wrapping his body up like a taco when he has a runny nose and sore throat makes me feel like I am passing my love onto him and, honestly, I don’t get to do that as much as I used to.
The absence of the physical labor it takes to raise my teens has been replaced by mental labor for sure. They duck away from my hugs. They aren’t interested in holding hands. They don’t ask for bedtime stories or if I’ll lie on the floor with them to watch a movie.
I worry. I ask too many questions. Right now, I am not as important to them as I once was. I know it, and it’s okay.
But in order to deal with all of it, I still need to show them I love them—it’s a natural urge for all parents regardless of their kids’ age. I’ve told my kids over and over they can let me do things for them without putting up a fight. I’ve earned the right to do something special for them whenever I choose.
These days, all I can do is show my love by cleaning their bathroom once in a while, or telling them to sleep in a bit and I’ll make their lunch. They don’t want me make a fort or do a craft project with them.
Those days are gone and have left a void. I try to fill it with potato chip-stuffed sandwiches and washing their clothes and leaving them folded neatly on the bed — and honestly, these tasks are so much more fun when you don’t have to do them but simply want to.
I’m certainly that mom who spews “If you want it, get it/do it yourself” most of the time just so my kids don’t forget who really runs this place.
But every once in a while, I show my love through doing things for them they are completely capable of doing themselves and I’m not stopping anytime soon.