Or: The Mom I was vs. the Mom I am, 20 years and 7 kids later.
Warning: This story comes with a moral attached and gets a little bit…raw at times. If you do not wish to profit from my hard-earned wisdom, (ha), or feel uncomfortable dealing with difficult themes, here’s a cute kitty meme:
Now scoot, ‘cause some shit’s about to fly.
Hi, my name is Margaret, and I was once a helicopter mom.
I wouldn’t let my firstborn play in the grass—too dirty, too many germs, you know?—and when I left him with a babysitter for the very first time, I gave her four pages of notes in case of an emergency.
(She herself was a mom of three and I remember distinctly her wry smile.)
I interrogated the woman in the YMCA daycare, asking if she sanitized the toys regularly. Later, I worried about the other kids on his baseball team, the other kids (and counselors) at summer camp, and the other girls in his confirmation class!
In short, I worried about everything.
Impossibly I tried to control it all.
Disney’s Fox and the Hound, for example?
The Fox and the Hound was not my friend.
You see, I thought that since it was such a cute little movie, I could put it on for the kids and go about my very merry way. What I didn’t realize (and didn’t know until much later) was that it would give my son nightmares for years to come.
I’m referring to that scene with the bear.
That scene with the bear scared the crap out of him.
And rightly so.
Fast forward 15 years. The son in question (not the highly protected and over-coddled firstborn but Son Number 2, the one I scarred for life with that godawful bear) is now a United States Marine.
And suddenly I’m realizing how much worse it could get.
He joined the Marines as a high school senior; in fact, we had to sign the papers because he was 17. “How did you feel about that?” people ask me, and I tell them, “It didn’t matter!” It was his decision–who he was called to be–and as his mom, I chose to support him.
Which doesn’t mean I didn’t worry…a lot…but then I had an awakening.
I’m talking about a literal waking, as in I woke to the sound of someone throwing up. You know the audible cues, I’m sure—the throttled bark, the retching cough, the ultimate gurgle and gush and splat—but what I didn’t expect was the extent of the damage, as in, my 7-year-old leaned over the side of his bunk bed and his 17-year-old brother was sleeping underneath.
Let’s just say the puke hit the fan.
There was vomit everywhere—not on Big Brother, thankfully, but on all of Big Brother’s stuff. His wallet, his cell phone, his school books & papers…there was even a stream of puke that went into his shoes.
(Note to teenagers: Let this be a lesson! Put your personal effects away!)
Not surprisingly, Big Brother got mad.
Are you kidding? He was seething.
And so I rushed to clean the puke-riddled room because that’s what a mother does, right? We hurry in to make amends; we desperately seek to restore the peace, especially when younger siblings risk losing life & limb at the hands of their 17-year-old brother. As I cleaned (and cleaned…and cleaned) I had a lot of quiet time for musing. My little boy (aka the puker) had been transplanted into the recliner in our bedroom while Big Brother was brooding in the dark downstairs.
The main thought I had was this: Detachment.
I was struck by the impermanence of life.
The tears were streaming down my face at that point because I knew that as much as I wanted to protect my son—from bad friends, scary movies and puke in his shoes—I couldn’t.
And—I’m going to just put this out there—I can’t protect him from one day dying…either on the battlefield or safe at home in his bed.
There are places where the mind shouldn’t go unless it positively has to. Sufficient this day are the crosses thereof, and honest to God, we do not ask for them! Yet still they come. Why waste our time worrying about the unknown when we’ve got the tangible here & now?
Again, sometimes people ask me, “How do you feel about your son joining the Marines?”
It doesn’t matter how I feel! Feelings are highly overrated.
The fact is, there are bad guys out there who want to hurt us, and my son is able & willing to go kick their ass. (Don’t be shocked; those are his words, not mine.) What’s more, after the massacre at the concert in Las Vegas, I’m glad my son knows how to shoot a gun! Those are hard words to type and hard words to read, I know. War is hell—and war is proof that we live in a fallen world—but where would we be without our soldiers?
My father fought in WWII. I told him, “Boy, Dad, those Japanese were mean!”
“Well, yeah!” he responded. “They were shooting at us!”
So no, I’m not the hyper-controlling mom I once was because now I know I’m not in control. Heck, I don’t want to be, because the more “in control” that I demand I am, the less inner peace I have.
Hope and pray...but do not worry. Those are the words of St. Padre Pio who, coincidentally, was Second Son’s confirmation saint. I do still worry (and sometimes I cry) but I’m more at peace than I’ve ever been because I’ve given every last battle over to God.
Hope, pray and do not worry.
Lean heavily on the angels and the saints.