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I Still Need You, Mom

Last night, after a hurried fast-food dinner that my two sons roughly transferred from the kitchen to the car, we loaded into the family uber and headed out of town for a late-night basketball game. To be fair, it was a 7:10 p.m. game, but when it’s dark outside, it doesn’t matter what time it is. I am in full-on hibernation mode and hate leaving my warm, cozy house and even warmer, cozier flannel pajama pants.

Not even five minutes into the short road trip, the boys start fighting about something from the backseat. I hear commotion, movement, unkind words, even…could it possibly be….a SLAP?! Sure enough, what comes next: “DUDE! You SLAPPED ME!” and I think to myself: “You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s late. I’m tired. Can’t we just drive in silence before getting to the gym full of people….and noise?” Just as I start to intervene, which is always my first response, something amazingly abnormal happened…..

I heard this: 

“Sorry, Way.”

Followed immediately by: 

“Sorry, Liam.”

And that was it. They were back to eating their french fries and silently sucking down their sodas. The car was quiet for a few minutes until I heard……what was that? Surely, it couldn’t be…

Was it…..laughter? 

They literally just had a knock-down, drag-out fight less than five minutes ago, then they apologized, and now they are laughing and sharing private jokes with each other? And all without mom’s faithful intervention…..

At first, I was amazed. Wow, they are growing up. Learning to solve their own problems and handle their own conflicts on their OWN. Then, I became a bit resentful. But wait, if they don’t need me to constantly intervene in their lives, then what am I supposed to do?!

Perhaps this is a lesson in letting go. Having faith that my boys are growing into the stage of learning a very valuable lesson: how to handle conflict and dissension in life without faithful old mom stepping in at the first sign of distress. But it’s hard! As much as I want them to grow, mature, and handle these daily life hacks on their own, I miss the days when I was the first person they turned to when things got rough. And in the words of Ricky Bobby’s Dad in Talladega Nights, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” I don’t want to be last in my sons’ lives!

We finally reached the gymnasium and dropped the star player off at the front door while the rest of us parked as far as humanly possible and proceeded to the gym where my youngest son’s team was playing. We were entertained for the better part of an hour while watching his team claim victory over a very competitive team. 

The trip home was somewhat uneventful. Other than my husband driving on the interstate like it was a NASCAR track. The boys were in good spirits and talked, laughed, and entertained themselves (and me) all the way home. 

Perhaps knowing they are maturing in their ability to get along with each other and those family members, friends, and strangers they encounter in the world at large is not such a bad thing. Sure, I want them to come to me when they cannot handle such dissension on their own. But isn’t it every parent’s dream that their child(ren) grow up to be independent, self-sufficient, and fully equipped to deal with whatever difficulties life throws at them? 

Less than an hour later, I happened to see my youngest son sitting on the couch, wrapped warmly in his favorite black blanket, absently watching a YouTube video on TV. “I’m going to bed, buddy…” I said to him. He immediately got up, turned around, still wrapped in his blanket, and without so many words, gave me the look that said: “Will you tuck me in?” So, I followed him to his room, got him all covered up, said a brief prayer with him, and then turned the light’s out, heading toward my own bed and desire to get lost in the warmth of blessed dreamland. 

It is these small gestures that I know will gradually wane, falling away into the ether of ‘little boyhood’, replaced by the need for privacy and space. My oldest is already clinging to his 12-year-old-freedom from the depths of his electronically-infused bedroom, just down the hall. So, I will hold tight to these random and unexpected little lifelines a mother holds so close to her heart. Whether it be tucking in a child at night, saying prayers together, soothing a sore throat with a generations-old passed-down family recipe, or cleaning up a nasty sports injury. These young boys’ needs may be farther and fewer between, but no matter how old they grow, how big they get, how independent they become, and how far away they move, a son will always need the immense support and endless love of his mother. I will provide both until my final day on this earth. 

A son may grow strong and independent. But a mother’s love will never wane, despite the shifting needs of her child. It remains steady and strong, waiting patiently (at times, not patiently) on the sidelines of life for the faintest possibility that her child will one day look over, see her waiting there in the stands, and give her that familiar look, the very same my youngest son gave me last night just before bed, that says: “I still need you, Mom.”

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