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Who Is This Stranger in My House? (And Why Is He Eating All of My Food?)

When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I had those magical illusions that most first time moms have of maternal bliss. I knew that once he was born we would spend our days snuggling, bonding, and enjoying those diaper-commercial moments where the mom gazes lovingly at the small bundle cooing at her.

Reality? Well, it didn’t quite fit that maternal bliss image I had in my head. While pregnant with Brandon, he was quite ferocious with his kicks. I knew he was destined for soccer greatness. My kidneys agreed. After a high-risk and complicated pregnancy, he was finally born and placed gently in my arms. We had that moment of gazing into each others eyes before he let out a scream so loud I was certain he had to have burst his own eardrums.

And the crying didn’t stop for three months.

Every single night he would wake up and scream from 3:00am until 7:00am. With. Out. Fail. I was certain he was broken. The pediatrician told me he was fine and was just had a touch of colic, which in my book is much like saying, “You have a touch of Bubonic Plague.” Is there even such thing as a “touch of colic”?

My baby boy reminded me of an angry, old man who was suddenly trapped in the body of an infant. And boy was he pissed off!

He didn’t like to snuggle. He wasn’t hip on nursing or even taking a bottle. He just wanted the world to know he was there.

Oh, they knew. Every one knew. I am pretty sure – but cannot prove – that the neighbors in our tiny apartment complex had a petition circulating asking us to please move or get soundproof walls.

Then one day I looked up and saw this strange man-child standing in my kitchen. And when I say “looked up” I mean it literally. He has at least four inches on me in height.

It seemed as if overnight I suddenly had a teenager. Gone was the toddler who followed me everywhere. Gone was the little boy whose main bliss in life was being pushed as high as he could go on his favorite swing.

In his place stood a 6-foot tall man-child who had to bend over to hug his mother rather than just wrap his tiny arms around my legs. No longer averse to eating, I found myself at the grocery store restocking my pantry on a near daily basis.

I was watching him sleep the other day – which isn’t hard when you have a teen who would sleep all day if allowed – and felt a twinge of sadness for days past. No, I did not want the nightly crying, but a little mom adoration would be nice. I am lucky that we have a good relationship and can talk openly about anything. Anything. He is not afraid to share his latest dirty joke or ask me questions that have me squirming in my seat. But it is on his time table now. Not mine.

This person? This stranger? I like him. I really do like the man he is becoming.

Looking at him, I see all of the 15 years that have gone by so fast and realize I only have him home with me for four more years before college. And inside? A part of me can’t help but feel as if he is slipping through my fingers before I am ready.

I no longer set up his play dates. In fact, I have to go out of my way to meet his friends and their parents. Girls no longer have cooties, and friends have more influence than ever before.

I no longer know his every thought. Most of the time I have no idea what is going on in his head at all. I don’t have access to all of his wishes, dreams, and deepest thoughts. I have to pull information out of him like I am the CIA and he is a suspect.

Just when I think “Oh, no, I have already lost him to his own world,” he comes to me, sits beside me and tells me about his life. (And then he asks for food!) We talk. I see glimpses of my little boy, and we the world feels right again.

I am beginning to realize that the process of letting go begins with the original cutting of the umbilical cord and is a never-ending process. It is then that you begin to teach them how to fend for themselves and become their own person. Honestly? It is hard to hold on tight enough to keep him safe from his teenage self, and yet still let him pull far enough away until he learns how to stand on his own.

For now, I will cherish the times we talk. (Even if he makes me squirm.) I will cherish those moments he wants my opinion. (Though I am never sure if I am giving him what he needs with my perspective.) For now, I will love this man-child who tries to eat us out of house and home, and remember that every step he takes towards his own independence successfully is a moment that I have done what I need to do as a mother.

But I still make him sit down when he is in trouble, and I have to be stern. Because really, how powerful can you feel when you have to look up at the person you are grounding?

I don’t know where the time went or how it went so fast, but you can believe that every milestone we have ever shared from his first breath to the first day I dropped him off at high school are etched in my heart. Unforgettable. Untouched by time. They are my link that keeps me bonded to my son forever.

Well, that and my refrigerator.

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