By the time this runs, another Mothers’ Day will be one for the books. The plan is to spend time with my son, daughter-in-law, and my 14-month-old joy boy Dean. He was the best part of the pandemic year and lights up all of our lives. Early on during the pandemic, I spent 11 weeks self-solituding, with Facetime, videos, and phone calls being the only contact with them all. It was one way we could help ensure the baby’s safety and to this day, even though I received my second vaccine 16 weeks ago, I remain mindful of how my actions might affect him. While it feels limiting at times, it is worth the sacrifice. I am part of Team Dean, a.k.a. his ‘babysitter’s club” and my days begin with a few hours in the morning, feeding, changing, playing, hugging, cuddling, reading, singing, and dancing along with this little one.
I became a mother by choice in 1992 when my husband and I adopted Adam. A towhead, like his own son who is his mini-me, Adam was almost 5 years old at the time. I say that my stretch marks are on my heart and not my hips. To be clear, I had asked him if he was cool with the world knowing he joined our family by way of adoption since a few years back after writing an article that referenced our relationship, I received pushback from someone who felt it wasn’t my story to tell, but his.
To be honest, despite loving children and having been raised by exemplary parents, who modeled love and acceptance, encouragement, and nurturing, I never felt a compulsion to become a mother. A month after we adopted Adam, I had an ectopic pregnancy during which a fallopian tube ruptured and I nearly hemorrhaged to death. In many ways, although it was traumatic and I didn’t even know I was pregnant, it was a relief because it was hard to imagine having the energy to give to my new son and an infant. While I know that many families have multiple children, some simultaneously, I shake my head in bewildered awe about how they manage it. My maternal grandmother was one of 13 children and when I asked my mother how they made it all work, she shrugged her shoulders and said she heard that the big kids helped take care of the littles. I was curious about how my great grandparents afforded to provide for all of them since they owned a corner store (what was called a mom-and-pop shop) in Philadelphia.
I have so many wonderful childhood memories and some repressed. What weirdly came to me was the day my beloved grandmother died when I was four. I have no conscious memory of the event. So much of who I became centers around her death. She was like a third parent since we (my parents, sister, and I) all lived together. Shortly afterward I was diagnosed with asthma which I have heard relates to repressed grief in some people. I know that my mother missed her all her life after that. I suppressed my own grief to protect my mother from pain since she kept on keepin’ on in the face of it. I became a co-dependent caregiver as a result. I would love to unwind all of that.
As I look back over the years and witness how my now 34-year-old kiddo evolved, in part, because of my parenting choices and in part, despite my parenting choices, I feel multiple overlapping emotions. There were decisions that I would not repeat and some that I would absolutely do again. I raised him as a single parent since he was 11 and my husband died of Hepatitis C.
He has been my teacher in many ways, as he reminded me when he was 14 that he was “an undercover angel, sent to teach you patience.” My response was that I thought he didn’t believe in angels and he volleyed back with, “Yeh, but you do.” And so it has been, as I am a lifelong learner. He shines the light on my successes and shortfalls and I do my best to gracefully accept both. In other words, he calls me on my sh*it. When I look back over the last nearly three decades since he came into my life, I realize how incidental some of my parenting was, rather than intentional. I let some things go when I shouldn’t have and held on too tightly when I should have let go. It’s like the song The Gambler, I had to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. Sometimes I dropped the entire deck of cards and they scattered to the winds. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to collect them all. Does that mean I’m not playing with a full deck? Sometimes that is my reality.
Part of my chosen role was to embarrass him. That I did well, as I would speak to strangers in the supermarket, hug strangers on the street, dress way too colorfully, and ‘Goddessy’ for his taste. I became a clown in my early 30s, so sometimes I would go out in costume. His ‘weird hippie Mom’ was rewarded with a t-shirt last Mothers’ Day with a peace sign emblazoned on it as it proclaims that I am a “Hippie Bubbe”. (In case you don’t know, that is Yiddish for grandmother). He rolls his eyes at my outrageous, full-out, high octane living.
One thing I have been clear about is that I am an intentional grandmother. I see this open-to-the-world little being and want to offer him color and pizazz, structure, and guidance, with ideas and opportunities to learn and grow. I want him to know beyond any possibility of doubt, that he is worthy of love, just because, without having to earn it.
I know that, first and foremost, that is Lauren and Adam’s responsibility and his other grandparents and I are ancillary. The times being what they are, he is primarily in the company of immediate family with an occasional introduction to others out in the wider world.
As my own mother who I commune with every day, is an ancestor, I have matured and become a matriarch. I have not stopped being a parent, just because my son is an independent adult. We have the kind of relationship now that I wish we could have had when we were both younger. In many ways, the roles have reversed as he asks me if I’m okay if I sit staring into space, he opens jars that my arthritic hands sometimes can’t do easily, and opens baby-proof doorknobs, for the same reason. When I get down on the floor with our little toddler who is already a tiny yogi, who spontaneously drops into what I call Downward Facing Dean and rolls over into toe grabbing Happy Baby, I groan when standing up slowly, Adam smirks and says, “That’s because you’re old, Mom.”
This post is republished on Medium.
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