I am regularly accused of “mommying” my youngest son. Said child is no longer a baby, but a strapping 6-foot tall, 16-year-old young man.
And I’m reluctantly forced to admit it’s true.
Even though we cut the umbilical cord — which sustained him through nine months of development in the womb — right there in the delivery room, somehow the connection was not completely severed.
I come by it honestly. I am his mother, after all. He’s also the youngest of three boys, forever known as the “baby” of the family whether he likes it or not.
His brothers love to say he’s “the favorite” and “spoiled.” Then they slug him in the arm as if it’s somehow his fault.
I have always come to his defense, and recently noticed how much I do that very thing. Not with absolute blindness the way some parents do — I know my kid is fallible, makes mistakes and is by no means perfect. But if he is treated in a way I deem unjust, “She-Bear” is coming out to handle it.
My husband nicknamed me that after the mama bears that will rip your head off if you even so much as glance at their cubs.
I’m not ripping off any heads (although come to think of it, sometimes that does cross my mind), but I struggle to know which battles I should fight for him, or with him, and which he should fight on his own. I also struggle with how much to do or not do for him.
My husband keeps telling me to cut the umbilical cord. Actually, he tells both of us, because my son manipulates that advantage to his favor exponentially. He knows exactly how and when to work me, and we both know it. When his dad calls him on it, a sly smile crosses his face.
When these discussions about cutting the cord happen, I feel a strange sense of contradiction. A part of me understands it to be the right thing, but another part of me panics.
I may be feeling something new: that upcoming “empty nest” syndrome psychologists like to talk about. He is the final unit — the others are long gone — and maybe I’m not ready for a house devoid of kids. That doesn’t ring entirely true, but I’m not counting the days until he graduates high school either.
As a result of this constant chiding, I’m actively noticing a couple of facets of this malady: when my She-Bear gets activated and when I “mommy” too much.
In a baseball all-star game this week, an opposing player told him, “Sat your fat ass down, you f---ker” after my son missed a pitch. I didn’t know about it until we were in the car driving home from the game, but my hackles stood straight up. I was indignant, and frustrated the umpire didn’t hear it and throw him out of the game. I told my son to ignore the idiot and let his baseball do the talking.
In his last month of school, I became incensed over a big English assignment in which the teacher completely dropped the ball on helping my son understand how to write the paper, and my son received an F. Well over half the students in his collective classes earned a D or F on this assignment, which only reinforced the one who failed was the teacher. I wanted to fight this battle but instead had a conversation with my son about how his paper could have been improved.
Family members are also candidates for calling up the She-Bear, including my husband if I think he’s being too hard on him, or his older brothers, if they treat him like dirt.
Some recent clues I “over-mommy” include my talking to a trainer at our CrossFit gym when I dropped him off for a class. I couldn’t refrain from telling the trainer he was pretty new, he had an important baseball tournament the following day, and whatever else I felt compelled to explain before leaving him there.
Her reply? “I got it, Mom.”
My husband also laid down the mandate our “baby” not contact me when he wants to do something, but to make “the father” the main contact. It goes without saying “the father” does not give in to the same charms as “the mother” so he is in a better position to make decisions on behalf of “the spoiled brat.”
In the end, I guess I’m walking the fine line between advocating for my kid while letting him stand on his own two feet, and that includes making his own breakfast, doing his own laundry and fighting his own battles.
Then again, maybe I’m just the best mom ever.
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