Just one look in the eyes of my eldest son, and I had to remind myself to be The Mom.
Yes, I am his mom, but that sometimes means I want to do anything, anything at all, to make him happy, even if it’s not in his best interest. Being The Mom means, to me, doing the right thing for him, even if it doesn’t make him happy.
This week, he’s been hoping for a perfect day of feeling good after staying home from school all week, upon the doctor’s strep throat diagnosis. Day 4 of the antibiotic, so he’s not contagious, but it takes a while to get back up to speed after being down and out.
It’s something we, as parents, know well, but not something kids can quite see. Especially when Friday night is Ski Club.
All week long, not only has he missed his friends and been bored to tears watching SNL reruns on the purple couch; he’s been hoping, praying, wishing to get to the point of well enough to go skiing with friends.
And believe me, I want him to go. I want to send him with his packed red duffel full of ski paraphernalia and know that he’s having the most fun possible with some of his favorite friends.
As the days passed one by one and he inched his way toward 100% healthy, I knew the right decision was to say NO. Even when he threw his arms around me in a defeated hug. I clung to him more than he clung to me, wanting to give in and say YES YES YES, just to see that smile light up his face.
But I knew if I did, he would be likely to fall sick again soon after, and I don’t want that. Especially considering all the competing weekend events – a friend’s bar mitzvah, family dinner, our cousins’ son’s bris – so many great events to celebrate, that spending one more day lounging on the couch is the right thing to do.
I told him the doctor agreed with me. His grandmother agreed. Everyone who has more parenting experience than I agrees.
It didn’t matter. He was devastated, crushed, deflated. And I resisted the urge to give in.
Being a mom is easy most of the time. It’s that thing we do – make dinner, clean up from dinner, ask about their days, fold the laundry, shuttle them from one event to another.
I listen to my children, loving the cadence of their voices.
I snuggle beside them at night to read together or watch a favorite show, and none of us can be close enough. I cherish the days when they have no school and I have no work because they are so few and far between, and we just exult in the time spent together, knowing how fleeting it really is.
On regular days, even when we’re driving from Point A to Point B, sometimes I turn the music down and ask questions, or sometimes I turn the music up and linger in the sound of them singing and knowing every single word of the song.
I love their laughter. I love their passion. I love their compassion. (The little guy, upon seeing his older brother sick earlier this week, gave him a huge hug and said, “You’re the best brother in the world.”)
I love them so very much. The best role in my life has been to be their mother, and I’m pretty sure it always will be.
And so when there are times that I have to do the right thing instead of the preferred thing or the favorite thing, I do it, because I know it’s a marathon, not a race.
The author Ayelet Waldman has said, “There are times as a parent when you realize that your job is not to be the parent you always imagined you’d be, the parent you always wished you had. Your job is to be the parent your child needs, given the particulars of his or her own life and nature.”
Well, that’s what I strive to be. Forever and true. It breaks my heart to break his heart a little, but sometimes real love includes a little bit of heartbreak to save it in the end.