Which of course means, with a glass of wine in my hand. Makes it harder to type, but easier to write. I believe that is what they call a paradox. Or a word closely related to paradox.
jr. is going to be 14 in less than three months. This causes me to feel a multitude of things. Panic, because it means I am getting older. Sheer terror, because I know what I was doing when I was 14 (I’m not getting into details here, but every gray hair on my mother’s head was put there from 1988-1993, courtesy of yours truly), sadness, because my baby is growing up, and joy, because as he gets older and more independent, I get a little bit more freedom.
This is important to me for two key reasons. 1.) I was a young mother. When my friends were turning 21 and partying their faces off, I was changing diapers and working 27 jobs to keep afloat. It’s not a fun way to get through your 20’s, but we did it, and I think we both came through it fairly ok. 2.) I was single mom. As much as Baby Daddy is a help now, it wasn’t always that way. I’m not saying I never got to do anything, but I didn’t get to experience being young in the same way that a lot of my counterparts did.
For the past almost 14 years, almost everything I have done has been to make life better, to give jr. a fighting chance, security, peace, stability, and to position jr. to be successful in whatever area of life he chooses to take on. I bring all of this up now because in the past few weeks, I have been, for lack of a better word, negligent.
Perhaps that is too strong of a word. It’s not like he has been walking around hungry in dirty boxer shorts, begging for change on the streets of Mt. Lebanon, but I have raised the bar on my expectations about what he can and can’t manage when I am not home. Which is becoming more and more frequent.
There is my job. I have worked late many nights, traveled way more than with any other job, and have had more evening events than in the past. That takes up time. There is dating. I try to protect jr. by not introducing him to just anyone, which I think in the long run is the right thing to do (jr., say hello to your Uncle Fill In The Blank), but in the short-term, means more time away from home.
Up until September, I would either get a sitter, wait until he was at his dad’s, or take him to my mom’s. Then jr. sat me down. Mom, he said, I am almost 14, I do not want a sitter, and quite frankly, grandma is crazy. I would rather stay home alone (The kid has a point. My mom is a little out there. Again, you can probably blame me.) So I think. Ya know, when I was 13, I was babysitting for other people while they went out all night. I vividly remember watching my neighbor’s three kids until three in the morning, and watching the hubby walk in and puke in the fireplace. He said it was *the* most effective way to prevent a house fire.
So my little man can handle a few hours alone. Heck, I don’t go out beyond a ten-mile radius, and my mother is literally two blocks away. We can do this. And for the most part, we can. But there are days, oh there are days, when I think that I am being a bad mom. And some days that I probably actually am.
I bring all of this up for a reason. I am struggling. At what point can I stop feeling bad about not spending every waking moment with him? At what point can I say, you know, I love you to death. I have given up my youth, my figure, I have sacrificed and scraped and bled, and it’s okay now if I want to take some time for myself. To figure out who I am. And what I want. Because you won’t always be here.
Is it 14? 18? 21? Never? I know you never stop being a parent. And I don’t ever want to. But when is it okay to take some time for you, for no other reason than you want to? I don’t have the answer, and I bet you don’t either. It’s hard to grow up along side of your kid. It’s one of the hazards of being a young mom.
I hope I’m not doing him wrong. If I am, the good news is I have a really good job with really good insurance for any therapy that he may or may not need. It’s easy to think of me as a wine, rum, and tequila-swilling harlot, because that’s what I let you believe, but at the end of the day, I’m just a mom watching her baby grow up, and hoping like hell she isn’t fucking him up too bad.
Of all of things I have been, or ever will be, a mom is by far the hardest, and the most rewarding. I cannot believe this shit didn’t come with instructions.