So there we were again, saying our goodbyes. I couldn’t help but feel a pinch in my heart every time this happens.
My 19-year old son studies abroad for college. Whenever time and finances permit, I try to visit him so we can spend even just several days together. Since he is also busy in school, I cannot expect him to be with me every hour of every day that I am there. Whatever free time he can spare is fine with me. A quick trip to the mall, a nice dinner, a hurried breakfast, or some quality chat time.
I try to make the most of what is given to me. Eventually he goes back to his college suite, while I fly back home. We say our goodbyes again, until the next holiday or break, either his or mine.
I don’t cry, not anymore…but I can’t say that I am not heartbroken. One thing I am certain of is that my son brings with him a piece of my heart wherever he goes.
I was one of the fortunate ones who was given the opportunity to be a full-time mom. And when I say full-time, that meant yes, I was very hand-on. Up until the time my son had to leave for college, I was ALWAYS around in his everyday life- visible in daylight or lurking in the shadows at night. Being a mom, that was what I did.
In my 19 years of being a mom, though, I have learned that one is never “just a mom.”
Mothers are teachers. In fact, when you are a mom, you are your child’s first teacher. More than just the ABC’s and 123’s, you also instill in your child good manners and right conduct. You teach your child the values he needs to learn in order to grow up to be a decent human being, at the very least. You teach him to give his best always. You teach your child about kindness and compassion, and you teach him how to survive in the big, sometimes bad, world, on his own.
Mothers are chefs. There is no escaping the fact that you have to feed your kid every day- sometimes three, most of the time even more than three times a day! You get plus points if you are skillful and imaginative in the kitchen. Hungry kids are whiny. Hungry teens are cross. From experience, when you have boys, it seems like the older they are, the hungrier they get. And they expect variety! So there, you can’t be a mom and not know your way in the kitchen.
Mothers are problem-solvers. It’s not always about big, life-changing issues. Mostly, it’s about the small day-to-day ones- like your child telling you at 9pm that he needs certain materials for a school project due the following day or finding out late in the night that your child needs to come to school the following day in a food themed or storybook costume.
Depending on their child’s needs on any given day, mothers can transform into an artist (hello, art project!), a mathematician (hello, Kumon worksheets!), a poet, a nurse (a scoop of ice cream will make you feel better, believe me!), an animated storyteller, a vet (don’t worry sweetie, we will save little fishy!), a scientist, a lost and found custodian (“Mom, did you see my red pair of socks? And my Math book? And my rubber shoes?!”), a playmate (Wonder Woman today, Harley Quinn tomorrow), or a friend.
Because I had the luxury of being a stay-at-home-mom, I was able to shift from one role to another right away, as the situation calls for. Sometimes I play multiple roles all at once. It can be quite daunting, really – but when you see those little pair of eyes looking at you expectantly, waiting for you to work your ‘magic,” somehow your heart just gives. You simply cannot say no. You have to show that you are the hero your child expects you to be.
As your child grows older, their life issues change, as well. No longer is it about superficial wounds that can be covered or cured by Band-aids. Suddenly, your child asks deeper questions, suddenly they have more serious concerns – friendship, acceptance, confidence (or the lack of it), identity, and faith. When they look to you for answers, it can be scary. You have to dig deep. You have to make sure that you provide wise counsel.
The moment you bring a child into this world, the moment you become a mother, the world stops revolving around you. I think it is innate in every mother to put the needs of her child first.
I also believe that ironic as it may seem, the more time you spend with your child when he is young, the more you are able to teach him how to fend for himself in the future… and the easier it will be to let go of him eventually. Being there for them as they are growing up, being present when they need you, gives your child the security he needs. Secure children grow up to be secure, confident adults.
Yes, letting your child explore the world on his own can be bittersweet. Sometimes you wish you can hold them close to you for much, much longer. But then it is bound to happen. They have to experience life on their own. This is what you have been preparing them for from the beginning, anyway. And so you let go.
But then again, you don’t really let go fully because you know that wherever they are, they take a part of you with them. They take with them your advices, your stern reminders, your wisdom, your love. Anywhere your child goes, he takes with him all the roles that he has seen you play during all those times you were there for him.
So you are a mother. Celebrate it.
In your child’s eyes, no matter how old they get, you are a lot of things… and definitely, you are not just a mom.