I’ve noticed in recent years that my grown sons are now adopting a bit of a parental manner toward me. For example, my balance isn’t what it used to be, so I’m hearing things like “be careful where you step, mom” or “here, hang on to me.”
Sure, this is a courteous thing to do for any wobbly person you care about, but it has a solicitous manner to it that feels parental to me. And it’s an interesting bit of role reversal, as it doesn’t seem all that long ago that I’d reach out my hand to steady one of my recklessly stepping small boys.
Now it’s not like I’m trying to do anything unwise as I move about and, in fact, I always watch where I step, but I now hear the admonitions when it’s raining or icy out or maybe there are a lot of objects in my path that need avoiding. I don’t take it to mean they think I’m doddering or senile or can’t see what’s on the ground, but rather a general concern for a mom who isn’t quite the warrior she used to be.
I still live my life, thank you very much – able to get about my regular work tasks, shopping, paying bills, enjoying assorted entertainments – but slower and within a day that is best enjoyed when not so packed nonstop from morning to night. The old girl needs a breather here and there. And my sons don’t take their new posture to extremes, so we’re settling into a new and very comfortable normal when either of them is home for a visit.
It’s hardly a changing of the guard, but it represents small changes in the dynamic between parent and adult child. This is how life goes as the older among us become weaker and the young stronger.
Still – once a parent, always a parent.
Let something happen to one of my sons, and the lioness of the savannah rises again. No day is too long. No task too difficult. No obstacle insurmountable. I am again the fierce protectress with all necessary energy laser focused.
Take this past Christmas, for example.
Our youngest son, Sam, came in from Seattle for a few days. It was lovely. A nice dinner Christmas Eve followed by conversation late into the night. Leisurely opening of presents the next morning, after which the enjoying of the traditional breakfast I make every year (or at least any year Sam or his brother are home for the holiday). Friends visited in the afternoon.
But then late in the afternoon on Christmas, Sam said he felt achy and thought he’d lie down for a bit. It wasn’t long before we all realized the flu had hit him. Sam usually goes down hard with these kinds of things, this time being no exception.
He set up on a couch downstairs and moved between that and his bed. I forced fluids. Made him chicken noodle soup. Brought him tea with honey. Gave him homemade applesauce. Saw to it that he had enough to drink and as much as he could comfortably eat. Gave him some of his father’s clothes as he was busy sweating through all of his own. Kicked the washer into active gear. Fussed, hovered, nurtured.
And he let me. He was sick enough that it was again OK to morph into an 8-year-old boy on the couch with mom supervising his recovery.
A night or two later I heard a clunking sound downstairs at 3:30 a.m. Instant radar activated. I waited, listening and breathing quietly to see if the normal household silence returned. A louder clunk followed, more of a thud. I was downstairs in a heartbeat – not concerned for a second about where I was stepping, as I had summoned from my memory banks the catlike ability to move speedily to be at the very place I needed to be right now (at least that’s how I think it went).
And there was Sam sprawled out on the tile floor in the hallway, face down. I gently spoke with him, and his answers were coherent but not rapid in coming. It was as if he were sleep-talking, and I couldn’t tell if he had passed out or just tried to navigate back to bed before waking up enough to accomplish the task safely.
I went back upstairs to get my husband, and after Sam was safely in bed, with appropriate ministrations, I tentatively went back to bed myself and listened through the rest of the night for sounds from downstairs. No cub shall come to harm on my watch.
The next morning he was still pretty sick, but he began slowly recovering. He was still a bit shaky when he returned to his life back in Seattle. I’ve been disinfecting everything, doing lots of post-flu laundry and fussing over him from afar – while still working, shopping, paying bills and enjoying various entertainments.
Pretty soon now reality will catch up with me, the adrenaline will seep away and everything that hurts or interferes with normal life will pop through the Supermom cloak I’ve wrapped myself in for this brief moment in time.
I’m sure I’ll need to watch my step again, but until then, I am invincible. I am Mom.
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