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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Full Suburban: A mother’s lament as another child prepares to leave the nest

Julia and George Ditto enjoy a laugh while on a shopping trip recently.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

My oldest boy, George, is his father’s son. He’s basically Logan’s Mini-Me in temperament, interests and personality. When he was little, I used to joke that if George had to choose between me and a serial killer, he might pick me, but I couldn’t be certain. Now that he’s older, there’s no question: He would definitely choose the serial killer, because at least the serial killer might do something interesting.

I am not exactly the Wonder Wheel. I like quiet, safe activities, like baking cookies, reading in bed, making lists and watching movies. George likes to jump off cliffs and ride mountain bikes. So does Logan. They are a dynamic duo of cheating death and injury at every turn, and thank goodness for that. But still – it kind of makes reading the Spokane County Records section of the newspaper look a little boring, don’t you think?

Late in the summer, George walked into the kitchen while I was sitting at the counter, writing out a list of things that needed to be done to get our family ready for another trip. He was most likely still dripping wet from cliff jumping with his friends, and when he saw me sitting there, he raised his eyebrows – a nonverbal communication from teenagers everywhere that means, “This looks super lame.” He asked me what I was doing.

“I’m making a list so we can get ready for our trip,” I said. George did not look impressed, so I added defensively, “Someone has to remember to schedule the dog for boarding; plan all the meals; put the porch light on a timer; clean the vegetables out of the fridge; buy batteries for the flashlight; pack sunscreen; put a hold on the mail and make sure everyone has clean underwear. And guess what? You’re going to marry someone exactly like me, so buckle up.”

The look on his face showed that he was doubtful and also a little worried at the prospect. But you can’t have a carefree Logan Ditto without a Julia Ditto there remembering to pack all the snacks, so I am convinced that there is a mini Julia Ditto waiting somewhere for my Georgie Boy, clasping her Post-it notes and folding laundry at midnight while watching old episodes of “Dateline.”

I may be a little extra sensitive at this moment, because in mere days, I will be putting George on an airplane to head to Santiago, Chile, to spend two years as a missionary. My 18 years of mothering him is being brought into sharp focus as I now wonder if I ever taught him anything that will be remotely useful as he heads off into the world without me. Can he cook a chicken? Does he know how to use an ATM? Will he lose his passport the instant he’s out of my sight?

But most of all, I’m sad that my time with him under my same roof is coming to a close. I was given 18 years with him; did I cherish it nearly enough? Did I squander my time? When he looks back on his childhood, what will he see?

I met a man the other day whom I discovered was the son of my beloved piano teacher, a woman who taught me all through junior high and high school. She was a lovely, grandmotherly woman – gentle but stern, compassionate and yet unfailing in her high expectations. Her (perhaps delusional) belief in my abilities as a pianist pushed me to excel more than I would have otherwise and led me toward a love for the piano that exists to this day.

I told the man as much, and he just smiled. With tenderness in his eyes and fondness in his voice, he said, “Ah, so you knew my angel mother.”

I was touched by the gentle way he spoke about her. Did she ever jump off a cliff or ride a bike at break-neck speed down a mountain? Was she an excellent snowboarder or the coolest mom on the block? I doubt it. And yet, her son looked back at her with nothing but tenderness.

I wonder if, 30 years from now, my children will think of me in the same way. Will their memories of the grocery lists and the late-night laundry – all the things that now seem so mundane to them – someday look like golden threads that I lovingly wove into the tapestry of their childhoods? Will they remember the feel of my hugs more than they remember the rush of wind in their hair?

I’m not sure what it takes to become an angel mother in the eyes of your kids, but I hope someday I’ll get there.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at