Since my boys were born, I snuggled, mothered and smothered.
I loved how much my boys loved me, how they’d compete for my attention, or couldn’t go to bed without me. I loved being their favorite person, and even when they cried a little if I left them with Daddy or grandma.
I tried to provide for their every need, emotional, physical, nutritional and unnecessary.
“Mommy, can you get me…” and “Mommy, I need…” were the starting points of almost every sentence.
I was creating little mama’s boys and hoping it would stick.
The years passed and it was all so perfect, until something changed.
Somewhere in between getting one boy milk and dropping in a load of smelly baseball laundry, I realized my boys were no longer babies. They were 6, 9 and 12. They could get their own drinks, pack their own backpacks and help out more. And while I’ll never tire of those hugs, I was tired.
It was time for mama’s boys to grow up.
Unfortunately, I had put some solid time and effort into helping my boys become slightly helpless. I had made my bed and everyone else’s, and now I needed to unmake them.
The very next morning I got to work getting them to work.
“Mom!” My oldest called as I passed his room, “Where are my clothes?”
“They are in your drawer,” I answered casually. I knew what he meant, why aren’t they laid out on the floor beside my bed like usual?
He looked at me quizzically, then shrugged, got up and retrieved his clothes.
My heart leapt with excitement. Could it really be that easy?
In the kitchen making their school lunches, my middle son called out to me from the living room, “Mama! I want milk.”
Instead of bringing him milk as I might have done just a day before, I ignored him until I felt his accusing breath behind me. “Mama, I asked for milk!”
“I heard,” I said calmly, “But I don’t like being yelled at from another room.”
“I want milk.”
“It’s in the fridge,” I answered nicely and went back to bagel buttering.
There was some tense hesitation before I finally heard him shuffle toward the fridge and open it.
That was when my 6-year-old wandered in still in his pajamas, his curls falling over his eyes as his small first rubbed away the sleep.
“Good morning baby,” I said, “Did you brush your teeth?”
He shook his head, “I forgot.”
“That’s okay,” I reassured, “Go do it now and get dressed. I left clothes by your bed.”
“I want eggs.”
I gently corrected, “Mommy, can you please make me eggs for breakfast?”
He looked at me funny. He’s awake now. “I’m not your mommy,” he giggled.
“No that’s what you say,” I insisted. “Mommy can you please make me eggs? Come on…”
He rolled his eyes but still repeated it back.
“Of course,” I answered, “Now go brush your teeth and get dressed.”
“Okay,” he agreed and bounced off.
Not a bad start I thought, feeling kind of proud of myself.
Ten minutes later he’s back, still in his pajamas. “Are my eggs ready?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said, “Why aren’t you dressed?”
I let out a frustrated but still in control sigh. “Okay, go get your clothes.”
“Can you get them?”
“If I get them, can I have a cookie with my eggs?”
“That’s the deal mommy,” he sang.
“No, that’s not the deal.”
“Can I have my eggs now and get dressed afterwards?”
“But they’re getting cold,” He pouted effectively.
I felt myself caving. He was right, they would be cold. He was six. He could get dressed afterwards. It wasn’t a big deal.
“No!” The word sprang from my mouth, surprising us both. “Go do what I asked.”
We stared each other down. “Please,” I added but it was not a request.
He snorted like a little dragon and stomped out while I leaned back against the counter exhausted. He almost had me.
For so many years, I tried to keep them bubbled in my love where it was safe, warm and comfortable. But now it is time to let them float on their own; to be more independent, to help others, to know that mommy can’t always fix everything and gain confidence and self-respect by doing things themselves. And also to understand that mommy is not a doormat…that women are not doormats.
Some might say I should have started earlier but I disagree. We weren’t ready then, we’re ready now.
Mama’s boys are going to grow up and become men because mama is growing up as well.