• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Mother's Day Ruminations

Reflecting on needless worrying.

May 12, 2013

The Mother of All Guilt Trips

They’ve fallen, but they can still get to court! As of July 1, it will be legal in China to sue your adult children for neglecting you. New amendments to the Law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly will require citizens to visit their parents and prohibit discriminating against, insulting, abandoning or mistreating those who gave you life. “Family members should not ignore and isolate the elderly,” said Wu Ming, the deputy department head in China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs. “And they should come often to visit.”

This morning I texted this item, copied from the Sunday NYT One-Page Magazine, to Ben, with the comment: "Warning: US law to follow. Happy Mother's Day!"

He immediately texted back, "Hahaha," which I hope means, "It's absurd for you to even imagine I won't visit once I move out," or something like that.

But as he wraps up his first year of college (and continues to dream of moving to Ireland at some point), my thoughts keep turning to a time when he won't be around so regularly. Though of course I want him to pursue whatever path will lead to fulfillment, it's hard not to dwell on the prospect of upcoming loss.

Looking back on his childhood, though, one theme keeps emerging: I wasted a lot of time in needless worrying, time that could have been spent enjoying the hours we had together.

When he didn't take his schoolwork as seriously as his teachers and I wanted him to that he would grow up to be a slacker, with no work ethic, no sense of responsibility, and no way to make a living.

He has grown to be a serious, original musician and student of audio engineering, who, on his days off, teaches music and coaches the varsity baseball team at the very high school where his teachers despaired of ever getting him to focus long enough to pass his classes. He is also the go-to kid when people in our building need computer help or someone to feed their pets when they are away, and he always comes through.

He may never be a conventionally good student—he has no patience for "busy work" and doesn't pretend to be interested in grades or in classes he finds tedious — but I have learned over the years that academic success is only one predictor of successful adulthood.

I wish I had realized that earlier; that I had trusted the sweet and lovable child I knew to become the kind, mature, creative and responsible adult he is today. I wish I had just relaxed and enjoyed him more.

So this Mother's Day, I am consciously appreciating the fact that he still lives at home; he still even sleeps here most nights, and even when he crashes at friends' homes, he is just in upper Manhattan or the East Village, and not yet in Ireland.  And I am trying to trust that when he does leave, we will remain close, and will stay connected over the Internet no matter how many miles may separate us.

Because it all goes by so quickly, there is truly no time to waste.


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