Cutting the Cord Isn’t Easy for Moms
- Thursday, August 18, 2005
When I had given birth to our first child, a son, the nurse-midwife asked my husband if he would like to cut the cord. There is a reason they ask fathers to cut the umbilical cord. They are able to do it quickly.
For mothers, cutting the cord often takes a little longer. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years.
By nature, mothers are reluctant to share their sons. We raise them with hopes they will be strong and independent and have families of their own one day, but we also raise them with secret desires that they will always be ours.
When you attend the parent-teacher conference and the first-grade teacher shows you the class book – the book in which your son has drawn a picture of a shark jumping out of the water with the teacher’s feet sticking out of the sharks’ mouth -- you pretend to be mildly appalled, but a part of you is relieved. You are glad it is the teacher pictured having the Jaws experience and not you, hence proving you still hold first place in his heart.
The cord again stretches taut in sixth grade, when at Christmas time he announces he has bought a giant red-and-white candy cane for a girl and will give it to her on the bus.
"What did she say?" you ask later.
"Nothing." He lowers his eyes and walks away.
You resist the urge to find the girl and pinch her little 12-year-old nose right off her face. At least he knows the female he can truly trust, the one who will always be there for him.
The cord stretches again when the boy goes on an all-day field trip and forgets his lunch. He calls to ask if you will bring it to school. "I’ll be outside, just slow down and toss it out the car window."
You find comfort knowing he still needs you for the little things like food, shelter and clean underwear.
Then one day you the realize things he needed you to do for him, he is now doing for himself: cooking, cleaning, paying bills. Living on one’s own may well be the most educational part of college.
He is home over break. The family is in the kitchen and you are dumping the trash, when his grandmother asks what his intentions are with the girl he has recently begun dating.
"Glad you asked, Grandma." Out of the corner of your eye, you see him pull a ring box from the pocket of his jeans. Your life flashes before you, looking remarkably similar to junk mail and cantaloupe rinds when you realize this is not your life, but you are simply falling head-first into the trash can.
There is a sense of loss when a son leaves home to make a home of his own. It is the end of a chapter, the closing of an era. Acknowledging that the past is the past is how you clear space and make room for the new. There will be a new family member, a new dimension, new laughter, new warmth and new life.
He is home for the weekend, standing by the front door, waiting for her to arrive. You steal a glance and see him as a little boy with tousled hair, muddy tennis shoes, a skateboard and G.I. Joes. How can this kid be a young man about to marry?
"She’s here!" he says, to no one in particular. "’The love of my life," and flies out the door.
Columnist and speaker Lori Borgman is the author of several books including Pass the Faith, Please (Waterbrook Press) and All Stressed Up and No Place to Go (Emmis Books). Comments may be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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