So far, I’ve noticed three clear phases of parenting. The first one lasted till the onset of my son, Louie’s teenage years and was marked by his thinking I was wonderful and should always be there in the background somewhere. He wanted me in the class as a homeroom mother and on the sidelines at Peewee football.
I was consistently greeted with a wide smile and a hug that involved him running at me from a distance and launching all of his weight as I caught him and tried to keep my balance.
The second phase were the teenage years when he wanted me to drop him off a block away and make a u-turn so no one would be aware he actually had parents. I could still sit on the sidelines at games but only if I promised not to draw attention to myself.
Now, my son is in his mid-twenties and my popularity has recently grown again. At last, it’s those adult years I’ve always heard about where grown sons learn to appreciate their mothers.
Well, not so fast. Somewhere between wanting to forget we’d ever met and stopping by to tell me how his life is going before heading back out again, Louie got the idea that I’m out of date and tire very easily.
I called him after 10 on a weeknight and he answered the phone with a concerned, “Are you alright? What are you doing up?”
I was driving home from a night out with friends, thank you very much.
I recognize this behavior from the other view of things. My dad was always good at whatever he put his mind to and I came to rely on his ability to fix anything. Somewhere along the way all of the newfangled phones and computers overwhelmed him just a little and he looked to me to push the buttons or work the new software.
I was just as inept but still willing to try with a certain naive confidence that nothing would break.
I’ve noticed that this phase of parenting often has Louie looking at me like I’m someone he once knew really well that has morphed into a friendly alien. We trade information and cheer each other on or lend a shoulder depending on the circumstances but there hasn’t been a real sense of connection in awhile.
Louie has decided that I’ve reached a point where a little less button pushing would be a good idea. However, I’m a former suburban mom who moved to New York City on her own at 47, survived life-threatening cancer and one heck of a Great Recession and I’ve jumped out of a plane twice. I’m not settling into old age without a fight, especially at 52 years old.
Most of the hundreds of people in the cavernous McCormick Center were dressed in costumes from every TV show, every comic book, every movie that has ever had a costumed character. Louie knew who every last one of them was and was just as enthusiastic as I was to be there. It didn’t matter if it was a lesser comic book character, a zombie, an old Star Trek character or Lord of the Rings.
It was the first time since he became an adult that we shared something we both liked and it’s a passion that I gave to him. When I least expected it, I saw that Louie does have a little piece of me still with him and we have found a common language.
Martha’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. Email Martha at Martha@caglecartoons.com.