Our youngest son has a habit of starting deep conversations at the very end of the day. You know that time. You’ve done multiple meals, multiple drives, multiple errands, spoken with varying degrees of success to multiple people, listened politely or perhaps listened in seething anger to multiple opinions, and now what you really want to do is get into sweats and Go To Bed. However, I love listening to what our son has to say, so I rustle up a spare pair of listening ears. A few nights ago, he was sharing some Nietzsche philosophy about the morality of accountability. Yep. As Spencer says, its “incomprehensible, but not as incomprehensible as Hegel.” …Sure. I’ll roll with that. I genuinely tried to listen and participate, but my head kept wanting to be horizontal. Experiencing the past year, I should probably embrace Nietzsche. After all we seem to be living and embodying his famous phrase, “What does not destroy me makes me stronger”. Oh Joy.
The ideas and subsequent half-conversation of the other night (Spencer explaining, my husband asking smart, interesting questions and me “Mmmm”- ing occasionally to let them know I was still in the game) was above my intellectual pay grade, which is humbling. I’d love to chalk it up to the late hour and that my brain had reached it’s automatic shut off point, but truth is, I wouldn’t have grasped the concepts even bright and chipper after 8 cups of coffee first thing in the morning. In college I loved reading books by Joseph Conrad and Virginia Woolf, and could wrap my mind around complexity, symbolism and deep meaning. Not anymore. My mid-life brain is happiest in Nora Roberts land, or a good fantasy trilogy. I don’t know if I just killed a lot of brain cells between then and now, or if at the end of the day I just want something easy to do.
Speaking of easy, parenting is not. Easy. I rather liked the younger years of parenting our boys, there was a transactional quality to them – I feed you and dress you, you do what I say and our playdates are with kids whose Moms l like. The middle years got harder, and I am profoundly grateful I never have to help with another science project ever again. Future grandkids, you’ve been alerted. Then there was the whole take-tests-await-results-apply-to-and-visit-colleges phase. I liked the visiting phase of that, but then I’m always up for a road trip. Now however, all our kids are either in college, or have graduated from it and a new negotiation has started.
Yes, I am still the Mom, but my influential, personhood-creating Mom-ing days are done. I’m now in relationship with adults who have their own ideas and preferences. And who are clearly reading and thinking in atmospheres my rocket ship can no longer reach, even with booster engines. Its been painful for me, wending through this past holiday season and having our boys sometimes kindly, sometimes snippily letting me know that my services are no longer required – they’ve got it handled. I am grateful on one hand that they are equipped for life and can do their own laundry, drive the car, and cook and think deeper thoughts than me. But. I miss the days of picking out their outfits and deciding what fun thing we will do today. I miss feeding the ducks, going to see the trains and the fun of swings swishing through the air on a cool spring afternoon. Nietzsche discussions while impressive, just don’t fill my heart the same way. There is a line at the very end of the Inge play “Picnic”, when the Mom of the play learns her daughter has run away to be with a wayward boy. She pauses, and says: “But there was so much more I wanted to tell her”.