Saturday, March 17, 2018

When a helicopter mom stops

"It's time I set you free," I blurted out as I was driving my son to his cub scout meeting. He was sitting next to me and I could see the sideways glance  he often gives me when I suddenly break out in my best running man when I hear 80's music.

"It's time I let you go sweetheart, I trust you." He continued to look at me like I was some mad woman and I could tell he had no idea what I was about to say.

"Sweetie, it's time I trust you: Remember no drugs, don't put anything around your neck that can choke you, look both ways when you cross the street, don't talk to strangers, don't go home with strangers, adults don't need help, don't take candy from strangers, don't eat anything that you don't know what it is, don't get in a car with a stranger, don't play on construction sites, and don't play in the street, " this was all I could remember in one breathe. 

I was not sure why the realization had tidal waved me at that very moment, but I knew if I didn’t get it all out at once that my courage would disappear and I would go back to being a helicopter mama.

I heard him release a deep sigh and he placed his hand over mine as I was shifting gears.

"Mom, I won't, I remember everything, don't worry. I know how to be safe."

And just like that I became "mom".  One car drive and 10 years and I had graduated to the level of mom.

I became his mom and he became my little boy who was growing up and ready to take on the world. It was at that moment that I realized it wasn't him that I trusted. It was me.

Up until this point, I had lived in fear and dread. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to protect him from all the horrible things in the world and dreading the day he thought he didn’t need me anymore.

It wasn’t like I wanted him to be dependent on me forever, it was more like what do I do now. What was my role in this new phase of parenting? Where do I fit in his life?

And I knew in my heart the answer to this question.

I was letting go of the string that I held tight for so many years. The lifeline that connected us from the moment he was created.

I let go and now, I had the joy of watching him rise, higher and higher into the world. I knew he would never come back to me. I knew he was never mine to begin with, but it didn’t hurt any less.

I could have been sad, but I wasn't. I was excited and filled with so much love and I could hardly wait to see where the winds of life would take him. He would fly high and far, but there would never be more than a heartbeat of distance between us.

“You know, honey, I am always here if you need me.”

“I know mom, don’t worry, I’m only 10.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Far away from home and the hardest goodbye

I kept looking at the Christmas tree hoping that by some miracle I would feel that warm holiday feeling. It was the first week of January and I still had not given up hope. I wanted it to come. I wanted Christmas to feel as it did every year: cozy, fun, nostalgic.

But on Christmas Eve 2017 I lost my grandmother. The two weeks prior to her loss were filled with emotional ups and downs of her coming out of having a stroke. Along this ride was the struggle I faced going on inside of myself: whether or not to get on a plane and leave my children behind to tell her goodbye.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made in my life. I didn't know what I was suppose to do or what was best for me and my family. I struggled with the fact that I would never ever be able to see her again or to hug her tight one last time. I would deny myself a sense of closure if I didn't go, but on the other hand, I would miss my son's 10th birthday and my kids Christmas. They would forever remember that Christmas as a sad one, and my heart could not take that.

And I am sure my grandmother would not have wanted that either. I told myself, maybe even convinced myself, that she would want me to stay with my kids. So that was what I did: I slowly watched my grand mother die from thousands of miles away.

The two weeks leading up to her death were difficult and I became obsessed with being online, specifically Facebook messenger. Here my mom would give us family updates on her prognosis. And she would send photos and videos that I would analyze over and over just hoping she looked more responsive. Yet, she didn't and slowly I watched her die via social media.

Sounds strange and uncaring somehow, watching my grandmother die via Facebook messenger. But for me, it was a connection, it was the next best thing to being there, virtually. It provided me with the opportunity to be in both places at once: in Amsterdam, at home with my babies and at home in America with my family.

I will never forget the moment on Facebook messenger that my mom said my grandmother was slipping away. I was desperate to FaceTime and my mom said there was no time. She did the next best thing: she sent a video of my grandmother. It might sound horrible, morbid or cruel to some people, but for me, it was my way of being there with my grandmother, and she would have wanted it that way.

She was an avid Facebook user, especially after she was bed ridden in her final years. It was her connection to the outside world and what kept her sharp. I would always get a kick out of her posts and status updates. She would wish people happy birthday in her status or ask my mom a question via her status update. And since she never really figured out how to see posts from the family, my mom would tag her.

I always thought it was so cool that she learned how to use social media, but that was my grandmother, young at heart, always reading and learning and brave.

Matter of fact, one of the things my grandmother always told me was that even though her body was old, in her mind she was still a young girl, ready to learn and eager to experience the world. And this is how I will remember her.  And I will never regret my decision.