On Motherhood and Boys

Last night, I had a dream, and as dreams often do, hidden meanings and themes weave themselves together with totally random anecdotes. Half the time, trying to figure it out is a lost cause. Last night, though, I had a dream that my son hated me. That he was defiant, rude, and dismissive of me. That was mixed in with a crazy landscape of giant spiders and human babies that looked like cats and a desperate, soulful feeling of loss.

I’m losing him, I kept saying.

I woke this morning and relayed the dream to my son and we both laughed at how weird and bizarre dreams are, but I didn’t relay the shaken feeling that exists in my subconscious. And that feeling comes from something else. Yesterday, I learned that a dear friend of mine–a woman the same age as me with two kids the same ages as mine–died.

While talking to my kids about it, I said to my son I am so sad for her kids. Can you imagine if you and your sister were suddenly motherless? The brief, stricken look on his face was equally matched with what I was feeling.

“We’d die, Mom,” he said, in a voice laced with both humor and fear, like a strange mix of something sweet and salty that doesn’t quite melt in your mouth. Because the idea of losing your mother…or having to leave your kids motherless…is a little too painful to touch. Its something that gets locked away in the unused rooms of your mind, a fear too powerful to make acquaintance with every day.

And buried beneath that lies less tangible fears…the worries that my son will turn out like his father. That I will lose him the way PC is lost. Addiction, unfortunately will run in my kids’ blood. My son, much like his father, is incredibly intelligent. He has a high sense of esteem and he is not overly empathetic. He can be socially awkward. I see him struggling against the the things his father tries to teach him…that secrets and lies are okay. That money and status has a high value on who you are. That blood is thicker than water, no matter what. That what people think of you ranks above what you think of yourself.

And all of this is a direct opposite of what I teach my kids.

In the issue of mothers and sons, there is a distinct bond. I have been asked, when fury shakes me that PC’s mother puts PC’s needs above those of my children, her grandchildren; I’ve been asked, is there anything your son could do that would make you turn your back on him? And the answer is an immediate no. But there is a difference between loving and standing by your child and enabling them.

This week, I had the lovely experience of being bullied by PC’s mother…my former mother-in-law, a 70-something year old woman. Like a child, like PC, she ignored my honest questions and statements. Like a true narcissist, she deflected my concerns about PC’s drinking, the children’s well-being, etc with comments that were only intended to hurt me and to take the heat off the glaringly obvious fact that PC is the one who caused this.


In the litany of reasons why she claimed all of this is my fault…she stated that I’m “keeping my kids from their father”. She stated “Keep putting PC down to the kids, that’s what hurting them.” She stated that PC is “doing everything he can to be with them and you won’t allow it!” as if court orders signed by judges are just suggestions. (Side note: as of now, more than a month after this all began, I still have not seen one iota of proof that PC is doing jackshit to get help.)

And then she followed up with attempts to insult me like “Why don’t you get counseling like PC?” (Oh, lady if only you knew!) and “Why don’t you get a job like PC?” (Because last time I checked, raising two kids full-time and working part-time isn’t a job?”)

From PC himself, who is easier to ignore, the comments ran the line of telling me I’m selfish, I’m only using him and his mother and the supervised visits as “babysitters so you can go drink all day” and questioning what my issue is with leaving the kids with him without a supervisor.  As if the concept that things are the way they are because you are not trustworthy or stable is just a complete fabrication on my part.

And the saddest part? These two people involved in this power struggle with me are the ones who are really hurting my kids. The visits, I’ve been told, have consisted of PC and his mother fighting most of the time and my kids hanging out in their bedrooms.

And here is where I wrap it up full circle. I would be lying if I said PC’s mother did not get inside my head. Did not make me question my standing strong and refusing to bend, refusing to bow down to their demands because it would be easier. Because just like every bully, every narcissist: when they don’t get their own way they turn it around on you.

I found myself defending myself, to myself. Feeling guilty that I was, in fact, planning to do something “fun” during the time they were with their father. You know, on the 4 free hours I have a week. Thinking that it would be easier to change my plans than to keep reading insults and poorly constructed sentences of threats on my phone.

And then my own father’s voice came through, you’ve come too far to let them get to you. And of course, he’s right. He suggested I contact my lawyer if I needed validation that I am doing the right thing, so I did, and I am. And just as my father, and his father before him, are examples of men who are honorable, honest, and good…so is my son. And I know he won’t lose that.

I see it in his eyes during the moments he stops bickering with his sister and takes her under his wing. I see it when he winks at me as he’s stepping out of the car to visit his father. I feel it when he hugs me and when he pulls away and says “yuck” and wipes away my affection with a smile. In his voice, when a shady stranger stood on our sidewalk for a long few moments, and he said “do I need to go have a conversation with that guy?” Him, this little man-child, with his buck teeth and serious eyes.

I see it when the little boy in him makes appearances, how he clutches his stuffed animal at night or when he snuggles against me on the couch. When he’s sick and he revels in my poor nursing skills (I’m the mom who makes you go to school unless you’re basically dying). I see it when he cries with frustration that he doesn’t understand his dad.

Its funny…I always wanted girls. When I had my son I had a very what the hell do I do with this creature? attitude…I knew nothing of boys. And yet, here I am, thinking of all the themes of motherhood and sons and fathers and sons and boys and men and thinking how fucking lucky I am to have this one. And how precious my task of raising him to be a good man is. To take the things he’s inherited from his father: intelligence and high self-esteem, and cultivate them into good things.

And how, unlike my sweet friend who is no longer with us, I am lucky enough to have this day with my kids.


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