Phyllis Schieber Author

Women's Fiction by Phyllis Schieber

Big Babies

The subject of grown children is one that I have explored in Willing Spirits, as well as in The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. It is a subject I revisit because motherhood, in all its dimensions, is a subject very dear to me.   I know motherhood. I remember each of its stages, and so I can convey this in ways that other women, other mothers, can relate to. Just as we mothered our infants, then our toddlers, and then each successive stage, we now mother our grown children.  The women in my novels are all mothers.  These are the women I understand best.  I explored what it was like to be the mother of a grown child in my writing before I was ever in that position. I allowed my characters to make mistakes, just as I continue to do.  And I allowed them to grow, just as I have.  Parenting a grown child may not be as filled with the wonders of getting to know a newborn, but parenting a grown up is equally rewarding, and often more interesting.

There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “Little children disturb your sleep, big ones your life.”  I always find great wisdom in proverbs, and this one is no different.  My son suffered from colic and chronic ear infections the first year of his life.  I dreamed about sleeping.  My husband and I quickly learned that the only way we would sleep was if we brought our baby into our bed.   And so began our covert journey to a family bed which, in retrospect, resulted in some of the sweetest moments of early parenthood. Aside from all of this, Isaac was a delicious baby, and I mostly treasured my time with him.

As he got older, the demands on my time increased proportionately, but I continued to take my role into stride, writing while he napped, first with him strapped to my chest and later in furtive spurts between drop offs and pick-ups, preparing meals, teaching, and everything else that mothering entails. I was consistently happy in my position.  Motherhood suited me, and I was blessed with an easy child. He was a serious student, an enthusiastic learner, a creative thinker and always curious. He challenged me daily, but he was never combative or difficult.  We sailed through his teen years with none of the scars so many families must endure. When Isaac left for college, I was initially overwhelmed with loss. I wept inconsolably, peered longingly into his empty bedroom, and felt adrift for the first time in eighteen years. He was on the road to adulthood, and I felt abandoned.  I wanted my baby back. I wanted to feel the weight of his sturdy little body against my chest as he slept. I wanted to put my lips against his downy curls and inhale the scent that was uniquely his. I was bereft. Nothing had prepared me for how it would feel to let him go and to reconfigure the spaces in my life. I cried in the grocery store, when I did the laundry, and after I opened the door to an empty house. The adjustment was daunting, but I succeeded in embracing my new life with considerable pleasure. I contribute a large part of that transition to accepting that my son no longer needed me the way he had and to welcoming that change for both of us.

My son is almost twenty-six, an age that both delights and mystifies me. Sometimes I can see the traces of the little boy in the way he laughs or in his expression when something delights him. But he is no longer a little boy.  There are boundaries now (as well there should be), and even if I occasionally step too far over or indulge an impulse to stroke his bearded cheek or plant a stray kiss on his forehead, he has moved well into another phase of his life. I am privileged that he continues to ask for my opinion, that he comes home often, brings his friends, and now his girlfriend (a choice that confirms my sense that I did, indeed, do a very good job of raising him).  I feel a sense of calm in his presence because he is a man I know I will continue to be proud of no matter what he does.  Parenting a grown child can be delicate. I offer advice when I am asked though I have also been known to provide an unsolicited opinion here and there in spite of often deserved objections. I know that what I think matters to my son, but I also know that he is often right where I am wrong, and I do not hesitate to acknowledge this.  Our relationship continues to evolve, and I continue to know that there is nothing that could wedge itself between us, mostly because I would never allow it to happen.  He is my son, albeit my adult son, and I grow with him, ever mindful of how lucky I am for that journey.

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June 21, 2010 - Posted by | motherhood

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