This mom needs to be needed – times four

Categorized as 06/07/10 Goshen News column

Moms need to be needed. From what I’ve experienced personally and observed in others, this is pretty much a universal truth.

That’s why we cry at big events like graduations and weddings. Our babies are growing up and moving ever closer to that thing called independence, and we realize that they don’t need us like they once did.

In the past, I’ve opined to my stalwart husband that my apron strings seem to be made of cast iron, whereupon he whipped out his handy-dandy blow torch and proceeded to demonstrate its ability to cut steel. It was then that I realized what a big help he would be in this thing of letting go.

It just comes easier for men. Maybe that’s because they’re not the ones that bake the little muffins for nine months. (Well, most of you get nine. Over here, they’re all in a toot.)

They’re not the ones that have what feels like an entire lacrosse team stampeding atop their bladders. They aren’t the ones afflicted with heartburn and backaches. They aren’t the ones sporting stretch marks and getting kicked in the ribs, all of which create a lifelong bond before the little squeaker ever arrives. It’s mothers that have this privilege.

Having four sons, I’m reminded of exactly how much I’m needed. Every. Single. Day. And because they’re so spread out and are, like yours, of such varying temperaments, they need different things from me.

At the age of three, the toddler (a.k.a. The Family Pet) still needs a lot of hands-on parenting. He needs to have his teeth brushed and his shoes tied. He needs his hair combed and his blanket washed. He needs someone to read “Hop on Pop” for the umpteenth time and to prepare his lunch. Never mind his proficiency at plucking the PBJ ingredients from the pantry and scaling the shelves in the fridge; he still needs the sandwich assembled.

He’s also got potty training issues. While the first round was finally successful (yippee!), the second initiative has stalled like Sen. Specter’s campaign. Bottom line? He still needs help with his, um, bottom line.

The third buckaroo is my quiet one. If he’s raising a ruckus, it’s only because someone older is pounding him or stealing something. What he needs is protection.

He also needs quality time. That’s his love language, and it makes a real difference at school if he’s getting it. That’s why years ago, he and I started the habit of flopping across the bed in our jammies and listening to Adventures in Odyssey. Now, a little wiggler joins us and, on occasion, a bigger one, which is when it all degenerates to shouting, thrashing, and wadded-up bedding with someone landing on the floor.

Number two is clearly my not-at-all quiet one. When he’s around, the activity, chaos, and general energy level go through the roof. He needs a firm hand.

With his bright, creative mind going 100 directions at once, he also needs frequent redirection. “No, you can’t fly a kite right now. Get your tail back inside and finish those dishes.” Or, “Quit shooting off firecrackers and put your jeans on that mower.”

At the age of 20, number one is now a young adult. While he still needs parental love and encouragement, he also needs a mother who knows when to offer advice and when to bite her tongue and pray like she’s Billy Graham. Some days, that mother is AWOL.

Every once in awhile, something happens that makes the “letting go” thing seem more attractive. Take what happened the other week. I was working at my desk when Mr. IUSB came striding from his room, a piece of paper clutched in his hand.

“I am going to pound Kieran when he gets home,” he thundered.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Read it,” he said tersely, thrusting it at me.

“I have hidden yor i-pod until you promise to stop beating me up. HA HA. Kieran,” it read (this, in what appeared to be a fifth grader’s handwriting).

In light of the fact that Kieran is the good-natured kid who takes the brunt of the (nearly always) good-natured pounding around here, and knowing how much College Kid loves his iPod, it was, I thought, a particularly effective way to get back at the pounder. Risky, but effective.

Thus, when the supposed perpetrator got off the bus, I handed him the paper and said, “What in the world…?”

He read it, alarm spreading over his features. “That wasn’t me!” And that’s when it all clicked.

Of course it wasn’t him. Of course it was his older brother, the instigator of the pranks around here. And of course the missing iPod was found where it had been planted the night before – in the patsy’s sock drawer.

So it was that when the real perpetrator got off the bus, he was met by the angry owner who proceeded to dispense his own kind of justice.

You know, a few more years of this stuff, and “letting go” might start looking real good. Mr. Schrock may not need that blow torch after all.

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