It’s always interesting when my mother comes to visit because at those times I’m both a son and a father, both a child and an adult, looking for acceptance yet strong enough to discipline just the same. I find it curious because I never felt like I wanted or needed acceptance as a child, but as time went by I realized I’d been delusional all those years ago. Everyone looks for acceptance, especially from their parents, for a sign of pride and accomplishment. I’m just like everyone in that way.
But things shift as I get older, and while I don’t need acceptance from my mother anymore, I want it. I remember when I first started dating my wife and I took her home to meet my mom. It meant more than anything for her to approve, to accept the choice I made because I made the choice. Of course even if she hadn’t affixed her seal of approval it wouldn’t have changed my mind, but for some reason I felt in limbo until she said yes, which she did.
Then I became a parent, and it was so odd at first, that shattering of the wall that kept me on one side for so long, that invisible barrier that made me the child, even though I had grown up. It was that final step from which I could never truly return. The closest I come these days is when I see my mother again, but even then it is just a shadow of what used to be, a reminder that I used to be a child so long ago, and that when I became a parent I put that part of me away.
It’s still there, though, tucked away, and in these times, in this great “between” I see it even more clearly, the path that got me to where I am. I see shades of the younger me in my children, in their stubborn natures, and in their eager smiles, in the way they absorb knowledge like a sponge and then spit it out at the most inopportune times. I see myself reflected in their eyes, and I’m that child again for brief moments that I try to string together as long as I can.
Because being an adult is difficult. Being a parent takes discipline and backbone. It’s the ultimate responsibility, and I never saw it back when my mother was raising me the best way she knew how, with a firm hand and the best of intentions. Looking back on it I see that all now, but I can only see it because I changed, because I became what she has always been to me. And I never saw it coming, but I observe it every single time I see her again, and I am grateful for what she gave me.
Especially now that I’m between.