They’ll always be our babies by Kitty Betham

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They’ll always be our babies – even when they are 21.

Dear New Mama’s

Enjoy that new baby smell. It is so fresh, so new, so innocent.

I know you are feeling a tad overwhelmed. I know, I’ve been there – three times, all boys.
If I may, please allow an old lady (Ok 60 isn’t that old, most days) to share what I have learned and experienced. Keep in mind that there was not much of an internet back then, but there were magazines and books but even then the knowledge base was not as broad as today. Also remember that your journey will not be the same as mine or anyone else’s. Corey, my youngest, has Asperger’s. I learned so much about myself and what I could do. Books, videos, TV programs, even websites are not the absolute be-all-end-all of knowledge. They are good as a resource but You know YOU best. Trust your heart and your gut in all things. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends. If you have a life partner, be the best team you can be together. Learn what your normal is. Your normal is not what my normal is. And if this is not your first child, your normal will be different for each child and that’s okay.

Your baby will come to you with skinned knees, looking for lost toys and night time snuggles. They will express their independence by picking out their own clothes (no matter how “colorful” the combination). They will progress to sidestepping hugs and kisses in front of their friends. But will always be available for a cuddle at home. I think late elementary, early middle school was the worst. I could never keep the signals straight Corey was giving me for what was allowed and not allowed in public.

And just when you think you are in for the worst of times as they enter high school, they seem to find their way back to being your baby. All hugs, and wanting to sit on the couch watching TV together, asking your advice, never quite taking it, but it was still nice to be asked. I think Corey sensed the next transition happening. He would be graduating high school and heading off to college. It was like he was stockpiling hugs and quality time with me so he would have it when needed when he went away.

And went away he did. Corey chose a school that was four hours away from us. He wanted to prove to us that he was an adult and ready to be on his own. So he picked a school that was far enough away in his mind. It was with a heavy heart we packed him up and drove him to his dorm. And all the years you spent kissing knees, finding lost toys, keeping a stiff upper lip when being ignored, had come to this moment. You were about to leave your baby. You were proud, terrified, happy and a bunch of other emotions I am not sure how to describe in that moment. There were tears on everyone’s face. But we said our good-byes and he was off on his next adventure. He felt he needed to express his independence by not being in contact with us as often. And we did what we could to respect the space. It was hardest on my husband. We survived freshman year, but just barely. But we did it by making the effort to talk to each other. Plan activities together. Re-engage with each other. It is vital to do that while the kids are at home. It was even more important when it was just us again.

Thomas Wolfe was wrong, you can go home again or at least closer to home. Which Corey did for his sophomore year and he has now finished his junior year of college. He realised, like Dorothy, there is no place like home. So he transferred to a school only an hour away. He is much happier and we are back talking on the phone regularly. He comes home for weekends often. I get texts when things happen with our sports team or on TV shows we watch together. He asks me wardrobe questions (usually in the form of pictures via text message – “does this look okay?”), homework questions – I often get emails asking me to read his papers, cooking how-to questions, and general life questions. We have become good friends. We are not perfect. I still have to go all “Mom” on him once in awhile when he needs it but I know he loves me even when I do.

Because he is still my baby.
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Kitty Betham – Mom to DJ, Pat & Corey; Granny to Makayla,lives near Philadelphia with husband Keith & their dog. For fun she dabbles in fanfiction based on a certain handsome, tall, blond, shaggy LAPD Detective.

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