(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Becoming a mother is so different from the process of un-becoming that full-time, around-the-clock mother you became. One day you’re this individual person just vaguely aware of what it’s going to mean when that purely hypothetical (to your own way of living anyway) child leaves your womb and the next day you are IN CHARGE—of EVERYTHING. This now real world child is depending on you to feed it and keep it safe and for you to figure out what it’s trying to communicate in its nonverbal state. And so you muddle along being in charge, even though this separate being is not you and not even yours in the grand scheme of things.

Oh yes, your children are not your children and they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing itself (paraphrasing Kahlil Gibran), but at first you’re the one who must try to figure out what it is they might possibly need and want. But after a while you were more than happy to try to hand over some of those decisions—because it’s exhausting enough figuring out what you need and want, let alone what someone else needs and wants—until you tried. When “do you want juice or milk?” became a little game of “I want whatever I did not tell you I wanted”, you realized this task of handing off choices was a lot harder than it sounded. If they said they wanted juice, you found out pretty darn quickly that they were likely going to scream for milk when you handed them that juice.

But still, as a parent you are pretty much required to make a lot decisions for many years for these little people who grow into big people. There’s always a tension between helping them too much and helping them too little, no matter the age.

I find myself in the awkward position of being done with that hands-on mothering phase while still living in the same home as my now-adult children. I want to say “it’s the economy, stupid”—but economy or not, that’s a fairly common experience for many of us right now. The truth is they can choose their own milk or juice now, but sometimes I mistake a statement for a request for help and rush in as if it’s up to me to solve the problem.

But it’s not. I just need to stop. It’s not my job to figure out if a grown person wants a solution and I should remember that I probably have little idea what someone who isn’t me really wants or needs.

Besides, just as I am un-becoming my always-on-the-clock motherhood role, my kids are settling into what it means to be IN CHARGE of themselves—and that means figuring out if they want juice or milk—or bourbon for that matter—and doing whatever it takes to make that happen.