Mother and Son by Robin Gorman Newman
My mother in law has been in the hospital. We went to visit her, and one evening she made a comment to my husband before he even had a chance to take a seat by her bed.
She firmly told Marc that he needed to comb his hair. No regard for the fact that he had barely taken off his hat. No gratitude for the fact that we had all, Seth included, ventured out in the bitter cold evening air to spend time with her. Her concern was how he looked, which is always her top concern, even for herself.
After Marc combed his hair to her satisfaction, she gave him a little speech about how sons always need their mothers, and how mothers are numero uno in a son’s life…forever (not in those exact words….but that was the idea).
I was sharing this story with a close personal friend who happens to be a therapist, and she reassured me not to take it personal. That it’s my MIL’s story/issues that she was broadcasting, and it had nothing to do directly with me. My sister said the same.
I can agree with that, but it still didn’t feel good. It made me think that she has no respect for her son’s marriage. And, her other son, Marc’s brother, is married as well. What about his wife? And, how does this attitude endear her to us? Lots of responses were on the tip of my tongue, but given that she was in the hospital, I stayed quiet. There was nothing to be gained.
I raised the issue with Marc once back home, and his interpretation was completely different. In his eyes, his beloved mother made the point in a positive way so that Seth would know I’m always to be a top priority in his life. I, somehow, didn’t take it that way. First of all, Seth was engaged in playing with his Gameboy at the time, so was quite oblivious to my MIL’s comments…therefore this was no learning experience for him. Additionally, my knee jerk reaction was that this is about her…not me.
It all got me thinking.
You hear stories about mothers and sons and their relationships and love. I adore my son, though he can be challenging, like any child. And, especially as a later mom, I know I won’t be around to see all the milestones he reaches in his adult life. I hope I will see many. But, I do know that he will likely marry one day and have children of his own. At age 7, he already has spoken about that….and even articulated he wants to live in our house, and that my husband and I might live in the basement (or move out). I can’t project that far ahead, but I have given thought to my future relationship with him.
I hope we will always love and care for each other. But, I don’t want to come before any wife he might choose. I hope he chooses well, and I’d welcome a warm relationship one day with a daughter in law. And, I would do all that I can to make her feel comfortable and appreciated in our family, especially since I don’t have a daughter.
And, I would hope that my son will look back on our years raising him with fondness. And, that will further motivate him to want to remain close in our lives.
But, ultimately he will choose his own path. And, that’s as it should be. I will one day be an empty nester, and while I’m sure that’s a big adjustment, I wouldn’t want it any other way. That is the natural course of life. Children should go on to know they can stand on their own two feet. And, it shouldn’t take a mandate from me to my son that “I’m #1 in his life.” It wouldn’t feel good saying it, just as it didn’t feel good hearing it from my MIL. And, as mothers, the best job we can do is to raise our kids so that they can be their own person, and yes, continue to hold love for us in their hearts, but it should be of their own free will. Preaching it to them doesn’t make it any more true.