Maybe the Department of Defense will finally come around and see the logic in allowing moms to be deployed with their children.
My new column would have been called “Sex in the City,” but that title was taken. Not only that, I’m a mom, I’ve been married for 10 years and, on most nights, I have three Dalmatians sleeping in bed with me and my husband. Enough said.
By Donna L. Cole
“What do you mean you don’t want me walking you into class anymore?” This was my reaction to my daughter’s request to have the older kids walk her from my car to her classroom every day. It was also, I’m afraid, the beginning of the end. Other moms weighed in. “She’s just asserting her independence,” they said. “You should be glad,” they said. “Don’t worry about it,” they said. The more they tried to make me feel better, the worse I felt.
Here’s the deal: I’m an overbearing, overprotective, annoying mother, and I’ve worked hard to become that way. I’m not giving it up, just because my 5-year-old wants me to.
I know you’re probably thinking I might benefit from a self-help book, but I’ve never been one for self-help. Honestly, if chocolate or new shoes can’t do it, nothing can. Maybe spirituality would help? Perhaps, but my temple has always been Nordstrom — a peaceful, quiet place where I can get in touch with my inner-self and credit limit — and that hasn’t helped either.
This independence thing has me rattled, and I think it’s getting worse. It went from me not walking her to her classroom anymore, to the note on her door posted shortly thereafter. If I hadn’t taught her how to spell the words — “No moms or dads allowed! — that note never would have happened. But it did. Then again, she comes from a long line of writers. That note was probably just the first step along a path paved with rejection letters, low pay and spell checks.
Then came the fieldtrips.
“Mom, I don’t want you going on this fieldtrip,” she said.
“But, it’s the National Gallery of Art, and I love art, and I love hanging out with you,” I countered.
“But, Mom,” she retorted, “we spend too much time together, and we both should get a break every so often.”
OK, what’s the deal? She’s 5, not 18. At what point is this craziness going to stop? She … I mean, I … am not ready for this. Is this some sort of punishment for something I did? What’s next? She’s going to start driving her Barbie Jeep to school?
There is hope I think. Once recently my daughter relented and was actually proud that I accompanied her class on a fieldtrip. It was to the Chesapeake Environmental Center in Grasonville. The guide requested an adult volunteer to hold a snake, while the students touched it. I hate snakes. I don’t touch snakes. Generally, I scream and run from snakes. But in that moment, I knew this could be my chance to be cool — to be really cool — in front of my daughter. So I did it. And afterwards, another mother came up to me and said, “You know, Rylan was really proud of you. She said, ‘That’s my mom!’”
In my quest to find out if I’m the only mom with premature independence issues, I went to a mom I really admire. The mom I want to be. A mom who clearly understands giving her children space. Laura Allen moved from California to Maryland three years ago. Coincidentally, that was the year after her son began attending the Naval Academy. Ms. Allen claims it was more than just her son that precipitated her cross-country move. It was also, she says, her gift for making great Mexican food.
“I came because my son would bring friends home and they said, ‘Please come to Maryland! They don’t know what Mexican food is like.'” She opened Diego’s Mexican Restaurant in Severna Park in 2004 and freely admits being close to her son for a few more years has been great.
“It’s been awesome having this time with him,” she says.
There’s one problem in that relationship that scares me. Now that her son has graduated from the Naval Academy and is an officer in the Marine Corps, how exactly is Ms. Allen going to continue being near him? She says she’s fallen in love with Maryland and isn’t going anywhere.
“I’ll overnight him stuff to Iraq, if he wants it that bad,” she laughs. Or maybe the Department of Defense will finally come around and see the logic in allowing moms to be deployed with their children.
In the end, I’m not sure I’m any wiser from this experience. A week after the fieldtrip where I so impressed my daughter, there was a four-foot snake wrapped around a bush on our front porch. I screamed, I ran and I no longer use our front door. One thing I know: I’m going to pursue my graduate degree when my daughter goes off to college. That way we can share the same dorm room. My husband thinks this is a fantastic idea.
Donna L. Cole is a freelance writer living in the Annapolis area. Her column, Mom in the City, will be published in Chesapeake Family magazine every other month.