On Being Prematurely Aged by Mary DuChene

I took some time this week to become a mother-in-law and a grandmother.
 
That is to say, my son took the time this week to get married, and then in rapid order, to become a father.  It was quite the week.
 
I have become completely convinced that I am destined, in any arena where I judge others, to become those others.  A karmic way of reminding me that my tendency toward judgment is really just a trick of perspective.
 
And so this week I have become my adoptive parents.  Watching my child marry and reproduce long before I am ready to accept it is even a possibility.
 
Further, like them, I also had a sudden and total severance of the dependency that ties a child to a parent.  The dependency we thought would gently decrease over time, like weaning.
 
When I struck out, at 17, I kicked off them like swimming away from a dock. With force and direction.  By 18, I was married – at 19, I gave birth. Left my marriage at 20 and severed all ties with my family of origin at 21.  I raised my son out of their view and out of reach, in defiance of all the rules they believed were part of the fabric of family.
 
I am sure they honestly believed, in their narrow way, what my mother told me numerous times before I vanished – that I would “leave that baby on a bus somewhere” I was so airheaded, or that he “would not survive to the age of 5 with a mother like me.” When my adoptive parents suggested that I give my son to my elder brother to raise, take money from them and go “live in Seattle and sow my wild oats” without a baby to hold me back, I knew I had to leave. And I did.  Completely.
 
But my parents had no cause for worry.  I was an incredibly serious and competent adolescent.  Once I decided that motherhood was going to be my primary pursuit, I was going to succeed at it.  Even if that meant that to the rest of the world, in every other way, I looked like a total failure. I think my son’s bright-faced optimism about being a father has a lot to do with the fact that he had a happy and nurtured childhood and never saw the backstage chaos and trauma necessary to support it.  He still believes that we were never poor.  He traveled the world with me, attended private school, spent huge amounts of time in my presence playing and making art.
 
My son’s wife has never been interested in a relationship with me. She doesn’t seem hostile, but has never sought contact.  She seems, like I was, very serious and invested in being competent and careful as a parent. I imagine she feels that she needs to make distance between herself and myself or I may critique her, or take over.  She doesn’t know me enough to understand how fiercely I value her autonomy as a young mother, or why it’s so personal for me.
 
My son, in his Asperger’s way, lives in the present and does not notice weeks or a month of not seeing me.  When I do see him, he is puzzled that I think more than a few days have elapsed since we last met.  It’s not intentional, but it is startling considering that when he was diagnosed I was told he would always live with and be completely dependent on me. Perhaps that prediction is what requires he kick off from me with such force.
 
In short, I may be as thoroughly cut off from my grandchild as my parents were from theirs.  But unlike them, it would be through no choice of mine.  Just a passivity in my child that never actively brings me into contact.  So I think the lesson here is not to do what they did – try to force the issue. But to do what they did not – allow my child to find his own way into parenting, and just be ready to support him as he does. Even if he never actually uses that support.
 
I saw Baby last night, a girl. 6 pounds 12 oz. Gorgeous. I forget they come that small. I was invited back today to the hospital, but my Kid forgets I have this job thing to do everyday. By the end of work, they were home again and nesting.  That’s a good start.
 
Mary DuChene just got married to her dream girl, became a grandmother, mother-in-law, and HipMama contributor all in a single month. Who says life gets boring at forty? Not this addiction counselor moonlighting as a burlesque queen. Read more about her life-in-transition at www.redzorah.wordpress.com