December 10, 2018

Motherhood 101: Don’t Call Me ILANA

I called my son yesterday afternoon and when he answered he said “Hello Ilana”. I thought I must have called someone else in error and had to look at my phone to see who I had dialed. It was indeed my son. “I beg your pardon” I said because even though I knew it was his phone, I thought it must still be a mistake. He again said “Hello Ilana”. I asked “Who is this?” He said it was him and for a split second I was confused. I asked him why he called me Ilana and he said because that was my name.

I started to cry. Not weeping or sobbing, but tears began to quickly stream down my face. We chatted for a minute with him unaware I was crying. As soon as I hung up the phone I began sobbing. Ridiculous, I know, but it is an emotional time for me as he makes plan to leave home for university. I don’t know how to live my life without taking care of him. I see him everyday, I talk to him everyay, and that will change. I am trying to get ready for it, but it is hard and the dumbest of things trigger my emotions.

When I took my son to preschool for the first time we walked in holding hands. He was excited and nervous, but when we got there and he saw all the great things to play with, he was ready. A teacher came over and introduced herself. He shook her hand and said hello. She welcomed him and asked if I was his Mummy. He said yes, she asked what my name was, and he told her my name was Mummy. She smiled and asked him what my “real” name was. He spoke a little louder and slower and said Mummy.

The teacher and me both laughed and for about six months whenever she saw me and I was with my son, she called me Mummy. It was very sweet and I hold that memory in my heart. My son has never called me Ilana. Not one time. I was always Mummy and when he got older it switched to Mum, so to hear him call me Ilana was shocking and I had to think about what my name was for a minute to understand he was talking about me. My delicious little boy is now an adult and it makes sense to call me Ilana.

Just because it makes sense does not mean I like it. Upon reflection I thought maybe it hurt my feelings, or perhaps I felt it was disrespectful, but in the end it was nothing more than a subtle yet painful reminder that my baby is growing up and the fact is that I am not ready. No matter how I try to prepare, I will never be ready for him to go. I have spent 18 years getting him ready to fly and never bothered to prepare myself. I still have time to transition into this new phase of life, but I don't know how to do it.

The truth is that rather than focus on getting ready for him to go, I'd much rather figure out a way to tell him I am going to move with him to university. Or perhapos a better approach would be to not tell him and just show up. Or, as an alternative, I could go, not tell him I'm even there, and simply hang out in the trees across the street from his aprtment to catch a glimpse of him. I am totally aware that I sound like a crazy person, but my whole life is wrapped up in this child and I am going to really miss him.

I am not the first mother to send her child to university. I am not the first mother to love her child this much. I am not the first mother that wants her child to always be close. But I am this boy's mother, and he is my first and only child. He is everything to me and my life is defined by his life. My joy comes from his dreams coming true and having the time to fulfill dreams of my own is wonderful, but requires me to now dream for myself. I am not sure where to begin but I will make a list and I will make them happen.

There will be good things about being on my own for the first time in 18 years.  I will travel, read, and sleep more. I will shower with the bathroom door open and walk around naked if I want to. I will work on having dinner with George Clooney and writing a book while sitting on a beach in the Maldives. Instead of worrying about my son growing up, I will revel in the glory of the amazing job I have done, take pride in his accomplishments, and know we are inseperable. It will be fine because I am keeping the faith.