… on the who outside the bathroom door
January 16, 2021
Late this morning, I was in the bathroom with, I’m ashamed to say, my phone, when I saw the screen light up with a notification.
I finished drying my hands and picked up the device, finding that JoHn had sent the photo above and had captioned it, “Done yet, Mom?”
I started laughing.
When I was, say, 28 years younger than I am today, I had one child – a 7 month old little girl filled with curiosity and wonder and giggles (and a dash of magic, too) . She was in the early stages of skootching and crawling her way into mobility at that point and, whether to encourage her or take the heat off of us when she really needed to get from here to there, she also had one of those freaky, wheeled walking chairs that – per all the orange warning labels it came with – was capable of battering through closed cellar doors so that my baby could launch herself down the stairway onto the concrete basement floor below. First-Time Parent General Anxiety Disorder (FTPGAD) is a real thing.
Anyway, that rolling death trap allowed First-Born Mac to follow me everywhere.
Often – very often – that ‘everywhere’ included the bathroom, or at least to the outside of the closed bathroom door. You know the drill. Tiny humans have no sense of why on earth their parents would ever want to spend even a nanosecond alone. Also they have no shame and barely any empathy. They are small sociopaths.
It got worse when she could walk on her own, because the big giant tray on the front of that mobile Mommy tracker had prevented her from actually reaching the door with her little hands. Liberated, she could knock on it and bang on it (and – it happened – lick it) to her heart’s content.
Fast forward to two more kids… both boys.
After nearly a decade of not being able to be inside a bathroom without a small human impatiently waiting outside the bathroom, I was kind of ready for the next phase of bathrooming.
Slowly but surely…
I don’t know the exact date it stopped. The last times of certain things are hard to know or note. But there was, indeed, a moment that witnessed the very last time of my young children could not bear to wait even one more second for me to emerge from the bathroom, before banging on the door, asking for something, or demanding to join me inside.
For the record, dogs don’t count. Also, I am far more likely to let them in. This is probably because their high-pitched whining and/or tantrums don’t make me feel like my limbic system is being sandblasted.
My kids are now officially grow-ups. They are adulting and availing themselves of places and experiences often shared with, and sometimes secreted from, me.
They no longer need to actually see me (or be within three feet of me) to have a sense of security in who they are.
My bathroom door swing zones are offspring-free.
But… perhaps… not so fast.
The thing is, all that ‘hey mom what are you doing on the other side of that door’ was never really about… well… what I was doing on the other side of the bathroom door.
As much as I used to joke with JoHn that the kids must have believed I was manifesting wormholes to Disney World, or a pile of puppies, or huge festering radioactive toads (boys), their protests outside the bathroom door were more about being with me.
The safety of it…
The support of it…
The foundation of it.
I was reminded, very recently, of the power that my attention, and being, and words hold in my adult children’s lives. The presence or absence of any of the three possesses equal potential toward reinforcing, or chipping away at, their respective foundations.
Though, at times, I may step back, move out of the way, and/or make room for their lives as their own, I’m not off the hook. Not by a long shot. We are, as they say, in this together for the long haul. And for that, I could not be more grateful. It is, truly, an honor.
It isn’t about apron strings uncut or codependency or other stuff unhealthy.
It’s more a reminder of the quiet promises I whispered onto their sweet, warm, little baby heads in the middle of the nights long ago. Those were not just words. They were an ancient parent-to-child vow, to be sealed with every future act of love, celebration, support, and worry… along with each tear shed in solidarity with his or her disappointment or heartbreak or grief.
I will love you, and be proud of you, and be here for you always.
Our babies and little kids love that about us… and then…
They mislead us.
Teenagers make us crazy, sending us – bewildered and unprepared – into the ‘what happened to my wonderful child’ wilderness. Through word and deed the implication is that they could care less what we think, and would appreciate (I’m putting this kindly) that we keep any and all opinions about them to ourselves.
But things eventually change.
The truth is that our children care, very much, about what we think about what they are doing, or experiencing, or thinking. Not only that, but they will forever care about our input and opinions and, if we don’t share them out loud, they will infer them (oh yes they will).
Young or old(ish), and even when they are helping us more than we are capable of helping them, some of our children’s most important, if unspoken, questions are steeped in the hope for, and faith in, our answers.
Do you love me?
Are you proud of me?
Will you be here for me?
And, by actions and words, my own vow binds me to reply with all of the power that truth carries.
Thanks for readin’.
I should make the point – because I have 3.5 kids – that Half-Kid Jack, also a boy, didn’t join us until he was about 18 years old and, so far, he leaves me alone when I am in the bathroom.
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