Does he notice?

Does he notice that I fold his towels in a sweet way? That I use natural laundry soap and make him take his vitamins and pay up for the all-natural body wash to keep him healthy and away from crummy chemicals?

Does he notice that I sneak glances at his 15-year-old self, trying to drink him in so I don’t forget what he was like when he still had traces of boy in him? Memories I can hold onto when I am standing on the front porch waving, brave face on, as he heads down the driveway and back to a life at a college that doesn’t include me or sweetly folded towels. A life in which he relishes throwing said towels on the floor because no one will scold him for doing so.

Does he notice that I try so hard to use the proper “growth mindset” parenting technique? The one I learned from the famous author who spoke at the school I paid far too much for but am so grateful he had for nine gorgeous years? The mindset where I don’t praise him for the “A+” but instead for the work he put in. And where I ask him how he feels about his grade because that’s what really matters.

Does he notice that I try to balance the green beans and brussels sprouts with homemade cookies and the frozen waffles I tell him are killing the world’s population with gluten? So that he isn’t the kid who thinks hemp-seed waffles are the best thing out there and grows up horribly deprived, never having tasted a real Belgian waffle.

Does he know when I ask him to watch the latest Democratic candidate debate that it’s about more than me rounding out his civic education? That I really just want him and the dog and my middle-aged self in the same room so I can soak it in, still feeling like I’m in mom mode?

Will he laugh, years from now when I’m dead and gone, at the phrase I use whenever he gets overly logical and dark about people and the world’s prospects? “Well, hello Debbie Darkness. What have you done with my son?” Will he say the same weird types of things to his kids to jokingly knock them out of teenaged pessimism? And will he smile, remembering his crazy mom, when he does it?

Is he aware that I beam when his math or argumentation teacher raves about him? That I puff my chest out proudly, trying to appear modest, even though his wonderfulness has little to do with me and everything to do with his brand of special sauce? And that I think to myself that the world may not see this wonderfulness, or may not understand it—but that I pray someday a really solid, light-filled woman who has some things in common with his mama sees that same wonderfulness and wants to share it for a lifetime.

Does he comprehend that when I’m particularly cranky at the end of a long day, that it’s not just about getting the clothes off the floor, putting the cereal box away, flushing the toilet—but rather, that I want to know that when I’m not around he’ll know how to take care of himself as well as I did?

And I’m sure he does not notice that I still tiptoe into his room some nights to peek at his peaceful sleeping face and the feet that hang out of the end of the covers. That it makes me smile and get teary-eyed at the same time and how the hell is that possible, God? Because it really makes no sense. I mean—one or the other.

I’ve learned that I can’t freeze time. When my dad was dying, I wrote about staring at his sleeping face, his hands, his shape under the covers and trying to memorize it so I wouldn’t forget. Guess what? You forget. The voice, the face, the hands—they are still in your memory bank but they lose their edges and begin to blur.

These two men—two of my best loved. We buried my father on my son’s birthday. Not by choice, mind you. But my father was buried in a military cemetery and there were so many soldiers dying at the time that we had little choice.

One I’ve already said goodbye to and Jesus, that makes me want to hold on like superglue to the other. But I’ve realized–only the love remains, whether someone passes on or grows up. You can’t keep them with you forever. Life won’t have it. We each belong to ourselves, in the end.

Morose. I sound morose. I’m not, truly. Just tonight I was so damn happy at dinner. My son, looking so nice in his suit after a daylong speech tournament. Us laughing over something he said. Talking about everything from which teams are going to win tomorrow’s NFL playoffs, to what his argumentation teacher said about his final argument, to why sleeping in on the weekends should just be a law. These dinners, all the more precious because they are numbered, make me feel so right. Like I’m here and have birthed my kids for a reason. Like all the New Age mumbo jumbo I read and espouse is real. Like I’m manifesting like a mofo, and it’s only going to get better, this life.

Can you stand it, the bitter and the sweet? Does the bitter make the sweet sweeter? Does the inevitable change in our mother/son dinners, our living arrangements, his eventual independence, make the moments right now more than what they’d otherwise be?

Yes. I believe so.

But does he notice?




49 Comments Add yours

  1. He notices … and I bet he loves you to bits! I too have blurry visions of those beautiful hands that raised me …

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, thank you. 😊 it’s hard when our memories start to fade around the edges, isn’t it?

  2. Amy says:

    We each belong to ourselves. Only the love remains. Such beautiful truths you’ve written about here, my friend… Thank you for this most thoughtful post…. And btw, he notices in ways you may never hear about, but every good thing you have put into his life will be etched upon his heart forever. xxx

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, tears. “Every good thing you have put into his life will be etched upon his heart forever.” Beautiful gift you’ve given me there. Thank you😘.

  3. Masha says:

    What beautiful, passionate words. And I just want to say that everything comes around Kay, I have 3 sons, they are grown men, with families, and I have the best relationship with them today. I speak with them every day, they are my best friends. You touched my heart. ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, that’s so lovely to hear, Masha! Warms my heart. Thank you for the kind words.

  4. Only the love remains ! How true. A really moving post . One of. My sons sought me out yesterday in the city . So In answer to your question they don’t so much notice as absorb! And then you get lovely moments and you realise all the wet towels on the floor were simply part of being in a hurry to live .

    1. candidkay says:

      I’ll take “absorb”! I love that you sons still seek you out. That’s something lovely to look forward to . . .

  5. aprilgarner says:

    I have two boys, one just on the cusp of becoming a teen…and now I’m crying. But in a good way. I so know what you mean by bittersweet. Their growing up is hard and wonderful all at the same time.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh my goodness–I didn’t mean to make so many people cry! I got a lot of that reaction on my Facebook page:). I hope it was cathartic crying! As moms, we just always have a piece of our heart out there in the world with them.

  6. markbialczak says:

    I believe the noticing happens now, Kay, and the realizing happens later. The good things really do matter and make a difference for sure.

    1. candidkay says:

      What an interesting dichotomy, Mark. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’ll have to noodle on that one :-).

      1. markbialczak says:

        Well, I think back on interactions with my parents in the wayback, Kay, and say to myself, Oh!

      2. candidkay says:

        Right?! Especially once you become a parent.

      3. markbialczak says:

        Yes. Indeed, Kay.

  7. Inkplume says:

    As Mom to a son who is now grown, this is so beautiful, it hurts.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, thank you. You know what I’m talking about then!

  8. Yes, he does. Even if he doesn’t realise it now. He will remember. Such a beautiful post.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Lee❤️

  9. nights7 says:

    Oh the bittersweetness! As my kids get older I can hardly stand it. It feels like the beginning of an end that I am not prepared for.
    This week my daughter will turn 17. She’s my third but my only girl, bookended by two sets of brothers. Our relationship has changed in subtle ways over the past year and I’m so proud of the young woman she’s becoming. But I’m also so sad that she’s got only a year and a half before she heads off to college and this crazy thing called adulthood. You’d think having two grown, “adult” children would make it easier. It doesn’t. It’s harder each time. (I almost cried at my youngest’s school Christmas concert this year when I realized it was our last; he’ll be in middle school next year.)
    I do think, though, that this bitterness helps us savor the sweet moments more. So there’s that.

    1. candidkay says:

      I really do believe that when we become mothers, a part of our heart walks around in the world outside of our body for the rest of our lives. It just feels like that, right? I’m glad you and your girl have such a close relationship. Here’s to making some really wonderful memories before she does go away to school!

  10. If he doesn’t now he will later.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m counting on it!

  11. Luanne says:

    He will surprise you one day with all he remembers!

    1. candidkay says:

      I certainly hope so!

  12. I can relate, having a 17 year old. So eloquently said. And do they notice? Probably not now, but one day it will hit them, like the time I said goodnight to my tiny little man and suddenly remembered my parents telling us “night night” before bed. The picking up before bed sets standards he’ll come to expect and will one day carry on himself, even when he’s bone tired. You’re doing a great job, mom, and he will notice.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love that you had that memory while you were putting him to bed. I do so many things that have become rituals throughout their childhood.

  13. I bet he notices and will fondly remember all the care and concern you have Kristine. I know I appreciate those things from my mother even if I did have to throw a few towels and fits along the way. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      😂 I love the way you put that. Perfect. Yes, towels and fits :-).

  14. egjacobycomcastnet says:

    Well said! And, YES, he notices and WILL remember!

    1. candidkay says:

      I know you know😀

      1. mydangblog says:

        There’s a certain grieving process involved in having a child grow up, and you’ve captured it here beautifully. Eventually they DO know, and you’ll suddenly get an “I love you “ for no particular reason 😊

      2. candidkay says:

        I am seeing that with my older son, who was always the rebel child :-). It is a really good feeling. But it makes watching my youngest grow up a bit harder.

      3. mydangblog says:

        Yeah, it’s never easy. All you can do is equip them to be good in the world.

  15. Sharon Byrnes says:

    Love this!! I don’t have my own children yet have very close relationships with my nephews and nieces. I relate to the feeling you share of wanting to embrace every minute and experience with them over their lives (4 are now in their upper 20s and 30s – and 2 are freshmen in college) and hoping all those times together conveyed how much I love them like they were my own kids.
    Make the most of each day and each interaction cuz trust me, they do notice. ❤️

  16. Haha yes I ‘still relish the throwing of said towels’ because I know my mother cannot scold me, BUT now she’ll visit my home, plump up the sofa cussions, tick me off for dust on flat surface, then ask me if my bathroom’s clean…. adorable.

    1. candidkay says:

      Spit spot. Better get to it! 😂

  17. cindy knoke says:

    Trust me. He notices.

  18. Oh he will dear lady, when those times come a knocking. But more to the point, he has absorbed you, even though he will never admit it. And like all things in life, we tend to not appreciate something until its gone. Then he will hold his love for you dearly…like the one your holding now. He will hold one of those treats later on in life and realise that he should have shown an appreciation of the love it entailed, maybe even feel a tear or two and look around to make sure no one saw him. Because like many males of the species we were asked to be strong, tough and handle whatever comes…but in doing so we were never shown how to handle the emotional parts that come with it. Treats will do that. And your treats, and the many emotional things that come along in his life will ask him to look deeper to break free of that wall…and in time he will show a tear and won’t care who see’s him, an appreciation and a love that will be more balanced because his mom did love him and showed her love by the patience she gave in loving him regardless…even if he couldn’t say what her heart so wanted to hear ❤️
    And the bitter most certainly does make the sweet so much sweeter. He will taste that, as will we all 🙏🏽 ❤️

    1. candidkay says:

      “He will absorb you.” What a wonderful way to describe the alchemy between a mother and son. Thank you, Mark.💕

  19. Karen Lang says:

    I think they definitely feel it. I think they move through life just a little more confidently, because of it, and I think they love themselves and life that little but more, because of your effort. And even when we face death as we all have through life, and we doubt everything we ever did for them, life somehow reminds us in a magical way, we did okay. That we did our best with what we knew and I believe they won’t forget.

    Beautiful reflections of a the special Mum that you are 💕💚💕

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, tears in my eyes. Thank you💕.

  20. Dale says:

    If he doesn’t notice now, he will in hindsight. I have asked myself these same questions. I have asked them point-blank sometimes if they notice when I get them special treats (coz even if they are 20 and soon-to-be-22, I treat them).
    I keep telling myself that the fruits of my labours will become apparent when I am invited to their apartments for dinner… The eldest is planning on leaving come July, so maybe I’ll get answers sooner…

    1. candidkay says:

      Ooh—do tell. What are their answers about the treats? They have to at least have noticed the treats :-). And I hope your eldest wants you visiting all the time. You’re a good mum!

      1. Dale says:

        They have noticed. And they do say thank you.
        Well… I hope I am invited once in a while… 🙂

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