Not Like Me

My son just left for an overnight visit with his father. Let the worry fester. It doesn’t matter that he is a teenager and capable of caring for himself – I still worry. It’s a mom thing…..or an anxiety thing….either way, it’s a ‘me’ thing.

When he goes to his father’s, my head is flooded with negative thoughts. Not catastrophe thoughts, but simple, mundane thoughts with a negative spin. It doesn’t help that these extended visits aren’t a regular occurrence. I don’t ever get used to them, so the worry has been stored up for a couple months and then all comes out at once. It is an overwhelming mess. Thankfully, I’ve mastered the art of hiding it all in my head so that my son does not need to navigate my absurdity.

I begin to list (in my head) all the ways his father doesn’t parent like me. There will be no planned menu. There will be no real mealtime. Snacks with little nutritional value will be abundant. There will be no expectation of self-sufficiency. There are no chores at his father’s house, no assumption of assistance. There will be little conversation. They will not leave the house. There will be no bed time. There will be non-stop video games and unlimited texting and late night snacks and little oversight.

I could go on finding frivolous ways to say he does not parent like me. My mom heart and my anxiety scroll them through my mind on an endless loop leading up to these visits and continue until my son returns. Thankfully, there is a timid voice in me that knows how to press the pause button on that reel now and then.

Quietly she reminds that he is not supposed to parent like me. Our son is strong and independent because he has navigated two differing parents. A day and a half of no limits is an exercise in self-regulation for a boy coming into his own. A break from schedules and rules and chores and vegetables will not induce the collapse of his ethical or moral codes. An excess of video games and streaming will cause neither blindness nor anti-social behavior. He will sleep when he is tired.

Though our family could not stay intact, my son has both his parents in his life. That must be embraced for what it is. Our differences balance each other out. When my son was younger and truly needed the stability of routine in order to feel safe, his time with me calmed his anxious soul. Now that he is older, his desire to push boundaries and test the waters is easier to maneuver in his father’s care. I can neither expect nor demand that someone else parent like me. I can step back, with my hand over my mouth, and watch who my son becomes under this different environment. He deserves this facet of trust.

His father does not parent like me. And, how fortunate my son is for that truth.

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