By SHARON RANDALL
Scripps Howard News Service
May 05, 2005
I knew that children undergo various stages of development from infancy to adolescence to adulthood. What I didn't know, but would soon discover, is that mothers go through stages, too.
We "grow up" with our children, maturing just as they do - physically, mentally and emotionally.
(The exception to this theory was my mother, rest her soul, who got stuck somehow in the toddler stage soon after giving birth and spent the next 50 years throwing tantrums.)
A mother's stages of development coincide, not surprisingly, with those of her children. I have labeled them accordingly as follows:
1 - Prenatal: The weeks between conception and birth (six to 12 months, give or take), during which the child grows at an astonishing rate, exceeded only by the expansion of the mother's belly. In a perfect blend of symbiosis and irony, one is fed continuously through the umbilical cord, while the other never stops throwing up.
2 - Infancy: A period of intense adjustment in which the infant learns to respond to the sound of his mother's voice; she in turn learns to respond to his every whimper, giving up sleep, socialization and personal hygiene, and leaking milk like a dairy truck shot full of holes.
3 - Toddlerhood: The child learns to walk, talk and assert his will; the mother learns to listen while she's sleeping, see through the back of her head, give chase like a duck on a June bug and, above all, submit.
4 - Early Childhood: The child starts to school and takes part in various activities; the mother starts to drive and takes on PTA, Little League, Brownies, karate, birthday parties, sleepovers and 10 extra pounds.
5 - Pre-adolescence: Girls show an interest in relationships and emotions; boys get competitive and poke each other's eyes out with sticks; mothers blame fathers and try to diet.
6 - Adolescence: Teenagers become intensely focused on self, socialization and sex; mothers become intensely focused on prayer.
7- Young adulthood: The "yo-yo years" when children grow up, leave home and try to make it on their own _ then move back in a few times before finally leaving the nest. Meanwhile, mothers "yo-yo" between feelings, alternately grieving because their babes are gone and fearing that they'll never leave.
8 - Mid-life: Roles begin to reverse. Adult children tend to get a bit bossy and overly protective. (Some even make their mother hold their hand when she crosses the street.) Mothers, in turn, can get cranky and say things that ought to get their mouths washed out with soap. (Some even throw tantrums and encourage their grandchildren to eat all the junk food they can hold.)
All of that is as it should be, probably. Life runs a full circle, like it or not, carrying us on its back.
The final stage of motherhood is for memories, good or bad.
Mothers spend a lifetime building a legacy in the minds and hearts and characters of the children we leave behind - children who will take our place with children of their own.
The best we can hope for is to be remembered, warts and all, with a little affection and maybe a smile.
That's the only Mother's Day gift my mother ever wanted, really, and it's all I'll want from my children when I'm gone.
Until then, as long as I'm around to pick up the phone, is it too much to expect a call?
Contact her at P.O. Box 931, Pacific Grove, CA 93950;
or at randallbay(at)earthlink.net; or if you're one of her children, you know the number to call.