When They Stop Being Your Little Sweetheart and Start Being Your Little Smart-Ass

Image Source: Molly Pennington
Image Source: Molly Pennington

My 8 year-old took a big whiff of the new shower curtain I had just put up.

“This smells like butt!” he sneered.

For the record, it did not. But that was the first time I’d heard that kind of language out of him. Sure, he’d always loved words like “stinky” and “poop.” Those had been sending him into giggle fits since toddlerhood; but this was a new term for him.

And when it came down to it, it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t “shit” (or worse). But it was rude and crass and I found it uncalled for.

“Hey,” I said, “don’t use that term.” It was the line that came out next that super-shocked me.

“When did you get so mom-ish?”

He tossed it out with that smart-alecky lilt that I was already used to from my oldest son. That tone. That attitude. Like they are the cool one and you are the ninny. Like it’s so incredibly lame to be a mom — when really, they couldn’t survive a half-second without one.

Here’s the thing. I am so ready to go toe-to-toe with him. I am so ready to get more mom-ish than this kid can possibly imagine.

He doesn’t realize that he is the one who is changing — not me. He still wants to be tucked in. He still has the stuffed animal “pals” he sleeps with — hearts he chose sewn up inside them. He still calls me “Mommy” and asks for extra hugs. He’ll still race in from the backyard, a bleeding scrape on his elbow and yell, “Mom! I got a booboo!”

But he’s right on that cusp where he’s switching over. Last week, he came inside after a nasty fall; his right knee had scrapes on top of scrapes. I gasped and rushed to his side.

“Relax, Mom. I’m fine,” he said it with that overly casual air. Like he was just practicing what it means to go from “boo-boo” to “NBD.”

Relax. He got that word from his older brother. It was my teenager’s favorite phrase. I have three kids and they’re all very far apart in age. My teen is 10 years older than my son with the scraped knees and new attitude. (My daughter is still 4.)

Relax, Mom.”

I have already heard that phrase hundreds of times from my firstborn. You know what it means: When they tell you to relax it’s because they’re the ones who are stressed out. I always knew that my oldest boy was making sense of his own anxiety when he told me to “relax.”

He would say it after I asked about his paper due tomorrow. The smell coming out of his laundry bin. Those scholarship applications. The girl he liked. The prom tickets. “Mom, relax.”

I remember all too well just how shocked I had been when my eldest made the transfer from sweetheart to smart-ass. When all of the sudden I went from hero to fool. From expert to hopeless. From his most trusted ally to someone totally and utterly uncool.

Then I figured out that’s what they have to do. It’s part of figuring out that they can live without you. And then they come back.
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And if you haven’t felt it before, get ready Moms-of-Young-Kids. It’ll feel like a punch to the gut at first — an ache right in that space where you carried them. But, it’s nothing to worry about. I was so hurt when my oldest started rejecting me. Questioning me. Letting me hug him instead of reaching for me first.

Then I figured out that’s what they have to do. It’s part of figuring out that they can live without you. And then they come back.

I don’t mean that I ever stopped saying or doing everything that needed to be said: Do your homework. Work hard. No you will not. Yes you will.

I kept on being mom-ish the whole way through. And I’m sure on the other side of things, my sons are the ones who wonder what happened to their sweet, nice, always complimentary mommy. And that’s a good thing for them to contemplate. (Nothing to fear, boys! She’s still here and she always will be.)

Someday they’ll get it. Being mom-ish is being cool. Mom-ish knows what’s up.

When did I get so mom-ish? Since a million years ago. And no, you’re not going to throw around the word “butt” in conversation — especially in that context.

Nice try, though.

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Article Posted 3 years Ago

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