Today on the way to baseball practice Ciaran (almost 9yo) and I had an interesting discussion about what kind of mom I am. When it comes to baseball it is more a mom thing than a dad thing in our home. I grew up playing softball until I went to college and still played intramural for awhile. I grew up living and watching baseball with my dad for many years. When it comes to understanding technique, terms and playing the game I just know a bit more than Serona. When baseball season hits it is mom that can often be found outside tossing the ball with Ciaran. It is mom that volunteers to help out with the team and actually understands how to keep a book. I enjoy baseball, he enjoys playing it, he enjoys that we play together, it works except sometimes at baseball itself, where I am not dad and that can seem weird.
On the way to a baseball warm up session in the car today I tried to let him know as gently and directly as possible that I could go either way. If he wanted me to volunteer to help out or have a catch with him I would. If he preferred I could just sit on the sideline and knit acting more like a "normal mom". I wanted him to know that it was his choice and I understood that as he has gotten older it has gotten stranger to have a mom involved in those sorts of activities. I don't want to embarrass him or set him apart in any way that made him uncomfortable. I think he appreciated that I was willing to do either and to leave it up to him. In the car we agreed we would play it by ear.
When we arrived it was fairly chaotic and he said to me "I think I am just going to find another kid to warm up with". I set up my chair, got out my knitting and started to watch him from a distance. He practiced hitting at a few stations and then decided it was too chaotic to stay. On the way out he said to me "Next time we come you can have a catch with me and help out." It was just a micro example of the tender dance we are going to walk over the next few years of pulling away and drawing close again. Of him figuring out what is ok for my public role and what is not and of me showing him respect in this area. It was a good start.
I first became aware of this transition this past winter when we signed up for a fencing class together. He decided he wanted to try fencing and it sounded fun to me as well, something I always wanted to try so we both signed up together. At first he was very excited about it and thought it was cool that his mom wanted to take the class with him. The night of the first class came and as we were suiting up for our first practice I could sense his discomfort and just a strangeness coming from him. I leaned over and said to him. "It is ok if you would rather fence with the kids your age or the boys I am fine." He seemed to think it was very weird both to have his parent there and that it was his mom not his dad. It probably did not help him that the instructor said "I have never had a mom take this class, dads before but never a mom" I wondered at that moment if my son wanted to melt into the floor or if he was glad I was the first, mostly I think he did not like the attention either of us was receiving.
He handled that evening very well fencing both with other kids and with me a little bit. He was quiet on the way home and we talked a little about how it felt strange to him that I was the only mom, one of only 2 girls (the other was 9 years old) and one of only two adults (a dad also taking the class). He asked me if I felt weird or strange about it. I told him I was completely comfortable with it and did not mind those things. I asked him if he was uncomfortable with me being there and if he wanted me to stop doing the class I could and just take him. He was quiet for a minute, tentative but said "No you should stay in the class but I may fence more with the other kids if that is ok" It was fine with me and we kept going back together.
By the end of our 8 week class however he was fencing almost all the time with me and at the tournament we were cheering each other on. At the end of the class he said how glad he was that I took it with him and how fun it was that we did it together and that I was a mom willing to do this. Another mom on the sidelines watched me having so much fun with my son that she told me she was going to sign up the next semester. I could tell by the end he was not only glad but a little proud that I took it with him. He would tell his friends or point me out to other fencers as his mom. He asked me if I would keep learning with him.
I know I have just a little time left before I become very uncool and I am trying to enjoy this time but not push anything on him. I am trying to learn to respect his space while still being the mom I really am. That mom does sports with her kids and is not embarrassed to be the mom there when it is mostly dads. I am however trying to be sensitive to his situation and stay out of situations where it really needs to be dad and not mom.
It is not that Serona is not involved, he is very involved in many aspects and majority of the sports the kids do. I could not teach him how to throw a football, skateboard, ice skate, ski, the list goes on and on where dad takes care of all those details. Yet there are a few where I take on a traditional dad role. I have learned though as a mom with a traveling husband that sometimes I just need to step up and help out more where I can even if it is not my "traditional gender role". Up until this year that has really been fine and a non-issue for our family. Sometimes I get looks or comments from other adults and mostly the boys have made positive comments to Ciaran about how it is nice that I am involved but as they get older I know it changes.
So I am trying to learn how to adjust back into the role of a normal mom who knits on the sidelines and leaves it to the guys. I don't think that is a bad thing either. As boys get older I think male role models are very important and the relationship is different between a boy and a man and a boy and a woman. I am trying to let my son lead this transition and be sensitive to his needs and express to him that I am really okay with whatever he needs. At the same time I am trying to reassure him that I am here for him and always willing to have a catch in the yard or a practice round of fencing when he wants.
Also I am thankful for Serona who spent the weekend teaching the kids how to use various power tools in their pine derby car creations. I don't think I could have spent that many hours in the garage patiently overseeing a 6 and 8 year old using a dremel, drill and power sander to turn blocks of wood into masterpiece racers. My kids would truly be at a loss if mom had to figure that one out!