Now that my ‘hands on” parenting days are over, I at times reminisce about Rob’s childhood and wonder if I did a decent job. I realize that there are things I didn’t do or failed at doing. Like the thing that looped around you and it held the baby close to you, baby slings they were called. Could never figure that out. It always looked so natural and cozy when other people did it, but it was Greek to me. We bonded anyway.
Then there are things that if I did them, I have absolutely no memory of them.
For example, I remember specifically teaching him to go potty. We sang potty songs, had a “going potty” video. He moved up from regular diapers to pull-ups to full throttle potty success. All of that is contained in my temporal lobe somewhere. Certain neurons fire when called upon sufficiently for me to feel like I did a good job with the whole potty adventure.
With one exception. I can’t remember teaching him how to wipe. I have no memory of it. I feel bad about that. Did I? Didn’t I? A little embarrassing to talk about but heck, on TV now they talk about all kinds of things. Surely I can talk about wiping.
I vividly remember our first talk about sex. It was in the Waffle House parking lot. That went pretty well. Several years later, a friend of his suddenly questioned me from the back seat of the car, “Mrs. Rutherford, is masturbation wrong?”. You could have picked me up with a shovel. Rob was in the car as well and looked over at me from the passenger side, surprised but I could tell a little curious about my answer. Above all, he didn’t want me to embarrass him. They were 13 at the time. I asked the friend if his parents would be okay with his talking to me about such a thing. He replied that they were discussing it in his sex education class at church. Since I was a “doctor”, he wanted to know what I thought. I told him masturbation was better than many other things he could be doing. Both he and Rob seemed satisfied. So I guess I did okay with all that.
But I don’t remember talking to Rob about flirting or kissing. Maybe a tiny bit – flirting tips and confusion about girls. But never kissing. I guess he didn’t need my help. But shouldn’t I have talked to him more about it?
Did I teach him how to blow his nose, or did he just figure it out? Did I ever get him under the pine trees and tell him that one of my favorite things to do as a child and even now is to listen to the needles gently swish in the wind? Did I tell him he is related to Francis Scott Key? I don’t remember. Did I show him how to fix really good tuna fish, or does he even know? Whatever he knows about cars, he has learned on his own. I mean the inside of one. Like the motor. Maybe his Dad helped him with that. So many topics not discussed.
After my parents died, I realized I couldn’t call them anymore to ask things I didn’t remember. Things about childhood or their lives or family stuff or just their own thoughts. Now I know what it feels on the other side, to be the receptacle of information, experience or memories that perhaps no one will ask about. It’s a curious feeling.
To be waiting to be asked, one of these days, “Mom, how do you make your tuna fish?”.
So when he was home this weekend for fall break, I had just enough alone time with him to tell him a favorite story about his grandfather. He said I had never told him. It was during the depression and my dad got a new bike for Christmas. He was riding it and he met another child in our home town who didn’t have a bike. My dad gave his new bike to that kid. I have always loved that story. I wanted Rob to know that about his grandfather. He smiled when I told him, and that was good enough for me.
He is leaving this morning with the three friends he brought home, back to Vandy. Loaded with what’s left of weekend goodies, it’s good-bye til Thanksgiving, not long at all really.
I continue to believe in staying in the present. An occasional “remember when” story, but not many. So I will wait for any questions that come my way.
However, the tuna fish issue just might be important enough to bring up. Not too much mayo, pepper, celery and/or onion as your taste prefers.
And a touch of tarragon.
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