As you may have read below, last week I traveled with Noah to Song Leader Boot Camp in St. Louis. While planning for the trip, Dave and I first floated the idea of Noah flying out alone and meeting his good friend Eitan there. While we were prepared to consider this arrangement, I was secretly relieved when Noah told us that he would prefer one of us to come along. The kid is right up on the edge, toes on the line, leaning forward, into the adult swimming pool. And I’m standing behind him, watching and waiting for him to take the plunge. Without a life jacket. Good times for Mom.
So away we went and found ourselves at the gate in Philadelphia waiting to board. Noah zoned out on his iPhone. Desperate for some connection, I happily struck up a conversation with another passenger who was traveling to St. Louis with a guitar.Guitar Lady: Are you going to boot camp? Me: We are!! Um…well, I’m not. He is. I’m just the Mom. The invisible Mom who is getting him there.
We chatted each other up and soon another guitar-carrying passenger arrived and more introductions were made. I again introduced myself as the “Invisible Mom.” For some reason, I felt the need to explain my presence. This was my 15 year old son’s trip. Why the heck was I tagging along?
OMG. I was Kris Jenner. NOT a good feeling.
Given a choice, I would rather be accused of being too “hands off” with my kid than too “hands on.” Sure, I was getting on a plane but wasn’t I really boarding a “helicopter”, so that I could circle my kid’s every move? Maybe coming along was a mistake. As I tortured myself outside of Gate 39, Noah continued to listen to his music, seemingly unaware of my internal struggle. Or me at all.
It didn’t get any better when we landed in St Louis and made our way to the pickup point at baggage claim. If there were any other parents there, I didn’t see them. One of the organizers called for everyone to get on the shuttle. I had very little information on where they were going or when they would return, but I refrained from asking any questions and sent him on his way. I actually felt relief to part ways and become really invisible, until I realized that he still had his suitcase which I was planning to take to the hotel. I had to
run rush after him and grab it. There was really no subtle way to do this, but I tried. Noah was un-phased and said goodbye, leaving me alone in airport baggage claim with his bag and my own. As I headed towards the rental car center, the melancholy set in.
I barely saw him for the next three days we were there. He roomed with Eitan (who had traveled to St Louis from North Carolina on his own) and they were glad for the time together. I didn’t want to intrude on any of it. But I couldn’t be there and not check in. I texted him to come up to my room when he arrived back at the hotel to say good night and he graciously did so. But the download on the day was brief – less than 3 minutes — and he was gone. I met him for breakfast and watched as he and Eitan shoveled down their food, apparently as starving for waffles as I was for validation. Just one of us left hungry.
The second night I was invited to hear the Song Leader Boot Camp Live showcase, when all of the attendees performed. I was so glad for our retired Cantor Patty who lives in St Louis and joined me to watch. I wouldn’t be THAT mom of THAT kid who is hanging around. I’d be THAT Mom with another person not attending boot camp. Better. We took our seats and I made myself as invisible as I could. I stealthily recorded Noah’s performance on my phone and when it was all over, we left him with the other musicians doing a closing exercise. I don’t think I said goodbye.
Almost as soon as Boot Camp began, it was over. On the way home, I told Noah I thought that perhaps next year, he WOULD come out on his own. He was ready. And then we arrived at the St. Louis airport where we were met with delays, a cancelled flight, and a re-route through Chicago where there were two flights from which to choose. I talked my boy through the long delay and shepherded him through Midway, scoring the last seats on the earlier Philadelphia outbound flight. As the plane took off for home, in the very last row, Noah spontaneously leaned over and kissed my cheek. No words said. None needed.
Noah isn’t the only one on the edge of something. My toes are on the line as well, adjacent to a border I don’t particularly want to cross. I’m moving from being totally essential to my child’s well being to a playing a marginal role, and one that is not always needed. Someday soon, I will be cut altogether in areas of dependency. And when that happens, I’ll take my inevitable place as “Mom of Adult Son.” Just thinking about it, I can almost feel the sensation of Noah patting me on the head, loving me but no longer trusting that I have all the answers. He would probably be right. But what he doesn’t know is that I never did. Still, I loved playing that part.
When overcome with the passage of time and growing of my children, I always remind myself that I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wouldn’t want the forever dependent child – or the one who fails to thrive – or launch – or fly. They are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. It is I who must adjust to a new role.
Best. Supporting. Actress. That is me.
“Best” because I am trying really hard to get this right for Noah, and someday soon for Chase. “Supporting” because this is the exact role I am destined to play. And “ Actress” because I’m pretending that I like it.