MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
My son is 6 years old now. Everyday when we leave school, we have to walk about a block to our car. Once we say our good-byes to the crossing guard, my boy takes off. First, he slides his hand away from mine. His chubby fingers brush against the tips of my fingers. Then, he runs with verve down the sidewalk. Sometimes, he looks like one of those men in jogging suits in the 1980s who would speed walk with weights in their hands. Other times, he is actually skipping. Once in a while he looks like an Olympian racing to the finish line.
He always looks back for a second or two. But then he just keeps going. I fall into a panic replete with heart palpations and nausea. I fear he’s going to run into the oncoming traffic on one of the busiest streets in our town, which is really a city now. He never does. I think, “This is it. The fun is over. He doesn’t want me anymore.”
Giving Him His Voice
Ours is a unique situation. For starters, my boy did not speak until he was 4. Tirelessly, we worked on communicating. Along the way, we made up our own language. I knew he wanted to sleep when he gently played with my hair. When he wanted some love, he would speak to my husband and me with his eyes. And when he could not get us to understand what he so desperately wanted to communicate, we would experience the. end. of. the. world. A full-fledged tantrum would ensue. (The photo above came after one of those.)
The point is in those first years he needed me a little extra. No one else could really understand him. It became my mission to get him to speak. His teachers probably did the heavy lifting, but I reinforced everything at home. We would snuggle over a book. In the mornings before school, we would pour over worksheets from his speech therapist. Every syllable was a celebration. Now, no one would know he ever had a delay. His teachers even forget. They tell me no matter where they put my boy on the carpet during circle time, he finds a friend with whom to talk. Ours has been a revolution.
Then, there’s the other reason that makes us different from the rest of the world. I’m his Italian mamma. Being an Italian mamma implies so much, most of all that I can’t just let go. Italian mammas and their sons have a bond like few others. I mean they’ve written songs about it. It’s the stuff of legend. I’m pretty sure they’ve also written psychological case studies on it. But I don’t want to go there.
One of Those Moms
While I’ve railed against becoming one of those Italian mammas, who wants to keep him just for herself, I can’t help wanting to keep him little. I want him to still hug me in his sleep, curl up in my lap, sing off key with me. I am not ready for him to stop twirling my hair with his fingers when he’s tired or taking my hand just because. I once said the sweetest pain was the weight of my then 3-year-old son sleeping on my chest. I want more weight on my chest. Every time he rolls up into a ball and lays all 45 pounds of himself right on me, my heart swells just a little. When he runs out the school doors and jumps into my arms and says, “I missed you all day, Mamma,” I squeeze him just a little harder. The truth is I’m not ready to let him fly.
A New Beginning
But kindergarten is forcing me to let go. It’s not my choice. He is deciding to take flight. More and more he is telling me it’s time. “I can do it myself,” he’ll say. He doesn’t need me to speak for him anymore. As his fingers slip away from mine on that sidewalk every afternoon, we get closer and closer to this thing we have ending. I can cry about it. My heart may ache. Nostalgia for the days of holding a chubby, cooing, cute-as-a-button baby boy in my arms is setting in. But there’s nothing I can do about it. For my boy is growing up. And I have to give him his wings.