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Cutting the cord isn’t easy for moms, sons

Lori Borgman © 2005

 

When I had given birth to our first child, a son, the nurse-midwife asked my husband if he would like to cut the cord. There is a reason they ask fathers to cut the umbilical cord. They are able to do it quickly.

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For mothers, cutting the cord often takes a little longer. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years.

By nature, mothers are reluctant to share their sons. We raise them with hopes they will be strong and independent and have families of their own one day, but we also raise them with secret desires that they will always be ours.

When you attend the parent-teacher conference and the first-grade teacher shows you the class book – the book in which your son has drawn a picture of a shark jumping out of the water with the teacher’s feet sticking out of the sharks’ mouth — you pretend to be mildly appalled, but a part of you is relieved. You are glad it is the teacher pictured having the Jaws experience and not you, hence proving you still hold first place in his heart.

The cord again stretches taut in sixth grade, when at Christmas time he announces he has bought a giant red-and-white candy cane for a girl and will give it to her on the bus.

“What did she say?” you ask later.

“Nothing.” He lowers his eyes and walks away.

You resist the urge to find the girl and pinch her little 12-year-old nose right off her face. At least he knows the female he can truly trust, the one who will always be there for him.

The cord stretches again when the boy goes on an all-day field trip and forgets his lunch. He calls to ask if you will bring it to school. “I’ll be outside, just slow down and toss it out the car window.”

You find comfort knowing he still needs you for the little things like food, shelter and clean underwear.

Then one day you the realize things he needed you to do for him, he is now doing for himself: cooking, cleaning, paying bills. Living on one’s own may well be the most educational part of college.

He is home over break. The family is in the kitchen and you are dumping the trash, when his grandmother asks what his intentions are with the girl he has recently begun dating.

“Glad you asked, Grandma.” Out of the corner of your eye, you see him pull a ring box from the pocket of his jeans. Your life flashes before you, looking remarkably similar to junk mail and cantaloupe rinds when you realize this is not your life, but you are simply falling head-first into the trash can.

There is a sense of loss when a son leaves home to make a home of his own. It is the end of a chapter, the closing of an era. Acknowledging that the past is the past is how you clear space and make room for the new. There will be a new family member, a new dimension, new laughter, new warmth and new life.

He is home for the weekend, standing by the front door, waiting for her to arrive. You steal a glance and see him as a little boy with tousled hair, muddy tennis shoes, a skateboard and G.I. Joes. How can this kid be a young man about to marry?

“She’s here!” he says, to no one in particular. “‘The love of my life,” and flies out the door.

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Lori Borgman is a newspaper columnist, author and speaker.  She can be reached at lori@loriborgman.com.

 

The Meaning of the Word “Celebrate”

by Sharon O’Donnell

When my two oldest sons were 10 and 13 — and I were watching one of the Atlanta Braves/Houston Astros play-off games, when something one of the announcers said rubbed me the wrong way. They were discussing the situation of Atlanta’s Rafael Furcal, who had been recently been arrested on his second DUI charge. As soon as Atlanta was finished with its run in the play-offs, he was to report to jail.

I stole a glance at my sons who were listening intently; this was certainly not the role model material I wanted projected to them. But it was the next comment that hit me so hard: one of the announcers then said if the Braves won the series against the Astros, Furcal would not be allowed to celebrate.

“He can’t celebrate?” my ten-year-old, asked me, perplexed, with eyebrows furrowed. I imagined my son having visions of policemen binding Furcal’s arms and legs so he couldn’t jump up and down in excitement, pump his fist in triumph, or hug teammates. He didn’t realize the announcer was equating the word ‘celebrate’ with drinking alcohol.

Unfortunately, I was well aware of the announcer’s meaning because it’s so prevalent and accepted in our society. The word ‘celebrate’ by definition in this context (reacting to something good that’s been achieved) is given in the dictionary as ‘to observe a notable occasion with festivities’. Society, however, has somehow reached the conclusion that drinking alcohol is the main and essential part of such festivities.

My thirteen-year-old turned to his brother and explained, “That means Furcal can’t drink if they win.” The explanation was natural to him – obvious even – which sent a chill down my spine.

It is painfully clear that something is wrong when the words ‘partying’ and ‘having a good time’ have become synonymous with drinking. Taking a drink or two is nothing to get upset about, but it’s not responsible drinking that I’m talking about. The media and society perpetuate the idea that drinking to excess is the way to celebrate.

In my college days in the ‘80s, all I had to do see the evidence of this was to look around at the keg parties, the empty beer cans in dorm rooms, the bars packed with students who’d been binge drinking and could hardly stand up or focus their eyes. I will never forget the sight of students vomiting after drinking too much – all in the name of having a ‘good time’. Students going out for a night of binge drinking would say, “Let’s get wasted.” Wasted. What an appropriate word that is for getting drunk.

I felt this same frustration and sense of loss when I read about the tragedy in Boston after the Red Sox’ history-making championship win over the Yankees in 2004. Celebrating fans had flocked to the area near Fenway Park, and some people drank too much, resulting in rowdy behavior and the death of a young woman when police fired a projectile into the crowd. She was innocent, a bystander, and the whole situation was heart-wrenching. I am a huge Red Sox fan, as the woman was, and I could identify with her desire to go out in the crowd of other fans and enjoy such a huge victory. If I’d been in Boston, I would have been there, my children would have been there. Can’t long-suffering Sox fans express themselves and show their excitement and pride for their team without feeling they are putting themselves in danger because others aren’t mature enough to drink responsibly? How dare people put others in that situation. How dare that we as a society allow them to do so.

Again, it’s all about the misconception that one must get drunk to celebrate. Of course, that night in Boston was not the first time violence or death has occurred in our nation at gatherings of fans following big wins. Actually, this way to celebrate makes no sense; if a person gets drunk, he or she won’t even remember clearly the euphoria of the win or the experience of a lifetime. I’ve told my sons this, but they get other messages to the contrary from society and the media. It’s also a very ‘sobering’ thought to think that many teens turn to alcohol and drug abuse because they are simply bored; in the ghettos of our cities, where a sense of hopelessness prevails, this is sadly more and more common. But those teens who do have hope, who do have a promising future waiting for them, are evidently just as susceptible to the allure of alcohol and drugs. These teens have to find their passions in life, a reason for living, other than for drinking and partying. We have to help them find this.

There are groups that are making significant progress in dealing with issues such as drunk driving and underage drinking, and that is, of course, encouraging. But there is an underlying cause of the drinking there that we need to examine; it’s a mentality that alcohol has to be at the center of celebrations and parties and that drunkenness is something to be laughed at and joked about in the movies and in reality.

Underage drinking is a problem, but it’s a symptom of a bigger problem: society’s ‘matter-of-fact’ inclusion of alcohol in just about everything we do. I’ve often looked at this situation and thought to myself ‘What’s wrong with this picture?” Children and teens learn from adults; perhaps it’s time we seriously think about what it is we’re teaching them.

Celebrating is about expressing joy, and true celebration comes from the soul, not a bottle of beer or liquor. It’s about sharing emotions and bonding with other fans who feel the same way, reveling in the experience with cheering, hugging, dancing, & laughing. It can even be about good food and drink; but, getting drunk should not be the goal of celebrating, as it is with so many – particularly young people.

Baseball is a fantastic game and should indeed be one of America’s favorite pastimes. Baseball & apple pie – those are the things we think of as quintessential American. Unfortunately, this seems to be changing all too rapidly to “baseball, apple pie, and alcohol”.

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