Wednesday, April 20, 2011
My son became a daddy last week.
He’s been a Father for a year or two, since being ordained into the priesthood of the Anglican church, but that’s not the same thing. Now Lee is a daddy. Yesterday I looked at the picture he sent us of a tiny, sleeping bundle snuggled into his shoulder and said to myself, “That’s my son’s daughter.” And life changed again.
I don’t remember looking at my first grandchild, our darling Allie, or our second granddaughter, our beloved Juliet, and thinking to myself, “That’s my daughter’s daughter.” No, we just lined up all the McLeod/Brady women by the window in the dining room and took a generational photo or two. So I felt a little guilty when I realized that the arrival of our third granddaughter struck me differently than the first two times. Fortunately for me, my daughter, Katy, is wise beyond my years.
I carefully broached the subject with her, excusing myself by saying I’d apparently forgotten some of my first impressions when Allie’s arrival made us grandparents three years ago. But Katy said, “You know, Mom, it probably is different when your son becomes a parent. When your daughter gives birth, the circle of motherhood is completed—it seems natural that the girl you nurtured in the ways of a woman would move easily into the expected role of a mother. But with a son, it’s different.”
Relieved, her analogy reminded me of an old saying: “A son is a son ‘til he takes a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life.” Scriptural advice that we are all to “leave and cleave” aside, I think there’s truth in that old saying. Maybe that’s because a woman said it. I’m just guessing.
When my daughter left home, it was because she got married and was making a nest of her own. I did my best to prepare her for changing loyalties, as well as addresses, before the day she uttered those two giant words, “I do.” She was ready to become a wife and mother, and my heart melted a few weeks later when she confided in me that her new husband had thanked her for making his house a home. Still, I count it pure genius that I never taught her to cook chicken before she got married. It took a month of phone calls to me before she learned all the ins and outs of poultry preparation, and by then, she was in the habit of staying in touch. See? Utter brilliance.
However, when my son left home, he never once called to ask how to fry a bird. He simply found a girl who could do it better than me and married her. He lived with us through college before moving two thousand miles away for post-graduate school, and fell in love with Kentucky and the Southern belle he met there. It would take a nuclear act of God to bring him back to the desert where we live, and I don’t even let my heart play that tune. We gave both of our children their full freedom when they outgrew their childhoods, and we’ve all profited from their independence.
But while Katy is just as adept at cleaving to her husband as Lee is to his wife, my daughter benefits from the solidarity we share as women. Women need the support of other women in a way only they understand. I’m no expert on men, even after thirty-five years of marriage, but I think it’s safe to say that men don’t confide in one another the same way women do. Just eavesdrop on a male-bonding event around the BBQ some afternoon and you’ll see what I mean—football talk is just that: football talk. It’s never a metaphor used to explore the inner angst of what it means to be a man. I just think it’s a bit unnatural to expect men to know how to help their wives defrag as properly, or as frequently, as we need it. Conversely, it takes a lifetime for women to learn how to best support the men in their lives.
So this thinking out loud on paper is just to say, my son moved a little farther away from me again this week. His sphere of responsibility grew eight pounds, two ounces larger, and now I find myself getting comfortable another row back in his cheering section. That’s not to say he doesn’t stay in touch or doesn’t love the fact that we’re already crazy about his little one, even though it’ll be another two weeks before we hold her for the first time. Nor does it mean I’m sad that we no longer have front row seats in the amphitheater of his life.
We’re still loud enough to be heard from the stands. We’ll always buy tickets to his events. We’re as loyal to Team Lee as we are to Team Katy. I just realize again that when you push a bird out of the nest, he figures out how to fly on his own.
Soar, baby, soar. I’m cheering for you.