My friend Mel sat across from me at the neighborhood pub, a sigh painting her pretty face weary. A sparkling carafe of purple sangria sat between us on the chipped wooden table, lemon slices and ice cubes bobbing invitingly at the surface. I looked up and watched pub patrons ambling at the pool table, poised with their darts, stroking their beer mugs beside them. Husbands, I thought, husbands and boyfriends and sons.
“I do blame his Mom, for 80% of his laziness at least,”my friend sighed, cocked her eyebrow at me and held the carafe over my empty glass. I nodded.
“If she hadn’t spoiled him, done his laundry, paid his bills and bought his damned toothbrushes, he wouldn’t be so completely lazy,” she finished,”He is 29 and has no idea how to do laundry. I’m serious.”
I nodded again, and shuddered too.
I could relate. 99.9% of my friends could relate, in fact: whether they were married or simply in a serious relationship. So many of our men expected us to cook and clean and work and caretake — simply because their own Mothers had done it all. They knew nothing else, we guessed. But that didn’t make it any less annoying.
When my relationship with my son’s father imploded, relief mingled amidst the emotions of regret and turmoil. I felt almost giddy that I wouldn’t have to pay bills for someone else, pick up after anyone over the height of two feet. I wouldn’t have to relay gigantic errant socks to the laundry bin and I wouldn’t have to be “the responsible one” for anyone but me. What I didn’t fathom, though, is that even in divorce there is responsibility. Once you have a child, obligations to one another morph into different beasts, but they’re still there.
Last weekend, my ex came to town for our son’s third birthday party (which went off absurdly well, thank you for the encouragement!) I drove to the airport and rented a car for him, since he doesn’t have a credit card. I booked his flight for that same reason. I also forwarded his itinerary to him, three times, because he misplaced it. And, after the visit, he followed me to the airport, so he didn’t get lost. The caretaking pattern continues, in a different way.
I’m not declaring perfection, in any sense. I’m distressingly stubborn, I leave mouldy bread on the counter, I lose toothpaste caps and I will argue even when I know I’m wrong. But I do know how to take care of most necessary tasks of my life, certainly all the menial ones.
And one of my deepest hopes is that I pass that knowledge off to my son: refrain from spoiling him by doing too much for him. One day, I’d like him to place his socks in the laundry bin and make his sweetheart a chocolate cake. With homemade icing, even, because there’s nothing wrong with a Mama dreaming big.
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