Mother Most Likely To Keep Her Child In A Bunker During A Pandemic
If mother’s groups were to give out most-likely awards, I would have been awarded Mother Most Likely To Keep Her Child In A Bunker During A Pandemic . I am that type of mother — a neurotic catastrophist who thinks like a doomsday prepper.
Luckily for me I married very well. My husband is stable and warm and generous and while I can be quite unstable, anxious and frankly a little overbearing, we have raised a really balanced human. A balanced young man who has gone on holiday to France with his girlfriend even as Covid rages the globe.
People ask me how I ‘allowed’ him to cavort to Europe during a pandemic and I find myself saying things I never dreamed possible, things like ‘you have to take your opportunities where you can’ and ‘he’s old enough to make his own decisions’ when what I really mean is that he didn’t ask me if he could go. And nor did he need to, because he really is old enough to make his own decisions, plan his own holidays and even pay for them.
I thought it would be hard. I thought I would be looking up Covid numbers in Paris and geo-locating rapid antigen tests in French pharmacies. I thought I would be anxious and worried and counting the hours for him to get home.
But instead I just feel this weird mixture of pride and happiness, best described by the Yiddish word nachas.
It’s hard to describe the word nachas (and it’s even harder to describe the pronunciation as there is no hard/rolling g sound in English that the ch makes) but it’s often described as ‘intense happiness or pride’ or ‘unbridled gratitude’.
I remember the first time I felt real nachas take over me. My son was six and had just completed his first tae kwondo grading. When they called him up to get his belt my heart cracked open and filled my body with a pride I’d never felt before. While I like to think he was a very accomplished six-year old and had met many milestones that made me feel very proud, this felt different. It was something he had achieved on his own, it was an independent skill he had learned, a sign of his burgeoning independence, a marker of the thousands of times he would go forward and achieve things that had nothing to do with home and nothing to do with his parents. It was different from the pride I had felt at so many of his firsts because this felt outside of me. This belonged to him and I was witness to it.
I have come to relate this pride/nachas with my son’s independence and maturity. While I always thought I couldn’t love him more than when he was small and needy, it turns out that I can. While I thought my days of being a proud mother were over because my child is now an adult I was wrong. While I thought watching him grow up and away would always be hard and painful, it turns out that watching him spread his wings can be full of wonder and awe.
My son is on the other side of the world as this pandemic rages on and every time I hear from him I feel a kind of happiness I thought I was way beyond. It’s not just that his happiness makes me happy, it’s more than that. It’s the nachas. I feel so proud of him, I feel’ unbridled gratitude’ that he is happy and independent and living his best life. I feel so proud that he went on an overseas holiday in spite of the pandemic, vaccinated, masked and strong and resilient. I feel enormous appreciation that he is moving forward in a world that is seemingly trying to keep us in stasis.
I wish I could tell the younger me, the anxious mother of a small child that love continues to grow as the space between child and parent grows, that you don’t have to be physically near to each other to be close, that a child growing up is not an ending as much as a new beginning.
But I wouldn’t have heard that, I wasn’t ready to listen.
Maybe it’s me that’s grown up and that’s why I have graduated from Mother Most Likely To Keep Her Child In A Bunker During A Pandemic to Mother Of A Child Who Has Gone On Holiday To Europe During A Pandemic. I only hope I can maintain this feeling when one day I become Mother To A Child Who Moves Out Of Home.