Saturday afternoon, Sean and AD took a break from deconstructing Christmas and walked to the park to enjoy the rare winter blessing of sunny and 74.
I finished up a few things and then walked over to join them. As I made my way across the street I could see Sean on the swing set with another boy, both trying to touch the clouds with their toes.
I walked up behind them and listened to them chattering little boy nonsense for a few seconds before the other boy noticed me standing there.
“Your grandma is here,” he said to Sean.
Sean turned his head and saw me standing behind the swing set and then quickly turned back without meeting my eyes.
“That’s my mom,” Sean said quietly in a way that pieced my heart.
No greeting or further acknowledgment was made of my presence.
I’ve been mistaken for Sean’s grandma a number of times in the past five years and honestly, it hasn’t really bothered me. In fact, I usually find it kind of funny. This time I didn’t find it funny because it wasn’t about me. It was about Sean and his brand new awareness of how others see me.
I don’t really much care what other people think about me but to think that I might be an embarrassment to my child hurt my heart a little bit. When I embarrass him in front of his friends, and I will, I want it to be on purpose.
Up to this point, in Sean’s eyes, I have been a vision of motherly perfection. Like a clumsy affectionate puppy dog, he is happy just to be in my company. He is oblivious to my wrinkles and graying hair and imperfections. It has probably never occurred to him that his mom is “a little older” than the other kid’s moms.
But now, I could tell in his voice, in the softly defensive way he said “that’s my mom” that he had taken his first bite of the bitter fruit that falls from the tree of a social awareness.
And I wanted to whack him on the back of the head and make him spit it out.