Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from "Ask Me What's for Dinner One More Time" by Meredith Masony. Visit the TODAY Parents Facebook page at 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, Sept. 8 for a live conversation with Masony about motherhood, marriage and the message of her new book.
The day will come. You will go to grab your child’s hand and he will pull away. It feels like a knife in the back, but it is part of the process. When my oldest went into middle school, the rules of the game changed. I dropped him off at school and rolled down the window to say good-bye and he walked right past. He didn’t turn around and wave. He didn’t say, “I love you too.” He just walked away.
In that moment, I felt invisible. The little boy who loved to hold my hand was now embarrassed by my presence. I had been officially “love shunned.” What did this mean for the future? Was my tweenager going to forget me? Was he going to forget all that I had done for him? Was I no longer going to be the most important lady in his life?
I quickly came to the conclusion that I had failed as a mother. I could hear the voice of Beverly Goldberg in my ears. At some point, all of my children were going to leave me and I would shrivel up and die. They would probably spit on my grave. Those ungrateful sons of bitches. They didn’t appreciate anything. I had given my life for them and now they walk away from me, no hugs, no good-byes, no nothing. How dare they! I could have been a lawyer!!!
Well, that got out of control quickly, didn’t it? From the moment I pulled away from the middle school, all of those thoughts went rushing through my brain. Luckily, I realized I was being illogical and that middle school is really hard and awkward, and no one wants anything to do with their parents when they are in public at this age. Just having parents is embarrassing. Having me as a mother was epically embarrassing.
I found myself back in the parent pickup line around four o’clock that afternoon. My son got into the minivan. He said hi. I said hi. We sat in silence for a few minutes. I couldn’t take it any longer. I finally said, “You love shunned me this morning.” He said, “What?” I said, “You love shunned me. I rolled down the window to say good-bye and I said ‘I love you’ and you walked right past me. You didn’t stop. You didn’t wave. You just walked away.” I was doing my best to keep it together, as he sat quietly in the backseat. He said, “I’m sorry, mom. It’s just embarrassing.” I knew it was embarrassing, but I still wanted an “I love you.” I said, “How about this. How about we say ‘I love you’ in the car and we just wave at drop-off? Will that work?” I needed him to know that I understood he was growing up, but I still needed to know he loved me. “Sure, mom, that will work.”
As our kids grow up they will need us less. It is the goal, isn’t it? Our job is to equip them with the tools to become self-sufficient. I, however, still need to hear “I love you.” That will never get old. I am doing my best to learn about the space my kids need as they enter the teenage phase of life. I’m sure some of my kids will need more or less space. We will cross that bridge when we get there. Just know that when you are “love shunned,” you aren’t alone. It is part of the parenting journey. It is necessary for our kids and for us. I’m not exactly sure what an empty nest will feel like, but I know it will mean I was successful. Right now, I just want to do what I can to make sure my kids are ready to fly the coop but want to visit the nest every now and again.
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You want to date? What? I'm dead.
If you thought getting “love shunned” was rough, wait until your kid tells you they want to date. I once again found myself in the parent pickup line of the middle school. I opened the minivan door and in jumped my son.
Me: Hey, buddy. How was your day?
Me: Do you have homework? Did you see any of your friends today? Any pretty girls? (I asked about the girls as a joke. I like jokes. This one backfired on me.)
Son: Yeah, I have math homework. I also asked a girl for her phone number.
Me: (Complete and utter panic spread through my body. I began to sweat. My vision was blurry. I am pretty sure my heart rate escalated to 185 BPM and I may have started my next sentence with a slur.) PPPPPPHHHHHOOOOONNNNEEEE number? You asked a girl for her phone number?
Son: Yeah. I like her.
Me: (I sat there for a minute before I spoke.) That’s nice. I would love to know more about her. You know the rules. Your dad and I will look at your phone if we see fit, so don’t say anything you wouldn’t want us to see.
Son: I know.
I continued to drive, although I am not sure how I made it home. I was thinking about how my tiny little baby was ready to venture out into the Wild West. Dating? He likes a girl? I kept my cool until I got home and spoke to my husband. I began to talk about how he was too young to date. I was going on and on about how this was too soon, it was too sudden, and how we should probably intervene. My husband smiled and laughed. “He is 13. It is normal that he likes girls. He is supposed to date. Why do you think he takes three showers a day?”
An audible gasp left my mouth. “Shut up. He is only in seventh grade.”
Later that night we sat him down and talked about what it meant to date. We discussed consent and how to be a gentleman. We discussed what “No” means and we talked about his priorities. I am sure it was super awkward for him, because parts of me didn’t want to be involved in the conversation either, but we needed to have it.
Later that week we went shopping for Valentine’s Day cards for our kids’ classes. My son asked me if he could buy his new friend a gift. He picked out a stuffed llama and some chocolates. Turn the knife, kid, keep turning that knife. The next morning he took all of her gifts into school with him. When he got home, I asked him if she liked them; he replied, “Yes.” Nothing more, nothing less. He didn’t give me any details.
Their relationship lasted a few more weeks. One day he came home and I asked how things were going with her. His eyes began to well up with tears. He said, “She said she likes someone else. She doesn’t like me anymore.” I did everything I could to prevent myself from crying. This trampy-ass tween of a hussy just trashed my beautiful little boy’s heart. Who on earth did she think she was? Seriously? How could she not understand what a catch my son was?
It was in that moment that I understood part of why my mother-in-law dislikes me. No woman will ever be good enough for our sons. I really hope that isn’t true. I hope that one day I will have a fantastic relationship with whoever my son marries. After doing my best to make my son feel better, I went to tell my husband what happened. I called this poor girl every nasty name in the book. I truly have no idea about this girl. She is most likely a very nice girl. She is only 13, for crying out loud. But in that moment, I needed to vilify her to make myself feel better.
Luckily, I didn’t say any of the things I was thinking to my son. I told him that dating can be tough and people can change their minds. You might like one person today, and like someone else tomorrow. I gave him the whole “there are so many fish in the sea” chat and moved on. A few days later, he was back to himself. His road will most likely be paved with broken hearts, but I had no idea, until that moment, that I will most likely suffer a broken heart right alongside each of my children, each and every time it happens to them.
Excerpted from "Ask Me What's for Dinner One More Time: Inappropriate Thoughts on Motherhood" by Meredith Masony. Copyright © 2020 by Inside the Bowl Productions, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.