This Mother’s Day I Want to Break Up With My Son

Clearly my son's mom is no longer a priority in his life

Photo: Josh Mitchinson
Photo: Josh Mitchinson

It’s Mother’s Day, and I want to break up with my son. At 21, Devin is mired in narcissism, bonded to his buddies like white on rice, and committed to the pursuit of sensory pleasure. I offer none of that. I’m his mother. And even though I know the days of hand-made cards and little-boy breakfasts in bed are long gone, I wasn’t prepared for how little and late he’d throw me a bone today.

Acting preemptively, I had called him two weeks earlier and told him what I wanted for Mother’s Day—for him to come home from college and join me in a Mother’s March for child advocacy.

“Sure, Mom. That’s cool,” he’d responded. I was amazed.

He gets it!

But knowing he has the memory of a gnat when it comes to anything but friends and females, I called Devin two days before Mother’s Day to remind him of the 8:00 a.m. march.

“Oh, yeah,” he replied sleepily. “I forgot about that. But I don’t think it’s gonna work out, Mom. Tim’s coming up this weekend. I told him he could crash at my place Saturday night, so I can’t get there early on Sunday. But I’ll come later, ok? I’ll cook you dinner or something.”

I didn’t want “dinner or something.”

“Devin, you can see Tim any time! But this is a special event happening just today. I told you what I wanted for Mother’s Day. Now it’s up to you to choose what’s more important.”

He did. It wasn’t me. Strike one.

He’s a work in progress–a jerk, but a work in progress. I’ll take the high road and suck it up. I will not be a mother who guilt-trips her kid.

So I let it go and made plans to pick him up at the bus station at noon. We would go see Babies, a documentary of the first year of life for four babies in four different corners of the world.

It’ll remind me of Devin as a baby, I thought. It’ll be sweet.

At 11:30 the phone rang—he’d missed the bus. They’d been up till 3:00 a.m. and had slept through the alarm. Strike two.

“But Tim’s gonna drive me to the bus station and I’ll catch the next one.”

He didn’t. Nor did he call to tell me he’d missed the 1:00 bus, which would have stopped me from driving downtown and sitting at the bus terminal waiting for him to get off a bus he hadn’t even boarded.

“Where are you?!” I asked when he finally answered his cell phone.

“Um, I’m still at the station because I missed that bus, too. But I’ll get the next one, Mom. I promise.”

“Why the hell didn’t you call and tell me you wouldn’t be on the 1:00 bus?” I shrieked. “You won’t be here for another two hours! Was I supposed to just sit here and wait, not knowing?!”

“I didn’t call you because I knew you’d get mad,” he answered defensively, oblivious to the fact that not calling me had made me even more mad. Strike three.

“Just forget it!” I barked. “We’re going to miss the movie, so forget the whole thing!”

There’s no Hallmark card to mark this Mother’s Day moment, I fumed silently.

“No, Mom, look. I’m coming. I want to come! I’ll get there!”

By the time he got off the bus and into my car it was 5:00 p.m. He smelled like a brewery. Strike four.

“You’ve been drinking!” I spat at him, furious that he’d thrown one more log on the fire of insult and slight. “For God’s sake, Devin! How could you?!”

“I didn’t drink today, Mom! It’s from last night! Really! We partied.”

“How could it be from last night?” I challenged. “You reek!”

“Because I didn’t take a shower today, that’s why! I got up, got dressed, and went right to the bus station. I didn’t want to waste any time getting here!” He was indignant, like I was the outrageous one.

“Don’t talk to me,” I said, holding my right hand out to his face. “I’m going to say something I’ll regret, so just keep quiet till we get home.” I drove in silence, seething. He spent the time texting people, clearly willing to communicate with everyone but me.

“Can I use your laptop?” he asked the minute we entered the house.

“You just got here! What’s so important you’ve got to do right now?” I countered.

“Dad’s texting me to send Leslie a Mother’s Day e-card. I forgot.” Leslie is his stepmother. I handed him my laptop, the irony lost on him. Strike so-many-I-can’t-even-count-anymore.

But being a mother means you never really go off duty, no matter how old your children are or how hurt you feel because of them. So what I wanted to do with Devin right then—after accepting the fact that everything I had initially wanted to do with him had been shoved off the table—was parent him. Teach him. Tell him how it felt to be discounted time after time as he haphazardously made his way to see me on Mother’s Day.

He listened, nodding, then said, “But I spent all day trying to get here, Mom! All day! I know it’s late, but don’t I get any credit for coming?”

Are you kidding?” I started to say, but a calmer, wiser inner-mom stopped me. He’s right, you know. He did persevere when he could’ve easily turned back.

“Yeah, you do, honey,” I answered through clenched teeth, the teacher in me whispering, Focus on what he did right…don’t focus on what he screwed up. “You do. But at least learn from this mess, ok? I don’t ask much of you, so when I do ask for something, step up. And for the sake of all the other women who’ll pass through your life, take a shower. Be on time. Call when you’re going to be late. And be present when you’re with someone, ok?”

Devin nodded, we hugged, and I teared up–then smacked him on the back of the head. He laughed and we hugged again.

And then I made him dinner. Because, oh, yeah. He didn’t have any money on him, but if I’d drive him to the ATM then the grocery store, he’d buy something and fix it. But his bank account was really low, so was Kraft macaroni and cheese okay?

It wasn’t. And because he had to catch the 8:00 bus to get back to campus on time to finish a paper, I just whipped up some spaghetti Bolognese. Then drove him back to the bus station. And kissed him again. And thanked him for hanging in there and finally showing up for Mother’s Day.

“No problem, Mom,” he said as he hauled his 6 foot frame out of the car. “Anytime.”