“Today, my little boy was knocked off his feet by a bigger kid during a YMCA soccer game. It was a split-second thing. And yah, I know it was an accident.
But do you think that mattered to my heart?
My hands were clinched on the sidelines as I watched my little peanut peel himself up from the ground and limp-jog toward the other team’s goal.
I watched and I watched, and I waited.
And he never even looked for me.
Not when he fell. Not when he stood back up. Not when he dusted off his knees and jogged away.
It stunned me, to be honest.
My baby boy has always looked for me.
When he was an infant on a blanket in our den, and he flipped himself over on accident for the first time…
He looked for me to see whether or not he was okay.
When he took his very first steps, and quickly crashed into the floor.
He looked for me to tell him:
Was he okay? Should he be scared or happy?
My face, my response, was the answer he needed.
My boy has always looked for me.
But not today. Even as I clapped and cheered his name when he stood up, his gaze didn’t move across the soccer field.
He wasn’t looking for my affirmation. He didn’t need it.
There was an unexpected ache inside my mama heart.
Of course, I am proud of my son. Of course, I want him to be self-assured and strong and independent.
But I wasn’t really prepared for what that would look like.
You see, Ben is my first baby.
He was a hard baby.
He taught me how heavy it is to constantly be needed by another human. When he was born, I had major postpartum depression, and I nearly buckled under that weight. I resented the constant pull at my attention, my body, my life.
It took a while for me to come out of that mental illness fog, but he and I, we survived it together. I stopped resenting that maternal weight of being needed.
More than that, I fell in love with being his mother.
I loved the tiny sound of his voice calling my name in the middle of the night when a nightmare struck.
I loved the pitter patter of his feet down our hardwood halls early on Sunday morning.
I loved the thousand questions he would ask at night, staring up at the ceiling fan. A little boy contemplating the ways of magic and of God.
I loved the way he looked for me whenever he was unsure, or scared, or hurt.
I love being his source of assurance.
But today, my six-year-old boy with a snaggle tooth grin fell.
He fell hard.
And he didn’t even look for me.
I guess that means I’m doing something right.
We spend so much time telling our babies they can fall down, dust themselves off, and jump right back into the game. Don’t we?
It’s all we want when they look to us for help.
We meet their eyes and we tell them with our whole hearts:
‘Don’t worry, baby! YOU’VE GOT THIS!’
Our little ones fall, and they look to us for encouragement, and we say:
‘Stand up, baby! You don’t need me! JUST KEEP GOING!’
That’s just what mamas do. We teach our babies how to do things on their own.
I guess I never realized how hard it would be when he finally started listening.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mary Katherine Backstrom. Mary’s book Mom Babble: The Messy Truth about Motherhood is available here. Follow Mary on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.
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