kids

MIA FREEDMAN ON SUNDAY: "The part of parenting no one warned me about."

This week I sat in a podcast studio and cried about my son. “I just miss him so much,” I said haltingly, voice breaking, cheeks wet, in that way you do when you’re trying to speak while not sobbing. Oddly enough, my son was sitting opposite me at the time. He’s 20 and he was interviewing me (weird I know) for a special episode of my No Filter podcast and we were talking about parenting.

He wrote a chapter about what it was like to grow up with me as a mother for my book, Work Strife Balance because I thought it would be more interesting to hear about my weaknesses and strengths as a mother from him rather than me giving my version of events.

It made bracing reading for me. Like having a performance review from your child who is now an adult. In public. I was both elated and mortified by what he wrote but it was his lived experience and as painful as some of it was to read, I’ve never shied away from honesty in our relationship so why not.

Listen: In the interest of honesty, Luca confronted me about some of my downfalls as a parent. Post continues after audio.

On my book tour, many interviewers marvelled at how brave I’d been to hand over a chapter to him but they had clearly not yet written a book because if they had they would have high-fived me on my ability to delegate. As any author will tell you, one chapter you out-source is one less chapter you must write. Happy day. If he’d revealed me to be a secret crack-smoking Donald Trump supporter it still would have been one less chapter for me to write and thus, totally worth it.

When people told me it was their favourite chapter in the book, I reflexively beamed and said thank you until I realised that their favourite chapter in the book was the one written by someone else but I created that someone, literally grew him inside my body and so I am entitled to claim full credit for anything he does and everything he is and so I do.

People have always been interested in our relationship, my firstborn and me. We’re close. Not creepy close, we don’t have matching tattoos or anything, but he is among my closest friends and has been since he was very young. We’ve always had a real Edwina and Saffy relationship (Absolutely Fabulous – google it) where our roles are reversed. He’s a Virgo, quite introverted and insufferably responsible, punctual and organised. My relationship to organisation, punctuality and general responsibility could best be described by the term “garbage fire”. I own that. And I’m sure he’s the way he is out of necessity. I have some guilt about that but not a lot.

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Mia and Luca - always incredibly close.

If the burden I have placed upon him is having a disproportionate emphasis on cleaning the kitchen and being five minutes early for everything then I figure his future wife will want to send me flowers.

Anyway, the crying.

After the book was released, many people asked if Luca and I would do a podcast together. There are many mothers of sons who are fearful for the future of their boys and are also looking for a roadmap of how their relationship with them might go.

So Luca interviewed me for the podcast.

Towards the end of the interview, he asked me a question about the hardest part of being a mother. I thought about my answer for a long time and when I started to speak, I started crying almost immediately.

The hardest part, I tried to explain, is the Facebook Memories. He looked puzzled.

“Every time one of those memories pop up at the top of my Facebook feed and it’s a family photo from two or three or five years ago, I’m reminded of the children I won’t see again.”

If you have lost a child, please forgive me because there is no way to say this in a way that doesn’t sound grossly insensitive or privileged. I have close friends who have lost children and babies and in no way am I likening this sadness that I feel to the true searing grief of the hole left by death. Oh my god no.

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Mia and her family, almost ten years ago.

There is however for me and perhaps others, a far lesser but surprisingly devastating feeling of grief that I experience when I look at photos of all my children when they were younger. I miss the newborns they were, the toddlers, the preschoolers, the primary, schoolers the tweens and teens and adolescents and every age and stage that passes so seamlessly into the next that you never even notice until the transition is complete and Facebook unexpectedly shows you the little person who has gone.

So I cried in the studio that day just like I’ve cried every time I’ve tried to explain this weird wave of grief I don’t feel entitled to even mention.

Listen to me bawling my eyes out in the interview. Post continues after. 

Of course with every loss of an age-stage there is the arrival of someone new to love although let’s be honest, not every age-stage is delightful. Sometimes you want to fast forward or rewind (most parents seem to agree it would be great to skip girls around 14 and boys around 15). But with all the emphasis we place on looking forward as parents....first tooth, first steps, first day of school.....it can be such a punch in the feelings when we're unexpectedly spun around to look back at the lasts......the last time they reached for our hand or called for us in the night or climbed into bed for a cuddle.

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Mia and her daughter, Coco.

So as my firstborn baby walked into manhood, I can hold two things to be true: I love the man he has become and I miss all the little boys he's left behind.

Listen to the full interview I did with Luca, below. 

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