Tabatha Wharton


{musings of an aging millennial trope}

The Letting Go.

 photo courtesy of Tom Gilliam

photo courtesy of Tom Gilliam

There comes a point in the story of a mother where the narrative shifts, forever. Somewhere after potty training, closer to kindergarten perhaps, a realization breaks. Your children are no longer an extension of you. They are their own people, building their own lives. A life you will never be 100% involved in, again. Further, your role is no longer as their gatekeeper. You are now just a guide, as they stumble their ways towards their own adulthood. 

It's terrifying. Especially for those whose lives revolved around the production of their tiny humans -- because what are you now?

You are still Mom, of course -- or Mommy or Mama or Mumma or Mami or whatever diminutive stuck out of the delicate mouths of babes. Even there, the linguistic shift to "Mom" over more endearing, infantile names -- that is the harbinger. You will always be their mother. But the role of Mommy fades to the sound of school bus engines and dozens of tennis shoes running across pavement and voices telling you stories of other children you very well may never meet. 

This is the hardest truth of parenting -- it is the ungraceful magic of forming a literal organ from your own body into a mostly functional adult human being ... and watching it walk away into its own story. It is the painful process of intentionally letting go of the thing you hold most dear. 

As a writer, it is easy for me to witness the lives of my children through the communal lens of motherhood. Their utterances and experiences make for excellent, as well as easy, blog fodder. But at what point do I sacrifice their autonomy to their own narrative for the sake of an online existence? Where is the line between my story of motherhood and the story of their childhoods?

For my children, in my place in life, it was crossed some time ago. 

From toddlerhood I have instilled the importance of bodily autonomy upon my children, in hopes of shielding them from unwanted and/or unwarranted physical interaction in a multitude of scenarios. It never occurred to me that they would translate that to their digital bodies -- the words I share in their voice; the photos I take of their personages; the authorship I removed from their still-learning hands and emotionally plagiarized to only reassure myself in my insecurities as a parent. 

Their bodies, their rules, Mama. It all counts as theirs to decide the whos and whats and wheres and whens and hows. I have taught them that no one knows the answers to those questions than themselves. And, miraculously, they heard me. 

The duality of finding a tribe online who bolstered each other through the dredges of darkened motherhood is that your friends-family is as invested in your children as you are in theirs. You share less publicly, keenly aware of the digital footprints you make in the name of your children, by proxy. You find solidarity in mothers in private groups and protected accounts to whom your children's faces bring immeasurable joy -- but even then, you measure yourself, as the Internet never forgets, truly. 

I am the last of a generation that remember a life before the internet. I had a childhood free of online bullying or questionable chat rooms. My children will never have this luxury, of being able to curate their own online identities as they enter adulthood. It will begin -- hell, it has already begun -- but the reigns of their digital lives will be theirs to hold much sooner than any of us will ever be ready for. 

In the wake of this reality, I now ask my children to take their photo, or take it when it is their idea. I ask them if they are okay with me asking my friends about a hard situation for them at school or a weird rash they can't seem to shake -- the things that used to warrant a blog post, at least. 

Most importantly, if they demure or deny permission, I respect and honor that. Because it is my job as their parent to emulate what trust and boundaries and respect look like -- so they may internalize them as well as they grow further into the people they are destined to be.

Our stories are the single most unifying thread that bind us to one another. As a mother, it is my sole purpose to help guide these humans I made towards their own truths, their own perspectives, their own narratives -- not steal it from them. It is my duty to safeguard their hearts and minds while they learn to navigate this wide and wild world they happen to have been born into. 

And as a writer, it is my purpose to learn my own voice, to speak from my inner most truth, and to illuminate my unique perspective so that those threads that bind us to one another only multiply and strengthen not due to a role I play or a title I have been given or adopted, but due to the person I am still becoming as I own my own story -- as I own myself. 

I am more than the sum of my pixelated parts. The same is and will be true for my children. 

It is with that foremost in my mind that I lay my much-beleaguered "mommyblogger" laurels down at the feet of the gods. My children's lives will always be their own stories to tell, and I will stand by only to amplify and validate those voices and their autonomous personhood, following their lead. 

I come to you now, plainly, as Tabatha. I am a writer and storyteller. I am a woman, and a mother. I'm so glad we have found one another.