Today is Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day, in the U.K., an event that might have escaped my attention except for, well, Madonna. The headline from this morning’s Daily Mail proclaimed Madonna bereft after losing custody of her son and conceding defeat to her former husband Guy Ritchie.
The article, you can read here, included a link to her cringe worthy performance of La Vie en Rose in Auckland, New Zealand Friday night which she dedicated to her fifteen-year-old son, Rocco.
She stood in front of a cheering crowd of thousands of strangers that brayed all the louder when she spoke of her son, tears shining in her eyes. Does that mean all those people had been following the story and were cheering for her loss? Maybe they were chomping at the bit to have the childless Madonna back again, after her mommy years of sweats and cheerios in her hair. Perhaps the venue was filled with intoxicated people who’d paid an eye watering sum to watch a fifty-seven year old woman cavort about on stage in fishnets and heels, all of them wishing to escape the weight of poor choices and forget their adulthood for a time?
While we’re on the subject of poor choices, what is wrong with this kid, anyway? I mean his mother is a freaking rock star! He lives in million dollar homes around the world; his friends are the who’s who of this planet. Musicians, actors, sport stars, he has access to all of them. He wants for nothing. Between his pop star mother and movie directing father, there is nothing he cannot have.
Or is there?
Since the boy decamped his mother’s tour and fled to Britain, what has he been doing? The paparazzi have snapped him riding bikes with his dad in London, texting deftly with one hand and steering with the other. He’s also been seen hanging out with kids his age at a skate park, and, gasp, participating in underage smoking. That last bit apparently really riled his mom. I’m sure he did nothing so detrimental to his growing brain while touring around the world with her, all those hours back stage and on the tour bus/plane. Pretty sure he passed those hours with Geometry homework and nature programs. Like any good mom, she surely banned him from MTV until he finished his chores. Why, why would he leave her? I think I’m about to make myself cry.
Wait, nope, just the cat hair. God bless me!
Sigh, so, here’s the thing, I have a sixteen-year-old son.
He is most definitely the reason this story hurts my heart.Why I think women around the globe look at this situation and shake their heads. The universal truths about teenage boys. I’ll speak about mine, because he’s the one I know. He wants his space but still needs security. He wants excitement and fast cars and to try that cinnamon whiskey, and for now, if I pay attention, I get to weigh in on all those things. Why? Because he still wants to lay on the couch and have me bring him food and fund his PS4 wallet. Because I can make him laugh when he tells me, he wants a Bugatti Chiron, but really, in the winter in North Dakota? I’m not going to be towing his sorry butt out of the ditch every time he hits the gas pedal between October and May. Because he wants to hang out on the soccer pitch, kicking goal after goal with his best friend and he knows if he texts me I’ll let him stay until it’s just dark enough he can’t see the ball anymore. You see, even now on the cusp of adult independence, he still needs me.
He needs me, not on my timetable, on his.
He needs me to listen when he’s ready to talk. He needs me to be alone sometimes, so he can casually ask that question burning a hole in his spirit.
You see, he’s waiting for that quiet Sunday morning, when the girls are gone and you’ve slept in. You come out to the kitchen in your pajamas and make yourself a cup of coffee, look out the window at Central Park, or the Missouri River, or just the Wachter ditch. You are still a little hung over from the absolute glut of sleep and the prospect of the laziest Sunday so far this month.
His tousled blonde head pops up over the back of the couch, “Mom?”
“Yah?” you mumble, hoping he wants nothing more than to clarify that it is not a serial killer using the Keurig.
“Can I have a dollar for a Coke?”
“Yah.” You’re glad it’s nothing you have to put any effort into.
He gets up from the couch and stretches, all long, lean, and taller than you. He walks over and rests his forehead on your shoulder. You do that shrug thing you do that bounces his greasy teenage boy hair against your cheek. “Eww, you ever gonna shower?”
You smile into your coffee cup as he leans a little more heavily on you.
“Penny’s mom wants her to go on birth control if we’re going to keep hanging out together.”
This, this is the part where modern mothers fall down. The quiet spaces that our boys feel comfortable filling.
Back to Madonna, just to be clear, I’m all for mothers taking care of themselves, for feeding their souls, for letting their talents burn and light the world. But I wonder how many Sunday mornings she gives herself? And how she finds the spaces to share? I don’t mean share with all of us, but the intimate sharing, the safe, soft places where teeth aren’t brushed, no make up is applied, you know, hairbrush optional places.
Children are beautiful, fascinating, maddening things. They are ours, our very own, for such a pitifully short time. I wonder if Madonna has just realized that. Just come to understand that now, when he’s fifteen, he’s so perfect, so funny, so loving, so active, so independent, so needy, and so very far away on the other side of the world.
I would like to think if I were in Madonna’s situation, my song dedication to my own son would have been a little different. I like to think I would have grabbed my guitar and gotten on a plane, right behind him, not three months later with a team of lawyers. And after I’d successfully stalked him to my ex’s house in London, I would have sat on the end of his bed and serenaded him. And if he were my son, he would have been the one crying, pleading with me to stop; he’d give me anything, no more singing! I would have had to sit on him and listen to the gagging sounds he made as I sang about my heart and soul and pressing his heart to mine.
“Gross, Mom,” he would groan with what little breath he had left.
I’d bounce a little on his back; hear the satisfying crunch of a couple of vertebrae.
“That’s right boy, I’m your mom, and I’m gross, get over it.”
I’d say it with a little smile because tomorrow is Sunday.
Happy Mother’s Day, Caty and Helen.