Monday, November 24, 2008

The Weaning: A Mom Learns How To Let Go


I loved nursing my son when he was a baby. I had a deep satisfaction knowing that beyond the physical benefits I was providing, that somehow through this process, we were forming a bond that no one else could ever know. Only I, his mother, could give him this and somehow that underlined the fact that no one could love him as much as I, no one could know him more deeply than I, no one could care for him better than I.

Well, thing is, he has a father who was often sitting right next to me as I nursed. And, well, eventually, I started to have moments when being the sole source of sustenance and never being able to go anywhere alone for longer than two or three hours became unrealistic. It was time for Daddy to learn to feed the baby.

I can now admit that during my pregnancy and for some time after my son’s birth, I was, well, slightly neurotic. I read everything. I planned everything. And, then, I obsessed.

So, when it was time to teach him to take a bottle from his father, I had done all my due diligence. I knew that there was a chance that this would be a miserable failure, or at least a really difficult process. I lectured his father about how to talk soothingly to him. I demonstrated the correct nursing positioning which he should be held. I did everything I could to prepare his father for either eventual success or complete failure, but mostly for the certain disappointment that was sure to result from my son’s inevitable and understandable reaction to the fact that, well, he wasn’t me.

Short story long, that little boy took that rubber nipple in his mouth and never gave me a second look. I, of course, ran to the bedroom the second I realized that he was nipple and feeder agnostic, threw myself across the bed, and wept for the loss of my position at the center of his universe.

OK. Rewind, a couple of months. Back in September, my son announced, “Mommy, I think that I should start spending Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with Daddy and Thursday through Sunday with you.” (My son’s father and I split up four years ago and have been co-parenting since.)

“Um. OK. Daddy and I will talk about it.”

And, we did. He explained that while he had nothing to do with our son’s suggestion, he did want to increase his time with the little guy. This confession was actually something I had been waiting a long time for. In fact, I’d even suggested it on more than one occasion. But, plagued with a series of, shall we say, unreliable transportation situations among other things, he never made that happen. And, frankly, he seemed satisfied that the one or two days he’d get our son on the weekends were enough. So, this was new, and it was good.

But, it has at times left me a little lost as to what to do with the extra time. I have found myself feeling a little less useful to my son. And, in response, I have periodically looked for evidence that our mid-week switch was not providing the stability that a six-year-old requires. It certainly has disrupted mine, anyway.

Fast forward to last week. My son earned a pretty bad behavior report on Wednesday. When his father, my co-parent, arrived to pick him up, he firmly lectured our six-year-old, as the little guy sat there, lip quivering, eyes wide and fixed on his father’s, all the while secretly rubbing my hand for comfort. When his father ended the speech, my son replied with a simple and humble, “Yes, sir.”

I was floored. I had never seen him like that. He’s not really that kid, at least not with me. And, in that moment, if in no other, it became painfully evident to me that just like that day when he was traitorously willing to substitute the flesh of his own mother’s breast for a rubber nipple held awkwardly by his father, my son was expanding the center of his universe to include his father in a way that he hadn’t seemed to need to before.

I guess I was preparing myself to deal with this when he was older, but he needs his father now. And, I see the difference this additional time makes. When he comes back from his father’s house, I often see glimpses of the seeds being planted outside of my control. There’s an emerging maturity and increased respect for me that seems more evident when he comes back to my house. Once, he even said, “Yes, Ma’am,” when I told him to take his shoes to his room!

This weaning myself off of my exclusive centrality (or at least my self-important perception of exclusive centrality) in his life isn’t easy. I will admit that. But, I know that it is necessary, if I truly want to give my son my best.

About Our MyBrownBaby Contributor:
Talibah Mbonisi, a mother of one, is on a mission to incite a Black co-parenting revolution. She is currently working on her first book, a guide to co-parenting for African-American mothers and fathers, as well as an online community called She muses about co-parenting and other life adventures on her blog, The Mama Spot.

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  1. Beautifully written. Thanks, both of you. Talibah, you speak the truth. I'm guilty of staking I mean...well, yeah, staking claim to universal centrality only to become overwhelmed. Co-parenting is the way. I look forward to your musings on this topic and more.

  2. what a powerful post! i so respect the struggle that so many single parents and co-parents endure. it is not easy. you hit the nail on the head, letting go is never easy, and redefining of roles is not either, but it sounds like you and your ex husband are laying such a solid foundation for such a special little guy!
    keep it up!

  3. Often thought by many but rarely admitted to by MOST..I feel like a spy sitting here and reading I feel there is a reason the universe requires the two (male and female) to come together to create life. Each entity having a role in the nurturing, teaching of that life. Your insight and willingness to look beyond your attachment to recognize this is phenomenal and commendable. I myself was raised in part by my father, but mostly by my mother. She did the best she could do filling me with the patience, understanding, and compassion that is associated with being a mom. But in all honesty I missed out on what my father could have given me in some of my younger years. Things my Mom could not explain that only HE could, because SHE didn't let go. LOL....but anyway....I won't get too deep into it...Keep up the good work with you son and his father. He needs you both...and remember one thing...You are BOTH the center of his universe...BUT in VERY different ways. As usual good post.

  4. I wish a lot more parents were as serious and mature about parenting as you and your child's father. Your son will truly benefit from your relationship. I will be buying htis book for several people. Great post!

  5. Even though you and your son's father are no longer together, it's beautiful to see how you are still working together in a positive way to raise your son. Kudos to both of you!

  6. You are so wise to value the contribution of your son's father in his life. It is so much better than griping about dad in front of the kiddo, which is such an easy trap to fall into.

    All the best,
    Mary, mom to 10, including 4 from Ethiopia

  7. This was very moving and beautiful!!!

    Here from SITS....congrats on being saucy. Your blog is beautiful!!

  8. Great post, very insightful. Here from SITS, thanks for the Sauciness and mostly your heartfelt sharing. Best to you and yours this Thanksgiving.

  9. Talibah, I so felt you in this post. As a mother of a 2 year old who's been successfully co-parenting for a little over a year, my biggest fear is how my child is going to be affected by not growing up in a 2 parent household in her formative years. She's just starting to get upset at the daddy drop off times, when he's walking out the door and she realizes she's not going to see him for another few days. It breaks my hear to think about my own and her father's two-parent upbringings. And I really don't care that she'll be in good company with lots of other black children who's parents aren't together. I selfishly want the benefit of a two parent upbringing for her. And God may bless me with a husband and her father with a wife, but her two parents will never live in the same household, which I think has the potential to affect her negatively even if we are the most attentive, loving and responsible parents. I'm going to visit your blog and I look forward to joining your WeParent community and reading your guide to co-parenting. Keep on your path. Lots of us need it. jd

  10. This is a wonderful lesson for parents whether they are together or not. I am very impressed with the love you show for your child by your maturity and strength. Parenting isn't for sissies.

  11. This is a very well-written, extraordinarily powerful post. It makes me appreciate all the more the fact that my husband is here to help me raise our daughter -- and it gives me an understanding of how my stepsons' mother must be feeling.

  12. There was an immediate tug at my heartstrings when I read this beautiful post. Thank you for scratching the surface of a long-standing (18 years and counting) ache in my heart. Now, I think I can begin to understand it perhaps as an "incomplete mom's weaning."

    From our oldest son. God bless him. He is wonderful young man, a freshman in college.

    Of our three beautiful ones, he weaned himself from the breast the earliest.

    I am an African woman born and raised on the continent. Cultural norms teach that a mother is the center of the child's universe; the father is present, yes. But the mother is the primary vessel through which emotional, physical needs are provided.

    Indulge me please for one or two more sentences.

    The dynamics of parenting in America are different and while my hubby and I are fully engaged in our children's lives; finding the balance vis a vis the centrality of my role as mom is tough.

    You have inspired me to think through this mishmash in my heart. It's time. Perhaps now I can begin to formulate it clearly in my mind

    Thank you Talibah and thank you Denene for sharing this.

  13. It sounds like both of you are doing a great job in your son. Thank you for sharing your story.

  14. Kids need bother parents in their lives. I'm glad to see that you and your ex are working together to raise your son into a strong man.

  15. This shows that you and his father are doing an excellent job at co-parenting. I love how you always present your inner thoughts and maybe even imperfections as a life lesson to us all.

  16. Denene
    I found your cite quite by accident,I really enjoyed reading all the comments.
    My mind went way back to BayShore.We are all proud of you.


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