A shock of recognition and remembrance of that morning conversation: “Don’t worry; I’ll bring it in.” A vision of her child sitting forlorn and empty handed among chattering friends as they obliviously scarf down go-gurts. And a mad dash to carry that lunch to him (her baby!) before lunch period is over.
Of course, this mother knows the school staff would not let her child go hungry. She knows that a forgotten lunch is a small inconvenience, an opportunity for her son to recognize his own resilience. She knows not to sweat the small stuff, the blessing of the skinned knee, and blah, blah, blah. Yet, she cannot help but feel aghast, a bit sad that she has let her child down, even in this small way. Because, well, she’s his mother and she can’t help but want to fix everything for him, to make things perfect for a child she loves so much.
But why? Why the guilt, when her rational mind knows better? Perhaps guilt is just a condition of motherhood. Or, maybe it’s because her baby is actually 10 and not very needy. Most of the time, he’s excellent company, and she knows this probably won’t last. Only 10 and already, there are fewer things he needs from her. No more teeth to brush, no more hair to comb, fewer puzzles to help him solve. He continues to grow and thrive, forgotten lunch or not, perfect mother or not.
These changes are, of course, cause for celebration – not just for his growing self-sufficiency, but also for his mother’s new-found freedom. Yes, this modern mother may look forward to watching her son grow up, but she may also feel a twinge of wistfulness for the much younger child he once was. Her regret over the twice forgotten lunch might not really be guilt at all, but a swirl of nostalgia and surprise that these first 10 years slipped by so fast.