This commercial makes me cry every time I see it, partly because I am the hormonal mess that apparently comes along with being a 40 year old woman, but also partly because now that I have older boys, the days of receiving little love notes written in wobbly printing or spoken in a sweet little voice have quietly slipped behind me, and I miss those unguarded shows of affection. It's harder to feel appreciated for the kind things you do for your children when they're in the stages of frequently rolling their eyes at you or yelling at you that they wish they had a different family when they're upset. (Oh Mom and Dad, I know I did that, too, and I'm so sorry!)
Will has grown into a tough little critic in recent years. He has very strong opinions about people and experiences, and is not afraid to say what he thinks. He criticizes our driving from his spot in the back seat, complains about the food we prepare, tells us a hundred times a day that we are wrong, wrong, wrong. He is a perfectionist who is hard on himself, and seemingly even harder on the people he cares about. Sometimes all of that criticism gets hard to take.
One recent night at dinner, I mentioned to Matt that I wanted to ask him later about an idea I had for something, so he could tell me if he thought it was any good. Will considered this for a moment, and then said, "You know, Dad is probably going to say yes to your idea anyway, because you're his wife, and if he said no, you'd just find a way to show him why he's wrong and you'd use your idea anyway." This observation floored me a little, so Matt, that good man, jumped in and stated, "I say yes to your Mom, not because I have to, but because she is always right". (The me always being right part is of course not true, but I did appreciate the show of support!) While I've known for a long time that I have some pretty strong opinions of my own about most things, it was uncomfortably eye-opening to realize my son sees me as someone who always has to have her own way (and his father as a yes-man!).
Over another recent dinner, Matt said something to me and ended his sentence with the word "babe", used as a term of endearment. You would think that an 8 year old child would feel happy and secure hearing his parents speak to each other with affection, but instead, Will jumped in and shouted incredulously, "BABE?!? Mom's not anywhere close to being a BABE!! Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift are babes!". (Thank you, Will, for pointing out your mother's physical shortcomings compared to some pretty, early 20-something year old women.) His mocking words were certainly a far cry from the sweetness of his kindergarten days, when he would bring home crayon drawings of me smiling above the words "My mom is beautiful."
In both of these conversations, I talked to Will further so I could better understand his thinking and offer him some more positive ways of looking at relationships and what beauty is. Before I had a chance to get very far in the last conversation, Will said to me, "You know, Mom, being a babe doesn't do you any good anyway -- it just gets you fame. You're a Mom." I sensed from Will's tone and the look in his eyes that somehow, this statement was a compliment. It might not be much, but these days, I'll take my love letters any way I can get them.