It’s official – my oldest kid doesn’t like me anymore.
Those of you with older kids are laughing at me and reminiscing of the time you first entered this phase of parenthood. Your kids began the dance of separation too – and maybe they broke your heart as well. They pull away, you pull them in…they need you so they push back toward you…but you know you must pull away sometimes. It’s delicate. It’s terrifying. And friend, it is now, my reality.
My pal, Thing One wrote about this same type of dance she recently began with her teenage daughter.
But, here’s the deal – my kid is not even NINE years old yet!
I know for little boys it is crucial and natural for them to begin to pull away from Mommy sooner.
Ps. not. cool.
And, I do want this for Jacob. I do want him to begin the lean towards independence. I do want him to attach to Daddy and separate from Mommy. It sounds all well and good and natural on paper. But, then your kid does it. Your kid that you birthed from your own body
after four freaking days of labor gives you that look. The one that proves he tolerates you but no longer likes you. Your heart catches in your throat. Then shatters at the bottom of your stomach.
Are we really there?
Is my ‘baby boy’ officially gone?
I didn’t want this. I want him to grow up but, this!?
His sullen attitude sometimes.
His quiet lack of response that fills the void of sound where details of his day used to linger.
His slight but noticeable pull away when I hug or kiss on him in public. And (sniff, sniff) sometimes even in private.
I guess there are times, he just isn’t feelin’ it.
But, I’m the MAMA!!!!! I want to shout from the top of my lungs.
I birthed you! I nursed you for a year because that’s what I was told was best for you – despite your fourteen teeth! I cared for you when you were sick. And, not from afar, either. I’ve had your throw up on my bare skin, kiddo. Take that! And, I supported you through sadness. And I helped you deal with hurt feelings. And, most of all – I didn’t sell for ten bucks you when you turned into a terrible three-yearold. (Whoever deemed the phrase ‘terrible twos’ clearly had not yet had a three year old!) I kissed your boo-boos, fanned your confidence, reassured your self-worth more times than I could count. And you can’t give me a freaking hug!?!
What the !?!
Clearly, this has hit me pretty hard, I guess because I wasn’t expecting it to begin so early. But, it has. It’s official. Like the trendy movie a few years back about daft girls who were unaware when dudes didn’t like them anymore – my firstborn “is just not that into me.”
We were sitting at the doctor’s office the other day because I (being the always-on-top-of-things type of Mom that I am. Ahem.), knew he had an ear infection. I re-ar-ranged my already nutso day to get him to an appointment that worked well for my day, and assured that he didn’t miss recess. (You’re welcome, son.)
We were sitting in the room, waiting on the doctor, and Jacob was reading his book. He does that a lot.
He loves to read. I can’t relate to it, at all. But, I support it. Apparently, it’s a good habit to have. But, I would rather sit and talk,
and talk, and talk.
Jacob? Notsomuch. And, I get that.
1) He’s a boy.
2) He’s eight.
3) He’s a boy.
4) He’s a private kid, like his Dad. He likes to be quiet and still and read.
Like, with no words. Weird.
I tried to love on him. I tried to engage him in conversation.
Finally, I found myself checking facebook on my phone and checking out.
Then, I remembered Thing One’s post (read it here!) about disengaging with your kids and really knowing when they want you to dig into their lives more.
So, I decided to ask him some easy questions, like about how he was feeling.
“Hey buddy, do both ears hurt?”
“Does the left one still hurt?”
(Ok, Jacob. Nice talk.)
By the way, you better have a dang ear infection kid, or you own me $150 for this office visit.
“Well, does your head feel stuffy, or full?”
I’m thinking like congestion. Maybe sinus pressure.
And, then he floored me –
“Yah I guess.”
“Oh really? It feels full?” (still thinking, like congested)
“Yes, Mom. I just have a lot on my mind.”
BAM! (sound of my jaw hitting the floor)
First reaction (thank God I didn’t say it out loud!!) You’re eight. What could you possibly have on your mind!?! It don’t get easier than eight, kid.
Second reaction quick to follow: Oh my goodness gracious, my fleshandblood kid has a lot on his mind and I had NO idea!?! What the heck? I am a horrible Mom.
So, in the name of blessing all of you people, I proceeded to do all of the WRONG things in that moment so that I could compile a list of things NOT to do when talking to your eight-year-old son – (I am but a slave to my readers)
1. Do not call him a nickname like “Baby”, “Buggy”, “Boo-Boo” or anything similar. Eyes will roll.
2. Do not offer to ‘cuggle’ with him or have him sit in your lap. Especially when he weighs over sixty pounds, that’s what we call a lose-lose.
3. Do not insist over and over that he put the book down and talk about his ‘feelings’
4. Do not ask him question after question until he looks longingly at the exit, hoping someone will walk in the door and give him a vaccine or something to stop his Mom’s interrogation, er, I mean discussion.
5. Do not complain or whine about how he won’t talk to you and share his heart with you.
6. Do not, I repeat NOT lament about how your baby is all grown up and gone now.
Sheesh. Get a clue, Caroline.
Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
I know there are plenty of you right now with kids maybe in their teens or older who are trying not to spit your latte from your lips at the ignorance I’m describing. It would be like me listening to a Mom who is frantic about her baby not potty training by age two. Hahahaha! Been there done that. Got the t-shirt.
But, then kid pooped on the t-shirt in Target. Threw away the t-shirt.
But, for me, this is an entirely new phase we are entering.
My kid doesn’t like me. Me!?! Um, in case you didn’t notice, Jacob, I’m like a super fun person! I’ve been told I’m Fun At Parties, have a heart of gold and am great with kids.
Ahem. Listen up, kid, you are lucky you have such a cool Mom. I’m the funniest person you will ever meet – EVER. You got that, Mr. CoolMan??
My Jacob is a good kid, and he does love me. But he’s just not that into me anymore. And you know what, friend!? That needs to be ok with me.
I’ve heard people say “If your kids like you all the time, you must be doing something wrong.”
Ok, that’s encouraging. But, now what?
I am still hurt. I have the
warped personality type that desires everyone to like me…and everyone to like everyone else too, for that matter. I, being an emotional basketcase person – took this personally at first. I figured I had done something wrong. So, I reacted like a toddler – and I put my walls up. My instinct was to disengage. If you won’t love on me like you used to, Jacob, then I’ll just sit here. Take that. I’m sorry, who is the parent here? Glory.
But, I’ve learned a lot from that office visit.
Lesson One: I should have bought an otoscope eight years ago and googled how to tell if your kid has an ear infection. Then, maybe my kids would have a college fund.
Lesson Two: I will not disengage with my kids.
I can’t. You can’t. We honestly just can’t, friends.
That is how a generation is raised with no empathy. No people skills. With selfishness and self-centeredness. Never learning disappointment. Never learning from their own mistakes. Only hearing ‘Yes.” Because let’s be honest, sometimes it is SO much easier to just say “Yes.” and avoid the argument.
But, we can do this! We will resolve to be good parents.
I will learn from my mistakes and try to do better next time. I will remember that my value as a mother is NOT dependent on the way my kids “feel” toward me at the moment. They will not like me all the time. In fact, if one of them isn’t mad at me at any given moment, I may need to check the clouds for Jesus’ return.
Older kids need to separate. They need to grow up and move on. My job is to help them do that, while keeping them safe from others, and more importantly, themselves.
My job is to love, even when they’re ugly.
To support, even when they ‘say’ they don’t need it.
To affirm, even when I want to smack them over their head.
To value their feelings, even if I know they’re ridiculous.
To honor the person God made them to be, and not try to turn them into anyone else.
To teach them to obey me ONLY because it will help them learn to obey God.
To let them fail and suffer natural consequences, yes, even when it hurts me as much as it hurts them.
To let them learn from their own mistakes, not just mine.
But, dude, this job is hard.
I have to let go of this precious baby boy, who isn’t a baby boy, but will always be my baby boy – I raise him then I let him go. There’s a lot of stuff that happens in between, but that’s a fairly good summation.
I will cling to those moments when he still needs me and wants me.
I will desperately search for ways he does show his love for me – they are different now, but they are there.
I will soak up his smiles and hugs when he gives them freely.
I will tell other people of his kind and pure moments of goodness, so that when I feel like trading him in for an entirely different kid, they can remind me of those stories before I ship him to China, Third Class mail.
Moms, this deal is tough.
Each stage, tough in different ways – but all tough.
I will choose to embrace the good with the bad.
I will rely on God’s strength and guidance from His Word – without which, I’d fail even worse than I am.
I will pray for my kids.
I will love on my kids.
And, for now, I will still sneak into their rooms at night while they sleep, to steal just one. more. sweet. kiss.
I love you, Jacob. And I will always be into you.