It goes without saying that parenting can be exhausting, nerve-wrecking and challenging from time to time. There are also moments where parenting is joyous, filled with laughter and just plain fun. My goal as a parent has been to raise my son, The Boy, to be independent, self aware and supportive of the people around him. It is also very important to me for him to know that I am always there to support him no matter what.
I believe that I am successful in raising a young man who engages in and enjoys conversations, listens when his friends are upset, lightens the mood when there is tension, and is a genuinely kind person. His friends’ parents often ask for The Boy to travel with them on family vacations or to attend social events so their children will interact with the family. We joke that we should get him a t-shirt that says “Emotional Support Friend!”
The Boy is engaging and so much fun with his friends and their families, but at home he is often moody, irritable, and spends most of his time in his room, leaving only to eat all the food in the house. I recognize this is an age-appropriate shift in our relationship as he focuses more energy on friendships. And while it occasionally hurts my feelings that he does not want to spend time with the woman who gave him life, I know it is important to give him space to grow.
Staying connected to The Boy is a priority for me because I do not have the best relationship with either of my parents. Maintaining a close bond with my son while giving him space, privacy, and time with friends requires consistency. These are the steps I am making to ensure our bond remains strong:
Scheduling Quality Time
We enjoy watching two television shows together twice a week. We also prioritize having dinner with our village, a group of our closest friends on a weekly basis. The dinner is a chance for The Boy to have fun with his friends while I decompress from a stressful week of working, parenting and social obligations. During this time I can check in with other parents about noticeable changes in our children’s behavior as they mature, and The Boy can seek guidance from other caring adults.
Listening More, Talking Less
It is tempting to talk The Boy’s ear off about my expectations for his behavior, choice of friends or social activities, or plans for his future. But I am trying to ask questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response. As a result, he is starting to share more about what he does with his friends and he is opening up about his feelings on entering high school, applying for his first job and the possibility of romance.
Communicating About Everything
Offering a space for my son to share whatever is on his mind has led to some uncomfortable topics. I was extremely grateful for a blog last month from my fellow Mommy Blogger, Beth Montgomery, “Sex: Let’s Talk About it.” The essay was so helpful when The Boy shared his curiosity about dating. I was not prepared for his very specific questions but I quickly shifted from my own discomfort and offered honest yet age-appropriate responses. We were able to have an engaging conversation instead of the embarrassing one I expected.
Being Kind But Firm
I enjoy being a little unpredictable. I have started saying yes to activities I had refused in the past and to allow The Boy to have experiences without me. By setting a curfew I am holding him accountable for managing his time and he understands that this privilege can be revoked if he is late. Our neighbors laugh when they see The Boy running at full speed to arrive home promptly at 9:59 pm for his summer curfew. If he lets me know that he is running late, we work out another arrival time. I am that parent who will call all of his friends or walk through the neighborhood calling his name until he appears, complaining, “You are so embarrassing! Let’s go home.”
Hosting His Friends and Join in Their Fun
By having The Boy’s friends over he can avoid concern about curfew or me embarrassing him in the neighborhood. Driving them around town and hosting them at our house gives me a chance to know his friends and their families better. Buying them pizza and sitting with them for a while is my way of staying in the loop. Taking them to race car track and beating them across the finish line is joyous. Sharing in our children’s passions helps to maintain the bond and let them know we support them.
Even when I am receiving the cold shoulder, I try my best to show up. I am often chaperoning field trips, picking up and dropping off friends, or just cheering from the stands.I know The Boy wants me there more than he’ll admit. He is always looking for me and scanning the audience for members of our village.
I am doing my best not to take his occasional distance personally. I constantly let him know that l support him and love him dearly! By remaining consistent and available, I hope the trust and support we have established will allow our connection to remain strong now and in the future.