Tuesday, March 7, 2017

what i wish i had known about raising a teenage son

my oldest is 13, quickly approaching 14. i'm proud of him, of the person he is becoming and of the potential i see in him. still, parenting a teenager is hard, harder than i ever realized for reasons i never imagined. i'm having to walk through an entire new set of emotions and loss that i never expected. so to all of you moms of little boys, amidst the chaos of the younger years, here is what i wish i would have known.

your son will push you away

i keep telling myself that this is normal. this is what is supposed to happen. he is supposed to rely more on himself, less on me. it doesn't change the fact that this process is incredibly painful. daily my mind races back to the baby he was, the moments i spent rocking him to sleep, the songs i sung to him to calm him as an infant. i recall every time i had to pry his hands off my legs and wipe his tears so i could leave the house without him, every time he wanted to hold my hand for a little extra security, every time he asked me to hold him when he was hurting. with those memories your mama heart breaks just a little bit each day for that time you will never get back. as much as you long for your son to be independent and that you understand that his success depends on him standing on his own two feet, you will long for the time when he would walk around the house clinging to yours...and it will hurt that those days are gone. 

their voice will scare you

it feels like my son's voice changed overnight. it is deep and manly and i have been frightened more than once thinking a stranger is in my house, only to realize moments later that it is just my son's new voice booming through the halls. that's the thing that hit me the hardest. i spent his whole life listening to his sweet little words. i could recognize his voice in a crowd. i knew how he sounded and how he cried. he could say, "mommy" and i knew it was me he was talking to, even in a room full of other moms. i knew that sweet voice like i know my own and then one day, you realize you will never, ever hear that voice again. it has sent me on a frantic search through old videos to find the voice that was lost, for some proof that the voice i know so well once existed. i miss that voice. you will miss your son's one day too.

it is wonderful and awful at the same time

it is a joy to watch my son grow into the man he is becoming. it's fun to watch him understand sarcasm and to develop a comedic sense of humor. he is smart, a great student, a hard worker. he is a lot of amazing things and i get to look at him and say, "i helped shape this boy." it gives some validity to the work that is raising another human being. still, it makes the heart of this mom ache a little as i compare this teenager to the little boy that was, the thin hallow cheeks with the chubby ones i used to shower with kisses. where he used to snuggle with me for hours, i have to force my hugs on him each day whether he likes it or not, not just because he needs it, but because i need it. in the midst of all the letting go, of letting him grow up, i need to know that the little boy who adored his mama is still in there somewhere. i will smile at him when he can see me, cheer for him publicly and cry my tears of loss in private. no one warned me of this, this painful loss that comes as your child takes step after step away from you. it's wonderful and amazing to see first hand the person they are but it's awful and painful to say goodbye to the child they were, your child, your baby who has been replaced with the man he will become. 

still, i wouldn't trade it for the world. it makes every moment i spent with him that much more precious, the knowing that it was fleeting, that the moments weren't forever. i am watching him grow. i am watching him get more and more ready to go, to leave me and go out on his own. you will watch your sons do it too and that's just how it is supposed to be, it's what we moms have worked so hard for for so many years and watching this happen is amazing and wonderful and it fills us with joy. but in equal measures it fills us with heartache because it's impossible to separate the two people that your son is. the one child you raised and spent years feeding, changing, snuggling, kissing, teaching, whose sweet voice saying, "i love you, mommy," filled your tank and made you overflow with love. the one had the scabbed knees, the torn jeans, the dirty face and the tears you wiped away. the other person is a tall, lanky almost man, with a voice you don't recognize, with his own friends, his own interests, his own life, one that you fit into a lot less than you used to. it's the memories that we can't separate that makes this process hard. and then, one day as he opens the door on his way to middle school, he will call back with is man voice and say, "i love you, mommy," and you'll recognize the voice and relish the sound of the words and you will realize that it will be okay. we were built for this, for raising them to leave, no matter how difficult that may be.

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