Happy Mother’s Day! I am wishing all moms to have the most wonderful month.
This month, I wanted to share a few tips for raising boys. The relationship between mothers and sons is unique. I have two sons. My oldest is 20, and my youngest just turned 12. I don’t know about your boys, but mine absolutely adored me in the early years. Needless to say, it was very hard when my oldest son took that leap into the teen years and decided mom wasn’t all that important after all. Ouch.
Well, I am embarking on that journey again, with son #2. Having been here once before, I feel a little more confident about traversing this territory. That’s when the thought came to me that it might be helpful to other moms, if I share a few tips.
Tip #1: What is helpful along this journey is to remember that our boys still love us. It’s just as hard on them to separate as it is on us. They are being compelled by instinct to move away from us. It is a necessary part of their becoming a man. Don’t take it personally and please do not stand in their way. It is counter-productive and it will hurt your relationship in the end.
Tip #2: When in doubt, double check with dad. With my oldest, we were divorced. However, we had created a healthy co-parenting relationship and I was able to check in with him to find out whether a particular behavior was part of the journey or something I should be concerned with. I had to really trust him and sometimes let go when I didn’t want to. The result: I was able to give my son the space he needed and let him know that I loved him, in a new way.
Tip #3: Know that they will come back. Early on in this journey, I had been told that this process of separation takes seven years … from the time they start to separate to the point of returning to you (at a different place). I was shocked. As it turns out, it DOES take seven years. For us, it started at age 14 and we are now turning the corner, at almost 21 years old.
As a woman, I knew I could not teach my son how to be a man. I am grateful that I was able to co-parent with his dad in a way that enabled me to support and love him, while simultaneously giving him the space he needed.
I did have boundaries, ladies. And I would suggest that you decide what your boundaries are, run them by dad so he can support them, and then enforce them. For us, I had two main boundaries: (1) Treat me with respect. I am still your mom. (2) Part of my job as a mother, I felt, was to be involved and in communication with school and teachers. I wouldn’t let go of my participation in that area, but I did allow him to dictate how much I participated, especially as he got further along in high school, by his level of participation. That worked for us.
Letting go is hard. And yet letting go is essential. You can surrender to the process, or they will take their independence with force.They can’t help it. They must be free.
Love your boys. Enjoy them. When they hit this phase of their life, love them with space. Stay in touch. Let them know you’re there. But, in many ways you will hand the reigns over to dad. Stay in the picture. Don’t leave. Don’t be angry. Just love them from afar. They will love you for it.
Traci Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She can be reached for a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.