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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Shutting up and letting go

Right now the stars have aligned and I have a boy in different, yet equally crucial emotional growth stages.  At times I feel that each of them have a fish hook to a chamber of my heart and each is pulling the attached string in different directions.  I realize that it is a natural progression in the relationship between a parent and child, but having all boys, and trying to raise gentleman in today's world is challenging, to say the least.   Although my heart is pulling in different directions, sometimes I have to lean into the one who needs me most.
My oldest son is starting high school this month.  He has grown at least 3 inches this summer and yesterday for a snack he ate an entire rotisserie chicken. I asked him how football practice went and I got a one-word answer.   He went to camp last week, and when I asked him what his favorite part was he said "talking to people". The boy who doesn't say three words to me before noon, best part of a camp was talking to people?  What about talking to the person who spent 26 hours birthing him?
I'm trying so hard to not mess this transition to high school up.   It scares me more than him. At least I think it does. I don't want to be the mom that keeps asking annoying questions, but there is so much I want to know!  Last night, after he had his second dinner, he sat down next to me on the couch and told me about a troubled girl he met at camp.  I wanted so badly to offer advice, to give him a glass of milk and turn on Higglytown heroes and snuggle. But for the sake of preserving any mom credit I had, I did what is hardest for me to do... I said nothing.  I literally bit my tongue, and a crazy thing happened.  He talked more... and more... and even sat with me for an entire 20 minutes.  I didn't offer any advice or tell him a relatable story about my life. I was as quiet as a ninja.
His teen life is so different from mine. I made the mistake of calling some of his friends "just virtual friends" and he was hurt by that. Why? Because he may not see those friends, but he talks to them, plays games with them, and communicates daily with them.  He is living in an age where everything is at his fingertips, and he has to make the decision to click or not.  Girls sharing fleeting bikini shots while wearing over contoured makeup to perfect their already flawless faces.  Because somehow she believes that is what he wants, my 14-year-old son. My boy who is growing up in a country that the president tweets vengeful things about people on social media, something I have told my son never to do.
So who am I, to tell my son how to be a teen in a world that I have a hard time adulting in?  
I'm in the process of learning a lot about boys and men.   The majority of my life has been spent with boys.  My closest and first example is my brother and my dad.  My first best friend was a boy named Adam.  I have had a boyfriend pretty much consecutively since I was 15.   Some of my best friends today are men, including my husband.  And with this history of men, I like to think I have learned a few things.
Men have the same wants, needs, desires as women do, but they are hesitant to share them.  Hesitant, because they want so badly to be seen as strong, yet fear that vulnerability will make them appear weak.  Some of the most successful men I know have moments of the most insecurity.  And sometimes they need someone to re-secure them.
The men in my life are not intimidated by strong women. In fact, almost all my best guy friends are married to strong women. This includes my dad, brother and husband. And is something I want my boys to witness.
They need physical connection. Around the age of twelve my boys suddenly become an island.  I have noticed that they become awkward and don't know what to do with their freakishly growing bodies.   I no longer get the big hug when I drop them off at school. But I do get the back of his head leaned in just close enough for me to air kiss it.
It may not be a mother's touch a teen boy wants, but have you ever seen a bunch of teen boys in a group? If they aren't wrestling, they are high-fiving or jabbing each other's ribs.  What I see is that men and boys still want the connection of touch,  even if it appears barbaric at times, and breaks furniture.

In contrast, my youngest son has spent almost the entire summer touching me.  At the pool he has to lay his freezing wet body on top of mine to get warm when the lifeguard blows the whistle.  This could be partially in part to the fact that earlier in the summer we lost him at an aquarium for 45 min. (Huge parental low). When we finally did locate him, we hugged in the middle of the penguin exhibit, and both cried.
Did I mention how we lost him?  I was trying to post a perfect picture on Instagram.  I was looking down.  I wasn't paying attention to what was actually happening and more interested in documenting a moment with friends on social media.  I lost my son in the process.  How many other moments have Iost trying to freeze a moment that had already passed?
I remember an old woman in a grocery store telling me to never have too many kids that you don't have a hand to hold them. Between my husband and me,  we have enough hands. What this woman failed to mention is that they as they grow they need you to know when to let it go.
I want my sons to be great athletes, globally conscious citizens and stellar students.  But nobody but them can make that happen.  I have to know when to be quiet and step aside. 

But you better believe I will still be in arms reach if he needs to grab my hand.