I love my children intensely, in a way I never thought I could love another human being.
This connection is primal and spiritual. They are my light, my life.
We are bound by blood and ancestry, the things that run deep, straight into the human heart and soul. I love them like that, from my soul, unconditionally. I hope for them to love me in that way too. When they were little that came easier, the connection was more pure and simple. Now that they are getting older things are shifting, I feel them beginning to pull away, while I want to cling to them and keep them close.
Change is hard to handle; it feels gritty on my heart.
My son, Mason, is sixteen now. He is bright and handsome. His smile is like a firework and his potential is immense. We have had some long term struggles in parenting Mason. He suffers from ADD, and at the same time he is also highly intelligent. He has always had a hard time understanding and meeting traditional standards and goals in school. He marches to the beat of a different drummer. Now, as a teenager, he is seeking his independence and individual identity. He is building a world view, apart from mine or his dad’s. He is finding his unique way of engaging with life, and as he does, my influence dissipates.
Our relationship is taking a new form.
Recently he came home from school and flashed me that brilliant smile and said, “Mom you know you are my BFFL? ” I replied, “Doesn’t that mean best friend for life?” He smiled broadly again and said, “Yep!” This hit me like a tidal wave of hope, it soothed my bruised ego. I took it in and claimed it fully. I wanted to believe that this was true.
Something in me knew it wasn’t right though, it was off-center.
A few days later I revisited this with Mason, to get it straight with myself. I asked him, “Remember when you came home and told me that I am your BFFL?”
He said, “Yeah…”
I said, “Did you mean it?”
Then his reply. First it sank my ship a bit, but as I considered it, I loved it, I loved it so much!
He said, “Mom, I was kind of joking you know. I would rather hang out with my friends, but I like that when I come home from school that you are here. You make good food, and you make home, homey.”
I love this, because, as I thought about it, it is really a good thing that I am not Mason’s, or any of my kid’s BFFL. The relationship between a parent and child should not be the same as the relationship between a child and their peer circle. As his mother I am responsible for nurturing him, providing him a safe haven, giving him support, I also provide structure, guidance, and discipline. I have to hold some specific boundaries as a mother that can’t get tangled up in trying to be a friend.
This exchange holds significance though. It was a light hearted and vulnerable moment in a relationship that often is quite charged. I struggle every single day to try to get Mason on track in school. A typical scenario at home with Mason goes something like this: “Why do you have three zeros in English class?” his usual responses are ” I don’t know,” “The assignment was boring and stupid,” or “I lost it.”
Sometimes these exchanges escalate to raised voices and often include Mason saying, “I hate you!” and then stomping off and slamming a door. Dealing with his ADD and his tendency to be anxious, and, at different points in his childhood, sometimes quite explosive and hurting/hurtful has been challenging on every level.
I have not always dealt with these issues, in heated moments, the way I would like to. I have lost my cool, I have yelled, I have cried, I have thrown my hands up in despair, I have felt like giving up, but I never have. I have never given up. I love Mason, and his sisters without fail.
I tell my kids I love them every day, on the good days, the bad days, the ugly days.
I have gotten help. It does take a village, and sometimes mom (me) is not the best person for the job. Mason currently has an academic coach, a psychologist, a math tutor, a kung fu teacher, plus his school staff, who hear from me on a very regular basis. I have no desire to try to be “super” mom, singlehandedly running this whole show. No, kids need support from diverse sources and each kid is unique. I think the key is to see them, to pay close attention to who they are, and then also see the ways to help them in their becoming.
My role is mom, and I am dedicated, consistent, relentless in my love and care. I am not, however, interested in dictating to my kids “who” they should be. I am here to love them no matter who they choose to become. Stephen and I have not force fed anything to our kids about their unique identities. We encourage them to try different things, we support them in those explorations, whether it is music, sports, art, science, anything. We want them to seek out their passions and find things that light them up and bring them a sense of joy in self. I want them to know they have a right to be exactly who they feel called to be, and that family is a given, a rock, a sure thing.
I am also here to show them what is right and wrong, to set limits and teach lessons about responsibility and accountability, which means I am not, can’t be, a friend, in the strict sense of the word.
We mothers are so much more than friends to our children. We are called to a most sacred vocation. We are the guardians of precious innocents, charged with their safety and shelter. We are trusted guides, a light always on, reliable, steadfast, fierce protectors, boundary holders, torch bearers, nurturers and disciplinarians, most of all we are keepers of love in the family. We are also human and we won’t do it perfectly, not even close, but it is the love that counts. It is the love that lasts. Not all who give birth will be true mothers, and there are many who will be mothers in their own right, creating bonds beyond blood, in a call to service and a larger kinship.
I am grateful that my son, at 16 years of age, feels he can kid around with me, tell me the honest truth when asked, most of all, I am so glad to be his mom and make his home homey. I am thankful for this family, we are here for each other, we love each other, no matter what may come.
I am not his BFFL. I am his mom for life, and that is all I hoped to be.
Author: Jean Jyotika
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Vanessa Hutd at Flickr
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