In my recent reading adventures, I’ve been studying up on a subject that has always been rather foreign to me…boys. Why? Well, because I have two (maybe 3) of them and the older they get, the more I realize I know nothing about them. I know my kids, sure, but boyness? I’m clueless. Of course, Tim is very helpful and is always there to reassure me that their shocking and sometimes gross behaviors are normal and good, or normal but in need of correction. My quest for knowledge on this subject has led me to a fairly well known book called, “Wild At Heart” by John Eldridge. For the most part, the reading has been fascinating and I’ve learned a lot of cool things about what makes boys “tick”, how to effectively communicate with them, how to better respect them, and what sorts of behaviors are normal and even healthy. Many of these things have made me laugh and some of them made me cry. Pregnancy hormones aside, I get emotional thinking about my kids growing up. Especially my boys. Of course, I’m sure I’ll be a basketcase when Lilly moves out, but for different reasons. I won’t feel dejected and sad when she goes on her first date. I’ll be too busy waiting to giggle over details with her when she gets back.
With boys, I always assumed that they don’t begin the “leave and cleave” process until adulthood/when they are ready to get married. Boy was I wrong. Evidently, boys begin the “leaving” process a lot earlier than I expected. Of course, they don’t physically leave you until usually 18 or so, but emotionally, they begin to “leave” their mothers much earlier. Here’s what I mean:
When Jadon was born, I was the center of his universe. Of course he loved Daddy, but Mommy fed, clothed, diapered, played, sang and loved on him primarily for the first few years of his life. Around the age of 5, he began to change. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. He began to resist my affections, dodge my kisses, get mouthy with me, become more angry, etc. I thought, “He just needs more love.” So I’d shower him with forced hugs and kisses and try to bring him into submission with love. Well that didn’t work either. So I went the other way and became a bit domineering thinking, “He’s a boy, maybe he needs it tough.” Well, he kicked back even harder. I couldn’t win. By the time he turned 6, I felt like I didn’t even know him anymore. It broke my heart on several occasions and I spent many a night after he’d gone to bed sobbing into my pillow blaming myself without even knowing why. He was pulling away from me. What had I done? What sort of monster was I that he didn’t want to be cuddled? He seemed only to listen to his Dad and to ignore me completely. I became angry. I didn’t know how to fix this, but I knew this couldn’t go on forever. So I picked up some books on raising boys and began reading. What I learned, simultaneously encouraged and devastated me. Boys begin the leaving process around age 5 or so. They begin to pull away from mom, and seek out adventures, danger, and manhood. This quest for manhood begins then, not when they hit puberty. Things began to make sense. I bawled my eyes out at the thought that my sweet and precious boy would never again be the little baby son he had been. Would never again want to be coddled and nurtured. Not that he wouldn’t need me anymore, but there was a paradigm shift taking place. The center of his universe was now…Dad. The very picture of manhood, adventure and danger. The one who would toss him up over his head, wrestle with him, throw punches with him, teach him how to do “boy” things. Mom was no longer adequate. He was on a quest for manhood and Mom couldn’t be a guide on this journey. So I learned how to be a “helper” to him. I encourage him to do the “manly” or “gentlemanly” thing. I teach him how women think. I let him impress me with his strength and wit. I challenge him and then praise him when he meets the challenge. Once I realized my new role in this, his attitude changed dramatically and he responded to me. I cannot teach him how to be a man, but I’m sure as heck not going to be left in the dust while he travels this road with his Dad. He follows his Dad’s lead, and I am his cheerleader. It’s not the role I expected to have at this stage in his life (sheesh my eyes are watery, I can hardly see the page, someone stop cutting onions!) but it’s the role I’ve been blessed with. I’m home base for him. I’m the element of safety in this equation. He still wants hugs sometimes so I give him all the hugs he wants. Occasionally, he’ll ask for a kiss and I’ll take all I can while I can get them. I try to speak to him with respect, and I applaud him for returning the respect he’s been given. I may not be the center of his world anymore, but by no means is my job finished. It means that I have to pass the baton to his Dad and keep on running beside him. Of course, it breaks my heart to know that one day, he’ll find a woman who will be his new “home base”, a place of restoration, love and safety. But for now, that’s still my job and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. And I’d like to think that my sons would be able to say of me that I coddled and nurtured for as long as was needed and then gracefully took my place as a helper on their journey to manhood. A home base of safety that they could always turn to in times of need, and a beacon of womanhood they would strive to seek out in their future spouse.
For now, I am still learning much about raising my sons. Thankfully, I’m not going this journey alone and I have the best of men leading my sons in their quest to find the world of manhood. I hold Matthew extra tight now, knowing well that it will be his turn next and I cherish every remnant of the little boy that was “My Baby Bug” Jadon, in his sweet kisses and hugs, knowing I am doing him no favors by holding him back. I have to let him get out there and scrape up his knees, maybe break a bone or two, fight his battles, conquer his foes and learn that indeed he does have what it takes to become a strong man…just like his Dad. Thankfully Tim is my constant in this equation. I lean on him and his love for me when the going gets rough and know that even after my boys have all flown the nest and have wives and kids of their own, my Man will still be right here beside me holding my hand. And that makes all the difference.
Till Next Time,