When my firstborn was a baby, I could always tell when he was happy or sad. A cry would tell me that a diaper change was needed. A wail meant he was hungry. A smile on his face meant he was happy. Bubbly laughter indicated that he was really, really happy. When he became a toddler and learned to point at things and say a few words, it was even easier to understand him. He could then say, “Dada” and “Mama” (music to my ears). He could point at his formula bottles when he became hungry and he could crawl to his toys when he wanted to play.
Then came the pre-school years – what I call “the challenging years.”
By this time, words were constructed into broken sentences. “Mama” became “Mommy” and “Dada”, well it remained “Dada.” Anyway, during this time, he became experimental; wanted to try everything. He learned to ride his first bike (with small wheels behind as stabilizers). He learned to write his name, the A-B-Cs and the 1-2-3s. He was shy at first in nursery school but learned to mingle in the end. Things were great when he was able to finish a task. It was not so good when he had to be left in the classroom to finish school work. Still, we understood each other.
The elementary years were much the same. He knew the ropes by then, no need to tell him what to do most of the times. He could be quite responsible if he chose to.
But now that he is on his final year of grade school, everything seems to have changed. I have to remind him of every single detail. He won’t do an assigned task unless I urge him to. Every request has to be repeated, and much time elapses before he accomplishes them.
What happened? What went wrong? I can’t reach him now. He has a world of his own.
If I instruct him to do something, he will simply say “yes.” Check him out and he is not doing it. Remind him and he will say “yes” again. Remind him again, and he will be angry.
I ask him “What is wrong?” and he will answer, “Nothing.” Inquire about school, and a shrug is the answer. Ask him about his friends and I get another shrug.
What is he really saying? Am I trespassing on his territory? Is there a boundary now between us? Where is my son? My firstborn who gave me the most joy? I cannot see him now. Have I lost him to puberty? Is Facebook more interesting than a chat with Mommy?
It hurts to think that we have somehow grown apart. It hurts more to think that he confides in his friends and not in me.
I know he is a big boy now, able to somehow deal with his own problems. But he is just 12, for God’s sake. What does he know? What can he do without me?
Me? Oh yes, me. I now realize, it’s all about me, not him. I haven’t lost him. I just haven’t been able to deal with the fact that he is not my baby anymore.
Shameful, isn’t it? Hating the fact that my child has changed. Of course he should, he is after all a growing child. And some time soon, he will become a man… (Ouch, can’t deal with that now. 🙂 )
It is crazy to think that I can’t understand him when all he was really saying is that I should accept the changes. And that maybe, I should change to. Not with the way I love him, but with how I treat him.
I guess the answer of “Nothing” means, “I can deal with it.” A shrug means, “I got it covered.” Another shrug could mean… “Mommy. Let me go, I’m not a baby anymore.”
Can I do that? Let him go?
No, I cannot. I may stop treating him as a baby, but I can never let him go. Maybe I can let him loose a little. Let him do things his way, within limits of course. He is still after all a minor. Under my care, under my roof, under my loving protection.
But I do know what he is really saying now.
“Mommy, I’m growing up, time for you to believe in what I can do. Time for you to see that you have done a good job with me. Time for you to know that no matter what… I will always love you.”
So, against my better judgment, I need to let him grow up. Painful as it may seem, I need to focus on other subjects.
Like the two younger kids, ages 8 and 5. Oh Lord, I have to do this twice more?
Well, now at least I know how to deal with them. Nothing like a first encounter to prepare you for the next disaster!