…is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it all up.” ~Author Unknown
I’m in a weird stage of parenting right now. I keep looking at these three boys… two of them are bigger than me, hairier than ever, with these deep booming voices that make them sound just like their dad. And then there’s that little one, who really isn’t all that little anymore.
And I have absolutely no idea what to do with that.
In 16+ years of being a mom, I’ve never been as insecure about my momming abilities as I am right now. The baby stage? Easy. Preschool? Bring it. Elementary school? LOVED that. This high school/junior high/intermediate school stage?
Don’t misunderstand… it’s not that I don’t like this stage of parenting. I kind of love it, actually. I just have ABSOLUTELY no idea what I’m doing. Especially with parenting boys… boys need to feel independent and don’t need their mommy with them all the time. They need to know that we love and support them without actually being there constantly to tell them. Or so I hear…
When I held our first son in my arms for the first time, I marveled at how beautiful he was. I remember being thankful that he was finally here. I was so excited to be a mommy, and although I was 23 and had no clue whatsoever about what we had just gotten ourselves into, I had a feeling it would include sleepless tonights. I knew I could count on dirty diapers. But really, I hadn’t gotten too far past the pregnancy and childbirth preparations. I mean, we were experts on What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Experts. But somehow we blew right on past any books related in any way to actually parenting your child. The huge responsibility that was raising this tiny human to someday be a strong, kind, responsible adult? Never crossed my mind.
I mentioned that I was 23, right? Clue. Less.
Thankfully, with my strong maternal instinct and B’s intelligence and common sense, we made it through those scary first few days, We got pretty confident, thinking we might be good at this parenting thing after all. We were blessed with good babies…. all three of them, and quickly learned not to take that for granted.
The baby/little kid years were fairly easy for me, and Brian is rocking the big kid/teen years… which technically I should be okay with, right? How cool that God would see fit that where one of us is weak, the other is strong, and vice versa, right? Well sure, in theory… but being the competitive one that I am, I want that Wonder Woman mug I drink coffee from to be telling the truth. I want to be great at all of it.
As they say, the days were slow but the years flew by. They’ve been good. So good. And now, here we are with two teens and one big kid/almost preteen, and in so many ways I feel like I’m starting over. I want nothing more than to be exactly what they need me to be. I want them to know I’m there, that I listen, that I care about the things they care about.
No one told me that the sleepless nights stage would return, that I would be up worrying about their safety. And I need to send Apple a thank you note for putting that handy “Find My iPhone” app on my phone…. as I’ve spent the past 4 months watching our oldest drive all over town when I should probably be sleeping. All of this technology is a blessing and a curse, right? There’s a part of me that’s a little jealous that my parents didn’t have all these ways to know where I was at all times, as I’m pretty sure that stupid app is just enabling my worrier/worst case scenario tendencies. Still, I’m so glad it’s there.
I want to be able to pull back as they need me to, remembering that we are to train them up in the way they should go, not in the way they should stay (Proverbs 22:6), while at the same time recognizing that in some ways they need us even more now than when they were little. Finding this balance has by far been the hardest part of parenting, for me, at least.
So last week when one of the boys casually mentioned that he had an awards assembly for lettering in academics, he repeatedly said it was not a big deal and not to feel like either B or I needed to be there, I tried to be chill about it. I had resolved myself to not go, to just stay at work, to believe what he said.
And then guess what I did? Yes… I went to the assembly. Call it mom guilt, call it mother’s intuition, call it God tapping me on the shoulder… whatever it was took over, and before I knew it, I was driving to the school to support our boy. When he saw me he shook his head, and with an annoyed look on his face, quite possibly rolled his eyes (this is the not-so-darling part of having teenagers). I almost turned around and headed back to work, but something told me to go in that auditorium and sit down. So I did. The whole assembly lasted about 20 minutes, and as I stood up to leave, I noticed that he was looking for me. Hmm. He walked up and thanked me for being there, saying he knew how busy I’ve been and didn’t want me to feel like I had to come, but that it meant a lot that I did.
So, there was that.
I tucked that little gem away to think about later. And I’m still not exactly sure what the lesson was. Ignore everything they tell me? Believe the opposite of what they tell me? Trust that they really do need me, so always go to the game/awards assembly/talent show/etc., but just be cool about it? Yep, maybe that third one is the lesson.
Given that I have a lot to learn, I feel silly giving any kind of advice, but there are a couple of things I’ve found that help keep me connected to each of the boys.
First, I make sure to spend time with them one-on-one.
Find that thing that connects you to each other and do that. For our oldest, it’s food and shopping. Our middle guy? Going to a movie. Our youngest? Surprising him at school with lunch or something outside like fishing or mini golf. I try to carve out time as often as possible to do this, which isn’t easy given our schedules, but so very worth it.
Second, take time at some point each day for a checkup. Ask about their day… the best part, the worst part. Know who their friends are, their teachers’ names, what they’re into at the moment, etc. Believe me, I never set out to be a SpongeBob fan (even though I did become one) but knew it was a way to spend time with the boys and take an interest in something they liked. I didn’t plan to be awesome at Super Mario Brothers (ha!) but after spending so much time playing it with them, it happened. And they had no idea I could actually throw a baseball and shoot a basket until I showed them. Take an interest, even if it doesn’t seem fun, and you’ll find that it is.
Moms, your kids need you, no matter how old they are. When you step back and understand them where they are it’s easier to figure out how they need you, but the worst thing you could possibly do is disappear. They need you. You’re the mom God gave them, and there’s a good reason for that. He’s a wise God who knows exactly what we need. So trust Him, and you’ll find your balance. And remember, kids are really good at forgiving and giving grace when we don’t get it right, so there’s nothing to worry about. You’ve got this.