Digging for gold: How boys can make you strong

When I had small children, I used to wish upon all parents at least one ungovernable, hugely complicated offspring. Just so no-one would walk around with that “this-perfection-is-all-my-own-doing” smugness on their faces. I prefer the “I-have-no-clue-what-to-do-anymore” look, which I’m intimately familiar with. stressed momAs my toddlers turned into teens, my evil wishes shifted onto a specific population of parents: those with daughters.

 During lockdown, my friends with daughters would grate my raw, cooped up nerves with their rosy pictures of family life: The healthy, tearful catharsis at the dinner table – an emotional and supportive space; the ease of a routine where dishwashers get unpacked and lunch is cooked by helpful children; family runs; family songs (I kid you not); movie nights. You get the blissful picture.

simpsons dinnerThat’s not us. The only catharsis that our emotionally-constipated boys practice, is releasing physical energy in various degrees of violence onto siblings. Help in the kitchen is achieved only upon threats of starvation.  A family run, really? (Rolling on the carpet with laughter.) For movie night, it’ll take all the pizza and ice-cream time to argue about the appropriateness of Scary Movie I to V. When they settle on Rick and Morty, my husband and I skulk off to bed, defeated. How did these youngsters land up in our household? On the upside, they don’t sit and despair about their disconnected parents. They’re merely wondering if there’s more chips. 

Lockdown has eased and our children have more social breathing space. My friend holds back her daughter’s hair over the toilet after a night of too-much freedom. And of course, she knows how many drinks, who was there, what they wore, and if that new boy is likely to make contact again. Me? I also have some details. I noticed the car was gone. Uhmm, yup, that’s about it. 

And yet. When anyone dares to suggest that my boys don’t communicate, I’ll give them a superior “you-stupid-cow” look. Of course they communicate. Duh. They are a veritable fountain of information. You just have to know how to decipher the grunts, read the mood behind the jokes, interpret the pat on the back, translate the half-smile, and be ready for those nuggets of gold that shine amidst the heaps of nothingness. Screenshot 2020 08 11 at 123215You have to know how to expect nothing. And just when you expect nothing, you’ll get a nugget: an offer to make tea, an unexpected little detail, a rare long chat. My friend (with only daughters) says I’m satisfied with so very little. True. I regard that as personal growth! I wouldn’t swop those scarce moments of connection between me and my boys for a stream of communication. Those rare moments are especially sweet. They melt my heart and make me so very thankful for having become a fit boys’ mom. 

Over many years and oceans of tears, I’ve learned to back off, not because I had the wisdom or insight, but because my boys were strong enough to push me back. They knew they had to - I needed it. I’ve learned to hear what they’re saying even when they’re not using their words. I’ve learned to treasure the few words that do come my way. I’ve learned not to interfere. I’ve learned to love their quirks. I’ve learned not to apologise on their behalf. I think I’m finally learning to love my boys with all my heart, no strings attached. I can now, at least sometimes, see them as completely separate from me, on their own journey, learning their own lessons, making their own mistakes. My boys taught me that I only have control over my own life and my own happiness. Is there a bigger life lesson to learn? They made me grow up. 

teen mom connectionIt’s still hard sometimes. I still sometimes wish for more. I still question myself sometimes – am I too intense, too emotional, too needy of connection? Am I too little fun? But ultimately, when I think of them, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I want nothing more of my boys than exactly what we have, right now.

I’m a boys’ mom. I’m lucky. 

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