by Laura Lee Groves, Guest MOMtor
I looked around the family room at all the activity. Son #1? Nine years old. Son #2? Six. Son #3? Three years old. And infant Son #4 lay in my lap, taking in all the boyness around him.
This mom has experienced those stages over and over again—hold on, grow up, let go a bit… And finally, I learned a few things. I guess the Lord knew His lessons would bear repeating, so He gave me boys again and again.
It’s easy to be close to a little one who snuggles, begs to walk and play together, and thinks Mom hung the moon. But as they start to grow, it gets a bit more complicated.
I just finished reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, and in his chapter on Affection, he has a lot to say that relates to mother love. Lewis identifies two types of love: Need love (love that we need) and Gift love (love that gives). As moms, our love is a gift love…but it is also a love that needs to give; we moms need to be needed.
But, as Lewis has written, “The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift… We must aim at making ourselves superfluous.”
No longer needed? At first, that sounds like tougher love than this mom can handle. Our sons do need us less as they grow in some ways, but there are still several practical ways we can stay close to them.
Handle it with humor. Having trouble with the fact he’s growing up? Give in to the humor of the situation—but laugh at yourself, not him. Self-deprecating humor is always disarming. Tell him you cut your own sandwich with the bear cookie cutter the other day! Let him know that, even though he’s away at summer camp, you check your watch at what used to be his naptime and wonder if he’s getting enough rest. Text him that you spent a few minutes in his empty room this morning praying for him as he starts college.
Be supportive—say yes and “you’re right” as much as possible. This works all along the way, even if you have toddlers. If we want them to grow to be independent, self-reliant people, we do have to let them branch out a bit. “No” is so easy to say, and it can almost be a reflex with moms. We tend to default to “no.” But give in to the yeses a little more every day. Let them learn from trying. And when they’re right, don’t just nod your head; tell them. Build them up; support them.
Don’t want to be superfluous? I don’t think any mom does. So how do we stay close and needed but still let them grow? We shift our gifts. Yes, we need to give and be needed, but in different ways. Instead of fixing his lunch for him, ask him to cook dinner with Dad for the family once a week. Instead of trying to solve his problems, let him help you with that app or get his advice about something.
Don’t relinquish your role as parent, but realize it’s changing. Yes, you’ll still have to remind of rules and enforce boundaries. But strive to remember you’re dealing with a son who’s older than he was a year ago.
If you give him a chance to spread his wings and cheer him along, he’ll want you on the sidelines for a long time.
Laura Lee Groves, author of I’m Outnumbered! One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys (Kregel), is a writer, high school teacher, editor, and always a mom. Her blog, Outnumbered Mom (www.OutnumberedMom.com) encourages and inspires moms all along the journey because “Once a mom, always a mom.” Laura also contributes to The MOB Society (http://www.themobsociety.com/) and My Teacher’s Lounge (http://www.the-teachers-lounge.com/blog/). She has written for Focus on the Family’s Focus on Your Child and contributed to Book Lover’s Devotional (Barbour) and Always There (Revell).