I raised my boys to be confident. From the moment they were born, I had a vision, one in which my children were able to take risks, find and respect their boundaries. I wanted them to walk into a room and feel comfortable talking to people they had never met and to walk up to a child on the playground to introduce themselves. I wanted them to rise up to a challenge and work hard to overcome it. So, I encouraged them to think for themselves. From early in their toddler years, I asked their opinions about things, let them explore the world through play and held myself back when they encountered a problem. One might say, at times, I pushed my vision a little too hard.
When my children were young and they struggled with something, their shoe was lost, their brother took their toy, their friend hurt their feelings, I would ask them, “What do you think you should do about that?” I didn’t want to be the source of all their solutions. I wanted them to understand that they were capable of solving their own problems.
One day, though, when my youngest son was three years old, or so, he climbed too high on the playground apparatus. It was one of those Spider Man nets that peaks like a mountain and he had maneuvered his way to the very top. I stood by and watched him, but said nothing. Once conquering this mountain, he realized that coming down is often trickier than scaling up. He stood still for a moment. I could see he was afraid, but was considering his options. Then, instead of crying in fear, he yelled, in a trembling voice, “Mommy, I don’t know how to solve this problem!”
The other mothers at the park looked at me, strangely, as I laughed and climbed up to guide my son to the bottom of the web. I recognized it was not a common thing for a toddler to say and wondered if, perhaps, my son would prefer a mother who was somewhat more coddling.
In those days, I was the centre of my children’s world. I was their sun, their little orbits always circling me. It was exhausting, but most days, I truly enjoyed it. They were my life’s purpose, my partners in crime and the little monkeys that were constantly under my feet, causing me to trip and swear. We played together, read together and learned together.
As they got older, my confident boys began to venture out into the world with more and more independence. They asked to walk to school without me. Suggested that I come on the next field trip, but not this one. Went to birthday parties and play dates where parental attendance was unnecessary. I began to miss them. And, I questioned my purpose. If my boys don’t need me every single moment of every single day, what was I to do with myself?
I’m not going to lie, that was a difficult time. I was bored, not used to having alone time, and I became resentful. My boys would play with their friends, watch sports with their stepdad and kick a soccer ball around with each other. But, what about me? Was I only good for cooking and cleaning? I remember yelling on more than one occasion, “I don’t work for you people!” It felt as if I didn’t know how to fit in with my own family. Growing pains suck, especially for moms.
Over time, I realized my boys were becoming exactly who I want them to be. The reason they were out, experiencing the world without me, was because they didn’t need me to hold their hands. They were the confident, social, gentlemen I had raised them to be. They knew they could explore, while still respecting boundaries, like when they were little. They knew I would always be just off to the side, watching supportively, there if they needed me. Now, their playground was just a lot larger.
What I have learned is this: to enjoy quality time, over quantity time. I am also learning to spend my own time engaging in hobbies and people which fulfill me. At this moment, both of my children are upstairs in their bedrooms, listening to music and texting their friends. Most likely, I won’t see them until it’s bedtime. They are being teenagers, as they should.
So, I am sitting in a candle lit room, with a glass of wine on the table beside me, writing. Because, that’s what makes my heart happy. If my one of my children comes downstairs, I will set aside my laptop, turn off my phone and be present with my son, listening to whatever he wants to share with me. I am holding space for my children, ready when they need me.
I treasure moments with them, now. Hugs that they give, stories that they tell. I try to find common hobbies that we enjoy together—working out, hiking, wakeboarding. I plan date nights with them, adventures we can experience together. Here’s the thing, though. These moments will also be gone, before I know it, before I am ready. Soon, they will be having more adventures with friends and dating their peers instead of their mother. They will move out of my house, establishing independence and living life on their own terms. The quantity of moments with my children is dwindling and I feel it. I will need to be increasingly mindful to make the small moments matter. Now, comes the choice every parent faces. I can either be sad, mournful and purposeless, or I can be proud of my sons, who want to live their best lives, as they should. For, they are the embodiment of confidence and independence, just as I taught them to be.