After one particularly challenging weekend with my 16 -year-old, I sat down and typed this out. I HAD to get it out. It was therapeutic for me and I wept all the way through it. I know my teenage son would absolutely hate that I wrote about him, so to protect the not-so-innocent, I didn’t use any names.
Besides, this is totally about me, anyway.
My 5-year-old comes and sits on my lap, leans his head against my chest. A simple, automatic act, yet the sweetness of it causes me to burst into tears. I’ve been holding back these tears for days, months, years. I live in a glorious world of contrast: my first two boys are teenagers; the last two still loving and delicious at 5.
The past week has been especially challenging with my 16-year-old and I am saturated. It is hard for me to believe that this the same child I gave birth to. He was baby #2 and this was my snuggle boy. He was round and yummy and loved his mama oh-so-much. He was a challenging newborn and demanded all of my attention, so much so that my husband got kicked out of the family bed as not to disturb the cranky baby that had finally drifted off to sleep. And for some reason that I cannot recall, the husband didn’t come back.
Baby #3 came along and in the bed was me, #2 and #3.
#3 moved out when baby #4 came along, and in the bed was me, #2 and #4.
#4 moved out and #2 and I remained in our snuggly little world.
We were a team. We had our favorite books and read the whole series: Little House, Harry Potter, Narnia. Every night when we turned out the light, #2 demanded my arm be draped around him. We drifted off together in a blissful, content sleep. I woke to a little, round face full of sunshine. This nirvana ended on #2’s 10th birthday: Dad kicked him out and demanded his rightful spot beside his wife. Ten years is a tad ridiculous, I agree, but #2 and I were perfect sleeping partners, and I didn’t want it to end. I actually hated my husband a little bit at that moment. But we all adapted and moved on. #2 easily transitioned to his new bed with his equally snuggly little brother (#3) beside him and I learned to sleep beside my husband again.
#2 was always a love. When he was in kindergarten he got a little embarrassed when I kissed him goodbye, so he devised a code. He knew the sign for “I love you” so he would form that with his hand, kiss it and extend it out to me. I, in turn, would kiss my hand and meet his with mine. This continued until he was 14. At that time he would leave out the kiss, but the gesture was still there, so I took what I could get. I started scheduling a Sunday night hug with his older brother, who was 16 at the time, because I realized the connection between us was fading. #2 thought this was ridiculous. “You have to schedule a hug?” he asked incredulously.
Fast forward two years, and #2 is now on the mandatory weekly hug schedule. When my 5-year-old’s head hit my chest last night, the emotions slammed me full on. How did I lose that little round face of love? He, too, rested his head so carelessly on my chest, now he can barely look at me. A conversation is almost out of the question, unless I feel like arguing. If I ask him if I can make him something to eat, I am greeted with an eyeroll. Couldn’t I just leave him alone for once? Why am I constantly in his business? God!
It is his job as an adolescent to separate from his parents, I get that. He is ready to be independent of me and I, obviously, will never quite be fully ready. But nowhere in the manual did they say how much this would hurt. I guess if we mothers knew of this pain beforehand, procreation would come to a stop. The human race would simply die out.
I am profoundly grateful that I have two 5-year-old boys to soothe my broken heart. But if I follow the scenario to the end, I now know what’s going to happen: this Mama who is central to their universe will become the enemy and measures will be taken to block her out. Hopefully, by then, I will be seasoned enough to take it all in stride.
This is my second go at this and I don’t feel any stronger. Like the unsuspecting bird that slams full speed into the plate glass window, every altercation still leaves me stunned, bewildered, bruised. I tell myself that I need to knock this shit off! I need to stop flying right into that damn window! But my love blinds me, and I do it again and again.
My brain tells me there is a transformation occurring and I need to wait out the storm to see what is born. But I can’t help the fact that sometimes my heart just hurts. It fucking just hurts. I miss my little sleepmate. I miss his round face and round body that has now been replaced by biceps and facial hair, seemingly overnight. I miss his smile and his laugh. I just miss him. I don’t yet know this man standing before me.
So now I mourn. I have no choice but to simply accept what is happening. I have yet to reach the other side of the teen years with any of my children, so I still don’t know what the light beyond may be like.
For now, I will do my best to push my mother pain aside and simply love my stinky, grumpy, beautiful boy unconditionally. I take a deep breath and just hope that someday this boy will find something in me to love again. I think this is the definition of faith.
A dear friend of mine who is in her mid-twenties gave me something to hang onto the other day. I confided in her about how I was struggling and she simply said, “Ah, he’s just incubating. He’s in his cocoon.” She’s a lot closer to 16 than I am, so I’m going to trust her memory and her confidence.
And hopefully, after all of this pain, worry and struggle, something miraculous will indeed emerge.