Thursday, June 17, 2010

The push and the pull of childhood.

At the ripe old age of 9-years old, my firstborn child has informed me that my mission in life is to treat him like a baby.

Scratch that. He's nine. AND A HALF.

Much better.

But he is my baby. Always has been, always will be.

All his friends get to ride their bikes to the pond by themselves. Or so he tells me. Their mothers don't treat them like babies. Their mothers treat them like the ultra-sophisticated 8 and 9-year old boys that they are.

He is pushing me away. He is craving his independence.

I tell him I don't care what all his friends do. They have their own mothers, who have their own rules. The retaining pond down the road is no place for young boys. One slip of the foot and tragedy. Besides, we have a huge backyard, plenty of toys, and a basketball hoop out front. Isn't that good enough?

"But Mom, I would never fall in the pond. I know what I'm doing."

End of discussion. I will never be moved on this topic. Ever.

I tell myself that I am not a helicopter mom. I do not hover.

At least I try very hard not to hover.

But these are my babies. My job is to get them safely from childhood to adulthood. I use my instincts the best I can.

The first sleepover he was invited to was during his second grade year. I was not ready to say yes. I did not want to say yes. But I said yes because I know the family and they are good people. I had to trust. I had to let him go a bit. I drilled him on our rules. No violent video games. No wandering around the neighborhood. He was ecstatic.

He is pushing me away. He is craving his independence.

This boy, my oldest child, is taller than average for his age. Undoubtedly, he will be taller than Bill someday. As he is on the cusp of the fourth grade, he is almost 5 feet tall, long and lean and weighs about 80 pounds. I look at one of his arms and I realize that it is about equal to his entire body's length at birth. I am 5 feet, 5 inches tall. The day will come sooner rather than later that I will no longer be able to look down to talk to him. I will have to look up to see his face.

But he thinks nothing of curling that long, lean frame of his onto the couch, right by my side for a snuggle as we watch a show together. Rather than the Nick Jr., of his toddler years, we now watch the Food Network.

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

I ask him about his day. I ask him about school. I ask him about his friends. I ask him about that sticky situation he encountered last week with a friend who was being bullied.

He grunts. "Mom, you just ask so many questions. You just don't let stuff go. Girls talk too much."

He is pushing me away. He is craving his independence.

A few weeks later, he sidles up to me in the family room and says he is bored. Sounding more like my own mother every day, I respond, thinking that it will inspire him out of his so-called boredom, "If you're so bored, why don't I give you a job to do?" To my surprise, however, his eyes light up, and he asks, "Can you teach me how to use the carpet cleaner?"

And so I do. His chest puffs up with pride as he runs the machine across the floor, noticing the clean lines in the carpet forming. Later, he snaps at his younger brother, "Keep your dirty shoes off my just-cleaned carpet!"

I am training him well.

"Thanks Mom, for letting me do that. That was fun. Do you have any other fun jobs? I like cleaning with you."

Fun jobs? Is there such a thing?

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

As the two of us sat at the table eating lunch together an hour later, I said nothing. Apparently, I ask too many questions. It was he who spoke first. He asked me what kind of chores I did when I was growing up. He asked what Grammy and Poppa were like when they were younger. He wanted to know what I was like as a kid.

I embellished for dramatic purpose, of course, but I told him stories of his grandparents and his aunts when we were younger, and not scattered in different states, but all living under the same roof.

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

The next evening we went to the pool. As I sat by the steps in the shallow end with my two youngest children, he wanted nothing to do with the shallow end. Mom and the little kids cramp his big, bad, 9-year old style. Therefore, he is all about the diving board and the deep end of the pool. I am rarely relaxed as my eyes continually dart about the pool area as I watch my two youngest children splash with each other, my second oldest son who loves going down the slide, and of course, my most independent child, Mr. Cool, King of the Diving Board.

He is pushing me away. He is craving his independence.

Then he is hurt. He surfaces from the pool, and he has banged his mouth on the concrete edge, and there is blood. Lots of it. Whenever a child needs to be taken to the ER, I will be the one to do it. Bill and I predetermined that years ago. My husband knows that I have to be in control of these types of situations. If I have to sit at home and wait for a phone call or an update from the ER, I will lose it.

I stay calm as we drive to the hospital. I am no stranger to this rodeo. He will most likely need stitches. Been there, done that. I put my arm around him in the waiting room, and I kiss his forehead. He lets me. He does not roll his eyes or say, "Moooommmm, stop kissing me in public."

As the doctor readies his mouth for stitches, my boy grabs my hand and squeezes. He does not let go.

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

It is not easy, but I am slowly letting him have his independence. He is a good kid, and I am learning to trust him, and trust that he will make good decisions, even when I'm not watching. Even when he screws up, I will be there.

When he thinks I am not watching, I catch him doing things like this.

I hate having to let them go, little by little.

But fortunately for me, he always lets me kiss him good night. For now.

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.


  1. What a beautiful post! sniff!
    I love it!

    BTW - you will be reviewed this Saturday, the 19th on Blog Brew Review!

  2. What perfect timing with this post. My oldest just turned 10 today and we are working through what level of independence and childhood we are comfortable with. We are discussing puberty (little by little) and getting her ready for the next few years while keeping her grounded in her childhood; it's a difficult road.

  3. Thanks, AJ! And thanks for the review, too! :)

    Heather, I had no idea you had a 10-year old too. The craziness is just beginning. I love the independence, but I get a little sad that he's starting to have a life without me...

  4. Loved this one Clare!!!

  5. I love, love, love this post! I have a nine-year-old, too, and I'm going through some of this same stuff, but you word it so well. Excellent.

  6. I loved this post. I think they all go through spurts of holding tight and then pushing away, and then reach back for support again (until they're, I dunno, 35 or so?. You express the balance very nicely!

  7. Thanks Karen!
    Bethany - 9-years old is fun, huh? :)

    Heather - You must think I'm cuckoo! I didn't even look at your picture, & I thought this was my FB friend Heather commenting. So of course I didn't know you had a 10-year old! ;) My mommy brain is so fried that it didn't dawn on me at the time that there is more than one Heather in the world! But thanks for reading and commenting! :)

    Blissed-Out Grandma - I still reach out to my own parents all the time, and I'm 35. So I'm hoping it never ends... :)

  8. Yes, that push and pull . . . the painful and the sweet together for the rest of their childhood lives. It's tough bein' a mama, but so good!

    I'm glad we met each other through Scary Mommy. ;)

  9. Fab post, Clare! Now that my oldest is five, he's been asserting himself and wanting some independence and it's been difficult to realize at some point I'm going to need to loosen the reigns a bit. Sorry about the ER trip---been there!

  10. I know what you mean....I have 3 boys, and I'm hanging on to the last one for dear life...

  11. Beautiful. Seriously, you made me shed real tears. I'd like to write my own one of these someday soon, as we already have some of the push-and-pull. But my oldest is still six.


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