News Flash! The Boy has officially embarked on his journey into the world as an individual human being. Before this, he certainly had his own mind and personality and wants and quirks and individuality. But he was, at the core, primarily a son and brother, guided and influenced by well, me. Last year his first pimple arrived with little fanfare on his chin. But I knew. I knew my days were numbered. My days in the role I played as the mother of a sweet little boy were coming to an end.
Of course I’ll always be his mother and be an influence, but it’s different now. My motherhood has shifted. He’s punched his ticket on the Individuation Train. It is clear he hit puberty. He even announced it one day after sex ed class. He said his teacher told him certain things would happen. And they happened. I’ll spare the Boy any embarrassment and won’t divulge details.
And oh, the embarrassment–that was actually a first sign of this new developmental phase. He became painfully embarrassed, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill embarrassment of “You’re my mother…Oh God…” Now, it’s “Don’t talk about me, post about me, take pictures of me, acknowledge me pleasepleasepleaseplease.” I tell him he’s not the boss of me and I’ll brag about him, complain about him, or embarrass him in any way I see fit. Because I’m a mature adult, you know.
Then he started spending more time in his room alone with the door closed. He was still just reading or playing with his toys, but he needed the space and barrier. He needed the privacy. Privacy for what? Nothing new. But he simply needed privacy. These signs heralded the coming day, and oh I knew this day would come.
And it did. Last week. We spent a wonderful vacation down the shore. One day, he learned to surf. He played in the ocean and on the beach the entire day. We spent the evening walking up and down the boardwalk with a friend. He didn’t get his ice cream for the night though, because he refused to change his attitude and yelled disrespectfully at me and his sister several times. His consequence–no ice cream. He wasn’t happy with it, but he was still amiable and enjoyed the night.
Until we got back to our room. There, he lay, covers up to his chin, eyes teary, lips quivering. “What’s wrong?” I ask. He is silent. I ask if it was the ice cream. He says no. I ask if it was the surfing, he says no. I ask a zillion things, and he says no, for the zillionth time. He is irritated at me. I am worried about him. About us.
Since when did he stop talking to me? I can’t lose him now! His teen years are coming! I need an open dialogue with him! Ack! We talked a little about that. He understands we have a close relationship, and he wants it to remain so as well. But he didn’t know what was bothering him. It’s not that he didn’t want to tell me. He couldn’t.
He said he wasn’t sad, angry, confused, or frustrated. He said he didn’t have the words for it. But it was something. He just didn’t know what it was, or what to say, or how to say it. And his wet eyes, they looked so sad, so confused, so…I can’t put words to it.
He didn’t know what to make of that moment, of how he was feeling. He didn’t even know what he was thinking. He just was. And that “was” was not positive.
And it is in that moment, looking in those eyes, that I knew. The day had arrived. Our relationship changed in that one moment. Where I let the strings loose a bit more. Where he faces his demons and the world in a different way. I am still by his side, but in a different way. His issues were no longer as concrete as wanting a toy, being hungry for food, feeling somebody was unfair. His issues are becoming more abstract now. He’s getting a case of the feels. And his mother is no longer someone who can or ought to help him through such feels.
It is in that moment that I knew my role as his mother had changed. There will be times I will be more protective, there will be times I allow him to make his own mistakes, there will be times of snuggles and giggles, there will be times of mutual eye rolls and sighs. Those things in themselves will not change. But the quality of our relationship has changed. Because he has changed.
That moment, he began to feel feelings he hadn’t known before. That moment, he became someone he was not before. That confused him, likely scared him. He still has mostly silly little boy moments. But those will dwindle through the years. The next few years will bring many moments of confusion and intense feelings as he grows into the young man his physical body has already prepared for his brain and psyche.
I’m left looking at him with a mix of pride and sadness. How he is changing, how our relationship is changing, and I don’t have words for it. But it leaves me with wet eyes and quivering lips as well.