It has been so long since I have written about bringing up boys. Whether it is because they have moved on in more ways than one or other events like being a dutiful daughter have over taken me, I am not sure why. Today I have time to try and update. Or else it will feel like the story comes to a dramatic end!
So, to rewind to last summer and dramatic endings! So not so smallish boy despite his bravado and at times elusive behavior has always been over attached to me, his Mum. He could walk into a lounge of empty seats but still feel the need to drape his long legs over me on the sofa, even if these days cuddles for Mum are few and far between.
Not so small boy’s serious first love, a broken heart, a need to push his Mum away and to become a grownup result in not smallish boy barely being home. College has ended and with no structure he runs loose hanging out with folk with not his best intentions at their hearts.
I become that Mum constantly worrying, texting too much and desperately trying to get him to stay at home. My bright sunny boy with a twinkle in his eye becomes surly, mostly hungover or I suspect stoned. It feels as a Mum that suddenly all those hard years of investment of attempting to keep a quirky boy in the right direction have failed. The thing about not so small boy is that when vulnerable and out of his depth he plays for laughs and can be very easily led in any direction. He is on the verge of rolling over the cliff because someone suggests it would be funny to watch. I desperately hope that the core values he has been given and his own moral compass will keep him safe. But I am not so sure.
We reach July a weekend of driving around trying to find not so small boy and a weekend of worry. I make a decision to send him to his fathers for the summer. Not so small boy readily agrees. An inspired moment and when fate plays a good hand. Boy’s father is newly married with lovely caring partner. Not so small boy at an age when he is wanting the opportunity to connect with his father and push his Mum away. A dramatic decision by me becomes a positive solution.
So off he flies to Scotland. I cannot help wondering how much he will connect with his Scottish heritage and culture and feel at home there? I am right, he does. The opportunity to reinvent himself and remove himself from the cliff edge is too good not to lose so he has stayed in Scotland. Meanwhile in all the drama of the year he gets the required number 4 Maths and respectfully passes Electronics.
As the autumn comes I realise that the always present low-level buzz of worry for not so smallish boy has subsided. In the seventeen years of parenting him I have had constant anxiety awaiting the next drama, some of which I have written on here, some too personal to make public. The only respite I ever had was when he went on holiday to his dads. Do I miss him? Yes, Do I wish he came back? Honestly No. I realise that I am worn out with the challenge of parenting quirky boy and have run out of ideas. Quote from me to his Father:
“I have attempted many different ways of parenting quirky boy for many years. I am worn out. If you have a different approach, a different way please try it.”
Change is as a good as a rest, or not so small boy relishes in the change and I have the rest! Autumn and he calls me. This is now a rare event unless he is in need of something, he is after all seventeen years old! Mum, Mum I need to join the army! It has to be done this week in a mad hurry. A new not so small boy obsession or a good life choice? Who knows I take a deep breath and try to explain the need for time, thinking things through? Proudly I keep my personal perspective to myself and try to remain open minded and objective. But I will not sign the pre-eighteen papers. I emphasise the need for time, growing up and making sure this is not the new obsession like a pair of trainers! Goodness me never have I been such an evil Mother. Every inch of me has to hold strong and say No. I reiterate every bit of me wants to say yes to be his friend and nice Mum. Grown up Mother goes for the long run and says No.
I survive. He survives and we still speak. He joins a Uniformed Forces course. I hope for wise grownups who are not Mum or Dad who will offer wise words of wisdom. Many Mums I talk to have faced the terrible seventeens with their children and had to ride the storm. We raise children through these years fingers and toes crossed. So much is luck in how you fall out the other side.
Not so small boy just really wants to fly the nest. How grateful am I that as a single Mother the option of his Father to step up was finally there when he needed it? I am surprised at how emphatic and decisive I have been in terms of making sure he moves for good. I drove to the borders with all his stuff. No blurred boundaries, no yo yoing between homes. I might weep and feel broken hearted but short-term pain for long term gain.
Not so small boy pops down for an autumn break. He hops out to visits good friends and accompanies down to Devon to visit his elderly Gran and attend a funeral with me. You know what? An elderly aunt calls me after to tell me what a polite and kind young man he was! I enjoyed his company away from the internet!
Are you happy boy? Who knows but happier than he was here I think and I know he is safe. I am ever hopeful and meanwhile he is getting fit and focusing on a goal so all good.
So, in the midst of this big boy phones home and returns to talking to his Mum. Suddenly I am wise Mum. I have advice to share and life options to be discussed with. My big boy now has grateful to add to his feelings towards me. It is like he has woken up all grown up and gets the plan! Sometimes I over step the mark with a slightly too naggy text, but generally I am now seen as the good Mum the one to seek advice from. The other really nice thing about Big now grown up boy is he asks about my life now. It is lovely to chat with someone who can share a joke from the past and indeed have a smile at his brother. My big boy has grown into a clever capable young man. But even better than that he has compassion, empathy and kindness.
So, from now on no longer big or small boys at home. No children at home. Next steps are happening for the next chapter in my life. My boys will always be there but this plan has more focus on how to take care of and nurture me for a little while. In between the visits to elderly Mother, dealing with crisis help me Mum phone calls and the like! However, it is time to let my boys fly. They have left the nest so time to step back.
A good friend said to me once that most influential parenting happens pre-eleven years old. Once they hit puberty you have lost them. You can only hope the building blocks of life and living, of values how to treat others and self will hold in place and they come out the other end. I am ever the optimist with my parenting as ever focused on hope for the future. So as I finish off I realise I now have a name for my style of parenting :