I thought I was doing well. My boys are 9 and 12 and as I have written about before, they have started the natural, normal, organic process of pulling away from me as boys are wont to do.
Some study I read stated that boys actually start to find the smell of their mother – even unconsciously – a deterrent when they reach about the age of 10. My older son, when he reached 10 or so, replied when I told him of this study: “Yes. That’s totally it.” He was serious.
And I thought I was doing well. I was not nagging them or reminding them how much I loved them and asking them to show me love the way they always had. I mean, sure; sometimes I joke, “I nursed you for a combined 6 1/2 years; can I get a break here?!” But I think that’s fine, right?
It occurred to me it might not be right. And that I might not be doing well.
You see, it turns out I am a human. I know that sounds strange to say, but I think I may have a little bit started to think I was superhuman: super in tune with my kids, super educated about the brain and development, super cool with them growing up and individuating. You know: you give them wings, you have to celebrate them when they fly. Right?
But then one day, I wanted to kiss my Little Man. Like, I was feeling it. He wasn’t. And he didn’t say anything, but he definitely pulled away. He didn’t want it. I also found myself asking my boys more than once if they wanted a snack. After they had already politely said no. I asked again. Why did I do that?
And I realized with an audible gasp that there are times – there have been times in the past few years – that I have not realized that they needed more space. And I have done the things we do when we want more than the other person: I was smothering them.
I tend to hate words that pit us against women. I don’t like “bitch” and I for sure don’t like “psycho bitch”. I don’t like when men tell women to “calm down” or stop being “hysterical.” And I for sure don’t like when we accuse women of being smothering or naggy or clingy. But you know what?
I was smothering. And the reason I know I was smothering is because I was filling in feelings with words and actions because I wanted something they weren’t wanting. I wanted to engage; so I engaged. Even if they didn’t want to engage, I had to use words to fill that empty space.
What would it be like to let that quiet just be? To not insist that I have other snacks available that might make a non-hungry person all of a sudden hungry? That quiet is uncomfortable.
And I am so used to filling those spaces with physical contact: a hug, a kiss, a cuddle.
There are new rules. They are setting them. And I am learning them.
And I am setting them too. For myself. No more smothering. Let the silence be. Let them be.
And hope and pray that after the silence, there will be sound again.