Independence

One evening last week, as I was driving to drop off D at baseball practice, I asked him if he was comfortable getting out and going to find the
practice field on his own, or if he preferred that I walk with him.  (Usually he carpools with a neighbor or Husband takes him, so I didn’t know the protocol.)

I, of course, was hoping I wouldn’t have to schlep both girls across the park to deliver him to the designated field, but if he wanted me to, I was more than willing.

He assured me that he would be fine, that often his dad will drop him off and then go park the truck and meet him at the field, so he was sure he could find it without me.

After confirming that he was sure, I exclaimed, "You’re just getting so big and independent these days!  What am I going to DO with you!?  Pretty soon you’re not even going to need me anymore!"

I turned to give him a grin so he would know I was teasing, and he gave me an aw’ shucks sort of smile as only a 7-year-old boy can.  Then after a brief pause, he countered, "But I still need you for Rummikub and games and stuff.  I can’t do that independently."

I had to laugh at that, and I responded, "Well, it’s sure nice to know I’m good for some thing!"

Which confirms what I already knew to be true, but I sometimes forget.  He may be growing up, off at school all day and running around with the neighborhood boys any chance he gets.  He may not need me to bathe him or tie his shoes or rock him to sleep. 

But a boy still needs his mama. 

He doesn’t demand my attention to tend to his every need like his little sisters, so it occurred to me that I need to seek out opportunities to engage him and give him attention.  I need to be available to play games with him and read books to him when he finds time to fit me into his busy social calendar.  And I just need to be accessible to him (read: not engrossed in the computer) when he is around, and ready for those times when he is willing to open up and talk to me.  Because times like that are getting all too rare for my liking.  I’ve been told it’s a "boy thing".

This parenting gig, no one ever told me it got harder.  I thought after getting them to sleep through the night and potty training, I was going to get a break until adolescence.  Ha! 

Seriously, though, this transition into the "middle years" is taking some getting used to.  There is a lot to love about it.  I love the new level of communication I can have with him, how he gets my humor and how I can appeal to his sense of reason and empathy.  But it’s hard work to keep those lines of communication open and to know how to engage him sometimes.

I was admiring last weekend how my sister-in-law has such a good relationship with her teenage sons, and I mentioned it to her and asked her how she did it.  Her advice was simple.  "Be involved." 

Not to diminish the importance of faith and prayer in the raising of children, but I thought that was a great piece of practical advice, and I took it to heart.  Be involved.  I really hope it’s that simple.