The other day, I had a mini (read kinda big) panic attack. Panic attack sufferers don’t hate on me. I know it wasn’t what you endure, and I’m not making light of those situations, but for me it was a panic attack.
Merdouille de merdouillette! My son is going to be twenty-five . . . in thirteen years, but it is going to happen! This year he hits the teen years—as he reminds me weekly—and my overactive brain is picturing graduation day at university, moving into his own loft, hitchhiking across Mongolia, and other equally exciting escapades. And this isn’t just me being dramatic. Those days will come. Except I hope he uses a camel or horse to crisscross Mongolia, because I’ve done some research and the vehicles there aren’t very reliable.
The rational side of my brain (it’s there!) knows that seeing him grow and venture out is what being a parent entails, and that our role is to provide him the tools to develop his strength of character, initiative, and sense of adventure. If we've done that properly then we won’t need to concern ourselves with his decisions, because they’ll be somewhat thought out. Maybe not during the teen years when I’ve been told the brain goes on hiatus, but after that.
I want my son to experience so much—a great childhood with a balance of family, travel, friends, schooling, and sports. An exciting adolescence without too much drama. A rich adult life peppered with much-loved traditions, love, and adventure. It’s a grand dream and one that every parent has.
What is the master plan to help him become that man?
- Love him fiercely. This requires no effort—even when he drives me crazy—because, well, he’s twelve and it’s what they’re good at. My love for my son is so fierce that I’ve transformed into a dragon in my need to protect him. Sometimes I restrain myself from rushing in when I know he should speak for himself.
- Listen to him. I’m working on it. He needs to know his parents hear him and honour his individuality. No subject is off-limits. Even if he thinks it’s icky.
- Talk to him. My husband and I have each other’s permission to rein the other in when talking begins to sound like lecturing. He’ll tune us out and never hear what we need him to.
- Ask his opinions and then let him know our hopes for him. How he feels about teenage stuff and how he views the world should be a part of big decisions, but our expectations for his choices need to be clear. These will be his guideposts when the issues become cloudy with emotion.
- No parenting by consensus. We are the responsible adults. As much as his opinions matter, we are tasked with raising a healthy, contributing human being and sometimes, you know what, parents know best and kids need to live with it.
- Never be his buddy, but always be his staunchest supporter. My son has friends with whom he plays video games, builds bike ramps, plays road hockey, and has burping competitions. I do not do those things. Well, some of them, but only in the privacy of our own home. He doesn’t need more buds. He needs rocks he can cling to when life gets tumultuous. People who will never waver.
- Consistently enforce consequences. 1+1=2. Period. Always. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It’s math. It’s physics. It’s how the world works. No allowing our kid to become an entitled prat.
- Nudge him out of his comfort zone. We all need someone who pushes us when we’re afraid to push ourselves. Not all children like change or the unknown, but sometimes those very things are what will allow them to develop in the most positive way.
- Give him more hugs than he expects. No child is ever too old for hugs. An unreserved physical expression of unconditional love is an emotional balm.
I could be missing something, but I hope this puts us on the right track. In the meantime, allow me to hyperventilate, eat a few squares of chocolate, and pour myself a lovely glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. This one’s from Spain.
I can’t be the only one who has these moments of madness. Can I?