The Narrative Of Motherhood; Letting Go Whilst Holding On

letting go while holding on to teensI’m living a contradiction as a Mother of teens; I’m letting go whilst holding on!

I know that I’m not getting the balance right because there are times when I’m holding on so tight that my children feel like a life line.

How do I even begin to let go?

Holding On

I’m holding on to the threads that I wove during my years as a Mummy. The long cuddles, the kissed fingers, the laughter and tears that have created a blanket of mothering spun from threads unique to me and my children.

As they enter the teenage years that fabric is worn thin; it’s been wrapped around their shoulders as they tossed and turned with fever, it’s cushioned them from hurtful words in the school yard and comforted them in the dark of a sleepless night.

These last few months have found me patching and repairing it, but the blanket is unravelling.  I’m desperately trying to hold it together, while my children are throwing it off, emerging from my maternal cloak of protection. Independent. Separate. Grown.

And in the silence that surrounds me, a question forms.

When did mothering become smothering?

My approach to mothering is fulfilling my need to nurture, hold and protect, but is it still serving the needs of my children?

Letting Go

My boys are becoming young men and their needs are changing.

This change was the prompt that began my blogging journey 12 months ago.

A year on and this journey has led to a defining moment.

The moment when my narrative of motherhood had to change, adapt and grow.

I need to write a new story.

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor E. Frankl

Time is relentless, and the boys are growing up. I cannot change this.

What I can change is my myself.

Transformation

The ultimate culmination of growing up is the move from dependence to independence; the transition from relying on others to relying on yourself.

As a Mother I also need to make that transition.

I can’t continue to create a sense of self based on my children.

I want to grow with my children, in love, connection and independence.  This means discovering and re-forging my own identity outside of Mum, in much the same way that they need to find their identity outside of being my child.

I need to become independent of my children.

Who am I when I’m not Mum?

I’m really not sure yet, but I know I want to find out.

 

Plunge into Change

Follow my journey to discover an identity independent of Mum by opting-in below.

 

 

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The Junctions Of Motherhood; 15 Moments That Will Change Your Parenting Journey

change doesnt care if youre readyThis week I became the mother of a 15 year old!

Excuse me a minute while I pick myself up off the floor! Did I really just write that? I thought that only happened to other people?!

When Biscuit was a baby I would meet Mum’s who said they had a 15 year old child. Child!? I would think, that’s not a child, it’s a dependent adult!  I would foolishly think –

I’ve come a long way since then (15 years to be precise!)! And I can assure my 28 year old self that I am no less a Mummy just because I’m called Mum and don’t have to wipe anyone else’s bum!

Surprising Significance

Parenting is full of surprises (beginning with the birth), and it’s those unexpected moments that are most deeply imprinted on me. Unexpected tenderness, surprise laughter, fleeting connections with my children in our chaotic schedule. These are the moments that catch me off-guard;  full of raw, unqualified emotion which leaves its mark in memories.

If 15 years of parenting has taught me anything it’s this;

Meaning is found in reflection, and moments of significance gain focus with hindsight.

Children change all the time, reshaping like wet clay, but there are moments when the clay hardens and sets; these changes form the new shape of your future together.

Junctions of Motherhood

Change represents the junction points of motherhood; the moments where your journey together will take a new direction. To plot this journey of change I map backwards; retracing my steps to a certain junction and reflecting on its significance.

Some time ago I missed a junction; the last time I carried my boy in my arms. Like the many actions of parenting I did this without thinking; holding him tight, straining with the weight of him, never realising that this was the last time I would carry him. The change in his size reached a tipping point when pitted again my strength, and suddenly Dad carried him or he had to walk.

It’s a practical progression, but when I reflect on it I see it’s significance; one phase of motherhood has drawn to a close.

Would it have made a difference if I had seen these junctions approaching? Probably, by bringing my awareness to the small moments of everyday parenting, and cherishing their fleeting nature knowing they wouldn’t last.

 So here are my 15 junctions of motherhood.

1. The day toys were off the birthday list

I never thought I’d hear this sentence leave my sons lips, but as Biscuit’s 11th birthday approached he declared ‘I’m too old for toys’! If I had known this one was coming I’d have paid more attention to the last toy I ever bought him!

2. The last kiss in public

If you’re anything like me you’ll love that little hug and kiss goodbye at school each morning. There are warning signs with this one, kissing begins to be scaled back; removed from the classroom goodbyes get briefer and briefer until suddenly its a; ‘See ya later’ over the shoulder as they stroll off with their mates. You can expect this one to start anywhere between 5 and 9 years old.

3. The day an Ikea meatball record was broken 

One of our family traditions is to visit Ikea once a year, spend huge $ on home-improvement fantasies projects, stock up on enough tea-lights to live in a cave for the next ten years going home stuffed with meatballs and chips! There is a certain amount of kudos according to how many meatballs one can consume, and we each have a ranking. This week saw an shock win in this annual tradition, Biscuit stole the title of Champion Meatball Eater from his Dad, eating a massive 23! Look out for this one at around 15 years old (and carry a vomit bag with you)!

4. The day he washed and dried his own clothes

This is one that you need to nurture; since he was 10 years old I have shown Biscuit how to work the washing machine, at first he just packed it then slowly progressed to adding detergent and setting it. But it was still a wonder and a marvel to come home and find that not only had he sorted his school uniform out, he had washed it, dried it and had even thrown a few of my lights in for good measure! You can expect to see this from 10-14 years.

5. The day I relied on him to cook for the family

A bit like the washing machine, I suggest you encourage cooking skills to develop early, and build to independence with small steps. On this occasion it was a stressful night, with Dad home late from work and me dashing off to soccer training with his brother. Someone had to feed the family, and that someone was Biscuit!  Read the soul searching this junction prompted here in Mother’s Contradiction; Nurturing Independence In Teens .

6. The nightmare that didn’t wake me

‘I had a bad dream last night.’ This matter-of-fact statement bellied a significant milestone; my boy had soothed himself back to sleep after a bad dream, and didn’t need reassurance from Mum. Teaching strategies for self-soothing after nightmares are essential foundations to achieve this one, but it happened for us about 10 years old.

7. The day that briefs were outlawed

My boys wore briefs without question until a couple of years ago, when they were outlawed overnight! A reward went out to anyone who gave information about their hiding places, existing briefs were rounded up and mercilessly destroyed. Meanwhile their successors, The Boxer Shorts, colonised the underwear draws until total domination was complete! Expect this one from age 9 -12.

8. The day the tooth-fairy was fired

After furtive glances between Biscuit and I, (keeping up appearances for his little brother’s sake), he placed the tooth under his pillow and said goodnight. Unfortunately, in the morning the tooth was still there! After one too many glasses of wine the Fairy had forgotten she was on duty! She was promptly fired! Teeth are now bought and sold in cash deals without wands or glitter!

9. The day he bankrolled me

Biscuit has an uncanny knack of being the only person in the house with cash! I have a running tally of IOUs to him, which he records in his little back book (luckily he hasn’t thought of applying interest yet!). Look out for an increase in your debts at around age 8!

10. The day I came up to his shoulder

It’s very strange hugging your child when they have to bend down to you! Obviously you should see this one coming, but in-case you’re in severe denial, expect it anywhere between 12 – 14 years.

11. The last time I put him to bed

If you’re anything like me you might not see this one coming! I take satisfaction in a job well done when I put my boys to bed; tucking them in, knowing their snug and safely deposited for the night with a kiss and a whispered ‘I love you’. It’s a bit like my clocking -off card, my job is done for another day and out comes the wine! But at 14 Biscuit decided that he’d see himself to bed! I didn’t like this one little bit, but you can’t stop the tide of independence, and after much protesting, he gets a kiss goodnight and I stay in the lounge. Expect this one anywhere from 12 -14 years.

12. The day his home work became too hard for me

I knew this one was on the cards, math has never been my forte, but now I’m officially redundant from helping with Math homework.

13. The last day he was small enough to carry in my arms

As a parent I’ve been concerned with weight and growth since the day they were born, but it never really dawned on me that my baby would literally get to big to carry!  I remember gently lifting him out of the car, careful not to wake him, and carrying him to bed, his soft face resting on my neck. This milestone comes with a warning; you never know when Your Strength V His Weight will reach the tipping point, but you’ll find your empty arms will ache with longing the day it does.

14. The day he said ‘ Mum’s got PMT, again!’

Grr! Need I say more? The annoying male habit of dismissing a grumble constructive criticism as PMT started at 14 years old! I reminded him that the female of the species is more deadly than the male, and comments like that are likely to prove it!

15. The day he locked the bathroom door

Unless we have visitors in the house, bathroom and bedroom doors remain open and unlocked, conversations continue regardless of whether we’re on the toilet or in the bath! So the first time that the bathroom door was shut (and locked) we all knew that a new chapter had begun. Privacy, a need never previously considered, is now a norm.

Acknowledgements

Quote from www.livelifehappy.com

 

A Mother’s Contradiction: Nurturing Independence in Teens

Teens independenceWhy is it that every step your teenager takes towards independence leaves you feeling that little bit emptier? Often the pride I feel in seeing my child’s milestones is tinged with a sense of loss.

Why does each new phase of growing up feel like a step further away from me?

Teenage Milestones

Last night I witnessed another Teenage First, my 14 year old son Berry cooked us dinner!

He’s cooked before, muffins and brownies, usually under my watchful eye and ‘just for fun’. But last night was different. I was rushed and had to get his brother to soccer training, his Dad was home but working and so cooking was about dividing the labour of family life.

Someone needed to cook, and the only someone available was him!

Coming back after a cold night at soccer the house was warm with the smell of dinner. Berry had cooked his first family meal – Brown Lentil and Chorizo Soup with warm crusty French stick. Delicious.

Full Belly: Empty Heart

It was as I was clearing up that I realised that my pride in his achievements was tinged with a note of sadness, of loss, almost.

Where was this coming from?

Mulling this over as I packed the dish washer, I realised that feeding him had been my job from the first moment I held him in my arms, 14 years ago. And now we’d shifted gear again. He could do it without me.

Like so many other achievements throughout the years, he was growing into wonderful and heart-breaking independence.

They’re changing and growing away from us everyday. And it’s true that this, in itself, is a wonderful thing.

Catherine Naja  The Grief in Growing Up

The Double Edged Sword of Independence

The move towards independence is inevitably a move away from dependence. It’s a spectrum along which all children are travelling, and one in which parents fluctuate between celebration and desperation.

I know that every step my children take towards independence is a good thing. But it’s a contradiction too;  I’m nurturing the very thing that I’m dreading; the day they don’t need me any more!

It’s a battle at times, wanting to hold them tight and make time stand still. A wise friend was able to sum up her feelings as her boy grew to adulthood:

I’m so proud of the young man you’re becoming, but I really miss the little boy that you were.

Anne Gates.

And it’s true.

I really miss that little boy who thought I was his whole world, who would snuggle up on my lap for stories and sleep in my arms.

But I love the young man who wraps me in his arms, who cooks me dinner and asks how my day has been.

That young man is here right now, and that little boy is just a memory.

So I’m cherishing the young man, reflecting on who he was whilst anticipating all that he will become.

A New Chapter

Each stage of growing up is amazing, each new milestone brings different connections, exciting opportunities and new adventures.

Growing to independence signals the close of a chapter.

But like any good story, a new chapter begins, enthralling us in the same way the previous one did.

independence in teens

Would You Take Your 11 Year Old To A Pink Concert?

 

teens first concert

Is Your Teen Ready For This?

It’s a question I hadn’t considered till I saw the recent story of a Mum in the US who has been taken to court for taking her daughter to a Pink concert!

Are we making appropriate choices as Mum’s when we take our kids to rock concerts where the lyrics are explicit and the dancing is highly suggestive? Although in this case the New Jersey Judge ruled in favour of the Mum’s decision, it raises the question of when we feel it’s right to expose our emerging teens to the raunchier side of music.

What do You Remember About Your First Concert?

My first and only concert was in 1989 when I saw REM live on their Uk tour when I was 17. I don’t remember how my Mum felt about me going, but I do know that if she had tried to stop me then it would have been even more exciting to rebel against her!

What I do remember is

  • feeling shocked by the sheer number of people who were crammed in the venue together
  • feeling worried about being separated from my friends
  • feeling nervous about of being crushed and trampled by the crowd

I don’t remember loving the experience, and that is because I was totally unprepared for the magnitude of the event. I had never been exposed during my family life to anything like a rock concert and maybe if I had I would have been more relaxed and able to enjoy it.

How Can You Prepare Your Children For Their 1st Concert?

Maria Mora has some great ideas in her article School of Rock. Her suggestion to chaperone their first few concert experiences is a great idea, and one that may have a pay-off for you too!

As a Mum for many years you’ve been doing everything for your kids, driving them to sports practice, cheering from the sidelines come rain or shine, coordinating sleepovers, birthdays and cinema outings.

But, at last, something exciting is on the list of ‘Things-I-Do-For-My-Kids’…you get to go to a concert!

Who you get to see is really about how convincing you can be, but a word of warning, our kids are very savvy at persuasive arguments (thanks Naplan) so be prepared!

Some pre-concert discussions should include:

  • what to expect in-terms of behaviour from adults attending the concert  (discuss what it looks like when adults let out their inner wild-child)
  • strategies for re-grouping if you get separated (choose a central landmark to meet at if you are separated, identify staff and officials who can assist and put mobile phones on vibrate and keep them in your pocket)
  • what the budget will allow for purchasing merchandise at the concert to avoid disappointment on the night
  • what’s expected in the way of singalongs (get the whole family to learn the songs, if nothing else it will be an embarrassing story for them to recount later in life!)

I’ve got my eye on some Robbie William’s tickets for October…let the education begin!

I’d love to know if your teen has been to their first concert yet.

Do you have anything to add to the list of things we can do to prepare our kids for this experience?

 

 

 

 

Ten Tips to Kick Worry-Brain into Touch!

Blog wordle feel the fearSo I’ve admitted it, I have been a Helicopter Mum and I’m sure that I will be again! But it could be a whole lot worse if I didn’t kick Worry-Brain into touch!

Here’s my top ten tips for calming the mind when embracing your teenagers new-found independence: 

  1. Get some perspective – use Rational-Brain to counter argue with Worry-Brain. Look at the statistics – and remind yourself how important it is for children to get outdoors on their own to learn resilience and problem solving skills.
  2. Create a dialogue – talk to your children about your feelings and explain that you want to work with them to enable them to enjoy their new independence.
  3. Set reasonable limits – work together in consultation to agree an achievable goal that you can both stick to. For example, I set a time that Berry has to contact me to touch base and this reassures me he’s ok and give him the flexibility to change plans.
  4. Welcome friends – encourage your children’s friends into your home, stock the freeze with goodies to encourage them to stay for lunch, facilitate entertainment like using the pool, x-box or games room. This has a triple benefit – you to get to know the friends they’re hanging around with, gain a reputation as a ‘Fun-Mum’ and you get to supervise them at your place so Worry-Brain really can take a break!
  5. Network – link into the parenting community in which your child is circulating. Get one another’s mobile numbers, this helps everyone to feel supported. Send a communal text as the children leave or arrive at your house, then everyone is a linked into their activities whilst refraining from obviously keeping tabs on them!
  6. Plan for risks  – help your child to think through some risk scenarios and discuss how they would handle these situations. Remember to allow them to do most of the thinking – you’re there to prompt, encourage and question!
  7. Build confidence – theirs and yours! Stay positive, focus on the good things that happened  during their time away from you. If you are a nervous wreck every time they leave the house an unhealthy cycle of guilt and dependence is created. The message you are unconsciously sending says ‘I don’t believe you are capable of this’ and plants the seed for future self-doubt.
  8. Lead by example – be a positive role model, believe in yourself and them. Talk about times when you take risks in your life, how you assess the potential dangers and take action. The bestselling classic ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers is a good start to reflecting on what makes you feel fear and how to break through the paralysis this can create.
  9. Celebrate – in the new-found freedom that your children are achieving, congratulate yourself on having taken a step towards parenting an independent teen and enjoy the new ‘me-time’ that you will have while they’re out having fun! Do something positive for yourself and enjoy your own new-found independence!
  10. Re-connect – Spending time engaged in independent activities adds a new dimension to your relationship with your children. Enjoy hearing about their adventures and re-connect with them as developing people in their own right.