She’s Got Six Boyfriends.

There was a disco at Bella’s preschool tonight. She’s been super excited for days. She picked out what outfit she wanted to wear and as I helped her get dressed, she said, “I’m gonna see my boyfriend there.”

I’m calm, cool and collected.  “Oh really? Who?”

Bella fluffs up her skirt and answers, “Brayden. He’s my number one boyfriend.”

The Hot Man is not so calm, cool and collected. “What?! You have more than one boyfriend?!”

You can tell Bella thinks that’s a dumb question. Hands on her hips. “Yes Dada, I have six boyfriends at school.”

Bella is a bad-ass.

I laughed. But I also wanted to cry. Because I miss that. I long for that. The honesty, opennes and directness of a four year old. Because Big Son is seventeen and secretive. Furtive. Holding information close and his emotions even closer. There was a time when Big Son was Little Son. When he confided everything in me. Asked for my advice on everything from homework to hairstyles. From pimples to presents for the girl he had a crush on. There was a time when his hurts were mine. His worries kept me awake at night. His fears were mine to overcome. His joys were beribboned packages that we opened together. Big Son taught me how to love. How to place another’s happiness above my own.

Now? Now Big Son puts up walls. Throws up smoke screens. Chucks angry rocks. At times it seems there is an ocean of distance between us, between me and this child who was the first to hear my heart from the inside. Yes,  I know our children must grow up and away from us. I know they must have privacy, independence, secrets and autonomy. Fall in love. Do stupid things. Make weird choices.

But it still hurts. And I miss him.  And it’s hard. To try and forge a new relationship.With the adult, the young man that he is becoming. To make sense of the confused mess that we’re in right now. To assert new boundaries and redraw the lines of our relationship.

What do I want? What do I hope for? Long for?

I want for him to confide in me.  I want us to negotiate a space where we can laugh, cry and contemplate the mysteries of the universe. (Diet Coke and Doritos optional.) I want to be the mother that he can talk to about anything and everything.

Even if its to tell me that he has six girlfriends. (Or boyfriends.)

Do you think that’s possible? For those of you out there with teenagers and adult children, please tell me how you do it? How do you let go but still keep them close?

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10 comments

  1. I'm with you… My son turned 21 a month ago, and I can't believe he was the little one I held contained in my arms just a moment ago, in my memory! Yet there is joy because he's growing, taking those steps to become his own man, and I want that the most for him…to spread his wIngs and fly. He's a good son, and I'm sure when he sees he can do it, he will only become a better man. And this frees me, too! So smile, Mama…you've done a tremendous job! They will always come to you when they need you, because you've taught them you are there. And bonus…you've still got a chick or two to nurture more before they spread their wings and fly. The heart of a mother… It's a deep thing! It's bottomless!

  2. Lani, plant the seeds and you will be ok. I have a nearly 29 year old, a nearly 21 year old and a 17 year old. Let go with love. How? Communicate clearly your expectations as you have on your blog, not once but over a period of time. When they turn 'musu' step away. Let them be, (my reaction? I usually would lie down to buffer their fall) and then help them up and keep on telling them via actions and words that you are there for them. You may not like their behaviour but you still love them. I am confident that you have planted the seeds in all your big and little ones (smile), be assured that the most exotic flowers bloom in the most arid conditions. Those seeds when planted and then nurtured with love and care will find their way up and then bloom. The one ingredient I depended most on was PRAYERS and PRAYING consistently, so keep on planting and PUSHING (pray until something happens) Lani. You will be fine. Alofa tele, Breda

  3. Beautiful post Lani, made me pause to think and to appreciate… because my eldest is in that very phase you are reminiscing about now – where he tells me what he's thinking before considering whether he wants me to know or not. It's hard to imagine it won't always be like this!

  4. Im back from a trip to Samoa and reading through all your very wise and thoughtful replies – thank you. For reassuring me. Reminding me that yeah, we're all learning on this journey of parenthood…making mistakes…trying harder…hoping to get it right…praying for it to work. Thank you all for keeping me company on this often crazy mother journey.

  5. With 4 still in their younger years (11, 9, 6, 3), I can honestly say that you have just put into words one of my biggest parenting fears. I remember being a teenager. Not telling my mother anything. Heck, not really even caring about her as a person. *cringe* The things I did and said that she didn't know about, but which would have disappointed, ashamed, and mortified her.I am terrified of the many years I know are ahead of me where my relationship with my kidlets morphs and unfolds many times. I know it's going to be long, hard, and I'm going to cry in the shower a lot.But as a much wiser woman (who endured tennager-hood 7 times and lived to tell) told me, "They need to become self-absorbed (to a certain degree). They need to be only concerned with themselves (mostly). They are finding out who they are, and they can't do that if they're too worried about what you are thinking/needing/caring."I'm going to have to trust that. And I'm sure you and your Fab Five are going to weather this storm just fine.

  6. Lani, I know I’m late to this post and to your blog in general, but my son is just 13 and already his mind is starting to cloud where he can’t remember one instruction from the next. He too, is becoming “his own person” and I’m beginning to mourn for the relationship we once had. My parents had 12 children and I have only one. One beautiful boy. I think growing up in a large family had it’s many advantages one being… anonymity. We learned how to work well with each other and speak up for ourselves but also how to hide what was truly inside. With my small family now, it’s all about communication. But this stage of secrets and walls and even smokey clouds, I just wasn’t prepared for. I try having lots of open dialogue and sometimes it feels as if I’m talking to myself or my own hand (haha), but it’s a very difficult thing for me to do… Let go and be ok. His love is there. I see it everyday. His words are so few unlike him in his young years. His eyes tell me there’s so much on his mind but his lips say nothing. I love this post and appreciate all the feedback you’ve received. Definitely lets me know it’ll be ok and that I’m not alone. Thank you very much.

    Lehua

    1. That’s an interesting observation on growing up in a big family as opposed to a smaller one – and very true I think. Im one of six children and we weren’t raised to be as big on ‘communication’ as Ive tried to be with my own children. Thinking back, Im sure I had that stage where I was very much wrapped in MY feelings and MY own world and also feeling like ‘nobody understands me’ , except I didn’t have an open dialogue with my parents anyway so it wasn’t noticeable that I ‘shut myself off’ from off. Big Son is my first child and in many ways, he’s the child I opened myself and my hear to the most simply because he was my first experience of literally sharing my mind space and physical space with another human being, mother-child. It does hurt when they start to pull away and close themselves off, but everyone Ive talked to says, that’s ‘normal’ and that’s part of them growin up and becoming their own person. Its been a while since I wrote this post and me and him have negotiated ourselves a new space, a new way to dialogue. We’re not mother-son as much as we are – two adults (sometimes anyway! other times hes still very much a kid…LOL) I have a new respect for him which is based on the different/new person he is growin up to be. I still miss my ‘baby’; tho!

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