Photo Credit: Quotesgram
When we were first becoming serious, my husband Dave answered his aunt’s question about a girlfriend and that’s how his mom found out we were dating. He would have told her, but she didn’t ask…not because she wasn’t interested…but maybe because that is the pattern we develop as moms of adult sons…
This past weekend I had the great joy of being with a large gathering of extended family. My place in that gathering was the aunt who has lived far away all their lives (at least, the young adults, for sure). I am only in town a few days, and maybe, we get one visit. It’s Q & A with Aunt Debbie – catching up, fairly non-threatening (I’m hoping), and it’s only for a few minutes with each one…so minimal and limited discomfort.
As I checked in with each of these young adult nephews, their moms were in the background in conversations of their own. When the question I asked (usually related to work/future) drew a response of new information to their moms, a maternal radar flipped on, and in the middle of their own conversations, these precious moms zeroed in on their sons. “What? When did you decide that?” When this happened with more than one nephew, it led to a sort of fascinating “aha!” moment – “No, it’s not just your mom who does that. All us moms do that sort of thing. We are just interested in our sons’ lives.”
Days later, this dance between moms and our adult sons has stayed on my mind. I’m still figuring out the steps myself, but thanks to other moms wiser and more experienced, I have grown in this area. So…if I had your sweet face in front of me right now, cherished sons and devoted moms, this is what I would say to you:
Young men…you are a marvel. Especially to your moms.* We believe we know you better than you know yourself. Forgive us for that… it comes from loving you across every day of your life…including the days you weren’t even easy to like. The closeness we have felt to you over the years isn’t an easy thing to let go. Somehow we missed the cues as you grew up that you were actually learning what we taught you – to manage your life, to make strong relationships, to become independent, to go after your dreams. We spoke into those things as you grew…and now you’re grown. Forgive us when we nudge our way into your life…we don’t really want to control as much as we want to be a part. You’re doing fine…and even when you’re not, we know from our own experience, that helping you too much isn’t helping. You know that yourself, in your heart. It may be why you hold us at arm’s length…when we press in.
Just be gentle with us…your moms. We don’t really mean to be intrusive. We’re just trying to figure out the balance ourselves. What’s too much? What’s not enough? It keeps us up at night sometimes. Can you believe that? Yes…you probably can. Anyway, we will try not to ask so many questions, and we’ll try not to give unasked advice…but you know we’re going to fail at that. So call occasionally before we have to hunt you down… Be your familiar self at home with us sometimes (we miss that old normal). Share your successes with us, so our hopes can crowd out our fears. Your mama loves you…she just misses you sometimes…even if you’re still living at home. This next stage of your life…this newly grown-up stage is both exhilarating and strange for her…She will figure out her place in it…as you give her grace to do so. Stepping on toes is part of the learning, so thanks for your gentleness and your strong arm of support.Photo Credit: Good News Network
Moms of adult sons…I’m one of you. Doesn’t it feel like it’s always our fault…about something or other? Well, for a few minutes, let’s leave off blaming…ourselves, our sons, or anyone else in the equation. Right now, I wish we were having coffee around the same table and talking together about what we’ve discovered of this new life – this new relationship between our grown-up sons and us.Photo Credit: Saga
Here’s what I’m learning and what has been helpful counsel from others:
- Give space and keep space. I don’t understand it, but it does seem like our sons need a bit of breathing room. There is so much change in their own lives, they need to process it themselves. If they choose not to do that with us, we must give them the space to do it with someone else (best friend, Dad, girlfriend/wife). Don’t pull away when that happens (which might be our temptation). Keep space in our lives for these sons of ours. Whether through a card, a text/quick phone call, an occasional invitation for dinner. If you’re like me, you long for those regular family dinners like we see on the TV show Blue Bloods…but a quick burger out can also be a joyful experience…if we let it be.Photo Credit: Huffington Post
- Helping and enabling may look similar but are not. I will be brief here because there is tons online about this. Related to our adult sons, we can help them (as they can, us) without it being a toxic or enabling situation. Do we treat our sons more like neighbors and friends or more like those little boys they once were? We have to examine our own hearts on this one. When it comes to our adult sons, do we love them in ways that free them to love others? Do we invest in them such that they actually are able to get farther down the road in life or the investment tightens their dependence on us? Puzzle this out as I do the same.
- Communicate in our adult sons’ heart language. This came as a shock to me as our sons grew up, because I thought we communicated fairly well through the years. Unfortunately, I discovered that while they were in our home, it was Mom who too often set the tone and topic of our conversations. Now I am learning (still a beginner here) to follow our sons’ leads on conversations… I may still choose a topic but I don’t push it to its limit with them, as once was the case. Hopefully, this makes sense, and hopefully they have seen me grow in this area. How about you, Moms? Would love to hear (in comments) what your experience is in this language/conversation arena.
- Keep our sense of humor. As these sons of ours are growing up, we are growing older. They are not us…their choices and life aspirations may surprise us, but they are still works in progress. Our lives are, as well. We have not arrived. When our values or decisions clash, moms tend to either get mad or hurt…neither bode well in our relationships with our sons. We must learn how to take our emotions by the neck and wrestle them to the floor… proactively. Some song lyrics come to mind as I think about this – also these lyrics reflect the advice received from wise moms in my life. “Get over it“, “Let it go“, and tell yourself, “I will survive” and “Tell your heart to beat again.” [Sidebar: I don’t even like the song “Let It Go” from the Disney film Frozen, but it’s advice that I’ve frequently received from mom friends].
So…that’s all I have today. Anything you’re willing to add to the conversation? It’s still somewhat of a forest for me…picking my way through…with you.
And, you sons of ours- we love you. Not as well, maybe, as we had hoped…but if we all keep at it, we may find even our relationships will get sweeter as life goes on. I’m hoping, anyway. Believing.
Photo Credit: Quotesgram
*This open letter may only speak to some, so if this is not helpful or doesn’t address your situation, I don’t mean to offend or presume. Parenting and being parented can be immensely satisfying and, at the same time, greatly complicated. If I can encourage, that is my goal…having the answers has to come from someone wiser than me.
Photo Credit: Amazon.com