I cannot begin to imagine what contrasts there would be had we not had the years we did with our boys; but I have no doubts that there would have been tremendous differences. They have each come to the day when we waved and drove away from a campus, leaving them to now deal with a greater weight of independence than ever before. Retaining those bonds of attachment was vitally important and required deliberate and conscientious efforts over the years. Once we came to the day we lived long distances from them, it served to provide a reliable sounding board for reaching out, for counsel and connection.
As I review the parenting past and present my husband and I share, there is clearly a strong base of that which we have come from and the examples our parents gave us, along with a goodly dose of our own self-educated searching. Our temperaments compliment one another in fairly consistent balance with ringing in accord more often than not. I am almost finished with the book Hold On To Your Kids and it has been a fantastic light to shine back upon various decisions we have made over the years. This issue of Attachment is HUGE, folks, and is critical to being able to reach our kids and connect over the things that matter. And virtually everything matters on some level, believe me. As I've been reading this book, a few memories have come to mind.
Around the time when D was nine or so, he developed a decided aversion to me. My husband retained his privileged status of "My Main Man" for this son. (Years later, same-said son had remarked upon a list of those gigantic things of childhood, "You know, mountains, bears, Pop, the ocean." Clear hero worship.) So anyway, I had always had a bit of an animated relationship with this one son, but we had descended to new depths for reasons unknown to me. Suffering from the rejection I was feeling, I went complaining to my husband (who always took his side), in a weak hope for some help.
"Just keep on loving him," he said. "Don't make your decisions based upon his ugliness to you right now. He doesn't know he still needs you, but we do."
Man, was that hard to hear - and yet I knew immediately that this was counsel born of Godly wisdom. So, I began my covert operation of swooping in and dispensing random bits of love to my prickly boy. I would tussle his hair as I walked by without a backward glance, give him a quick squeeze from behind and move on before he could react, compliment him with a smile and look away as though I were a simple flash of light. I knew that D was responding with scowls and frowns, but holding to the truth of what my husband had said, I stayed with it. And eventually, not only did it pass, but I must tell you - I had a better son than I'd had before.
Years later a friend surprised me by asking what the secret was to my good relationships with my sons. She had three daughters of similar ages to my boys and things were going quite well on that front; but coming along behind was her son. At the time, he still retained the sweet spirit of a loving little boy; however, as she looked around she saw that often those relationships between Mothers and Sons grew cantankerous and abrasive.
"Just keep on loving them," I answered her with a smile. "Whenever my sons have appeared to struggle with having me around, or act like I'm embarrassing, or in any way communicate to me that I'm not wanted, I make sure I show up. It's a balancing act, and I vacillate between being a bit over the top sometimes or coming alongside them mildly, but I never let them push me away. They may not know that they need you, but you should never forget it."
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:1-4