Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Preserving The Ties That Bind

I have a dear friend I have begun a new friendship with.  She and I were spending an evening together with our children recently, sharing a meal, good times, and building blocks of getting to know one another.  In discussing our mutual decision to homeschool, she declared with great passion, "I need every moment I can get!"  That sentence explained perfectly what I have always felt regarding the responsibility we have to train up our children before releasing them to the world.

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


  1. Oh, I love, love, love this. As one who struggles daily with the "prickly" one, and suffers the aftermath of our mutual descent into frustrated interactions, I NEEDED this. What does one DO with defensiveness and argumentativeness?

  2. So sweet! They do NEED us. And I do the same with my daughters. Much of the time if we "embarrass" them, it's really more of a reflection of their insecurity and not our actions. We have to show them we are secure in who WE are...and that lets them do the same. :)

    Great post!

  3. I just love this. Thank you for such a great reminder. I have 3 girls, but love endures, doesn't it!

  4. I also highly recommend buying them video games, though nothing obscene of course. Just as a girl might want a basketball, a buy might want Starfox 64. Or something.

  5. There is alot of wisdom poured out here... we have 3 young adult 'kids' and 1 that joined our family at 16 1/2 (now 23).

    The message that I got strongly from God was to LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY! It was very hard with #4 as he was VERY challenging. I remember one day in particular, he was totally frustrated and said to me, "What do I have to do to stop you from caring so much?" LOL I replied to him, "There is nothing you can do... I love you forever and for always. I will be praying for you until the day I die and then I'll be at God's feet talking to him face to face on your behalf."

    He has made choices I don't like, he's said and done things that are wrong by all standards and has had to learn over and over again that he is under not over authority... but, through it all, he has been loved.

    Showing love to the 'unloving' is huge. It is hard and it hurts, but love them anyways...

    Thanks for sharing! I especially think your husband's words are timeless and packed with wisdom.