There comes a time in a little boy's life when he needs to separate himself from his mom and start looking toward his daddy for clues as to how he (as a man)should relate to the world around him. In a recent seminar that I attended (Topic: Raising Boys to Become Courageous Men), the speaker suggested that moms may be able to handle this stage better if they understand that his desire to separate himself a little from his mom (and the discomfort this stage may bring) begins a young man's long journey toward leaving the nest.
Well, we are ten days away from Drew's 3rd birthday, and let me tell you...my little birdy has decided to test his wings a little this week. It began on Wednesday morning. I woke early and was dressed and ready for the day. I coaxed my son out of bed with a big hug and loving words. He responded with the following, "Mommy...not those shoes. I don't like those shoes." O.K. I didn't really care about the shoes I'd picked either. So, without much thought about it, I let him help me pick out a new pair of shoes, and we were off for the day.
The next night, Drew was frustrated about the soap that had accidentally run into his eyes during shower time. Although almost an hour had past, he had not easily bounced back to his normally good-natured self by bedtime. As we lay there quietly, in that usually-precious time right before sleep comes, he whispered, "I don't like you."
Ouch! That hurt a little more than the comment about my shoes. I took the opportunity to talk to him about what it means to hurt someone's feelings with unkind words. He was thoughtful for a moment, then quickly fell asleep.
The following day, when I arrived to pick Drew up from an afternoon at Grandma's house, I was greeted by a quick smile, then a total turnaround. He screamed, ran into a room, slammed the door shut, threw himself on the floor and began to cry that he didn't want to go home. Sigh... Another conversation about appropriate behavior and the danger of slamming doors followed by a time-out, and we were headed home.
Tonight, we were driving in the car, and Drew was in need of a nap. He tried his "insult" from several nights before again. "Mommy. I don't like you." He said it quietly, as if he understood the power of the words and was wary of the consequences. I reminded him of our conversation about unkind words and hurt feelings. All was quiet for several minutes in the car. Then, "I want to hurt your feelings," he murmured from his carseat. To be honest, I don't know which one of us hated hearing the words more. He almost cringed as he said them, as if he was confused and frustrated by his own feelings of rejection toward his momma.
On my good days, I promise myself that I won't take these times personally; that instead I'll use them as an opportunity to teach my child kindness, respect, and to give him tools to help him deal appropriately with his feelings of resentment, frustration and rebellion. But in the reflective moments, I fast-forward our lives about 15 years and can only imagine what it's going to be like when my baby leaves the nest for good. I can only suppose how difficult it will be for both of us to remain loving, respectful of eachother's needs and still accomplish a healthy separation - a celebratory launching of a responsible young man into this world.
So for now, I'll be brave; I'll diligently use this time to help him grow. I'll pray that my son will grow up to be a courageous man. A strong, Godly man, able to lead his own family someday. And I'll let him test his wings...'cause he's going to need strong ones!