I messed up. I let my middle child fall through the cracks. We’d been having serious issues lately, and I was worried.
After a particularly rough day, when I was at my wit’s end and considering a child and family therapist, I just straight up asked him: “What am I doing wrong? What do you need from me?” I don’t know what I was hoping he would say, but I kind of expected a response geared towards a lack of TV time/candy/toys. You know, typical rules and regulations that a six-year-old boy is less than thrilled about on the daily. But, his actual response? While fiddling with his teddy, he said, “you never listen to me because you’re so busy.” Whoa. Talk about your heart sinking “aha moments”. He was right.
I got remarried, we blended our families, and had a baby, and got new jobs, and our dog died – and I thought: “he’s fine”. His dad got married – he’s the only child at their house – and at ours, he shares the spotlight with two siblings. He has different sets of rules at these two very different homes which he bounces back and forth between – I thought “kids are flexible”. I kept seeing him as this young, resilient, adaptable kid who could just take life at face value and keep on truckin’. I sometimes saw him as an energy suck and a drain. I saw him as frustrating and exhausting. I was using all my energy allotted to him as my child, in a negative way – and it was leaving no room for me to shower him with positive energy.
But I messed up. He’s almost 7, and he is his own real PERSON. He has wants and needs and thoughts and opinions and feelings and questions! Just like me! He’s not just a little baby anymore, happy to simply be around. I’m not sure when it changed – when he became HIM, but I missed it. I now have a relationship with another actual human, not just my son. A person whose feelings and thoughts I need to acknowledge and respect. I need to listen to him and invest actual time and attention in him, not just half listen with a mumbled “uh huh” while trying to prepare dinner or finish a spreadsheet. I woke up and realized I need to actually talk to him, and listen to the answers.
So, I am trying. I am doing more, doing better, paying attention. I am adjusting my parenting style with him and trying new things. We aren’t born knowing how to be moms, we aren’t full of all the knowledge in the world from day one. And sometimes we really mess it all up. But the good news is, we can change course at any time. We can decide that maybe we don’t have it all figured out and sometimes our kids are right – sometimes they see the most basic version of the truth we’ve been too busy to even notice.