This week I celebrate the birth of my firstborn. Ethan is now a 12 year old middle schooler!
As he grows up, I know a challenge for many moms is to stay connected to their tween/teen son. When they are babies, connection comes easily.
When they are toddlers and preschoolers and kindergarteners, boys love their mamas.
The day Ethan was born, I journaled:
The doctor placed you on my chest. You were squirmy and curious and perfect. You looked around for a few seconds as we waited for you to cry. You looked around as if to wonder, “How did I get here???”
So far the hardest part of parenting is not knowing exactly what you need. When you wimper, are you cold? Hungry? Uncomfortable? What do you need us to do? By the time you read this, hopefully we will have figured out how to communicate better!
I am very thankful to be close to my tween son. I believe there are a few pivot points which have brought us closer:
Mutual activities. Do you know why I put on sparring gear on Fridays and wrestle on Saturdays? Do you know why I endure bruises and pulled muscles and soreness? Why will I go into a dojo with no air conditioning to sweat, sweat, and sweat some more? Because I love my son! (Sorry Sensei, I don’t LOVE martial arts) When I wrestle with my son on the mat, we are certainly CONNECTING!
The language of respect. I don’t talk to Ethan like he’s in kindergarten anymore. He doesn’t need a mommy to rescue him all the time, nag him, question him, or baby him. When checking on homework or correcting behavior, I try to use as few words possible, check my tone, and get to the point. Then get out and forget about it (don’t keep pestering him). This is hard as we moms like to repeat things!
Laughing together. We laugh about things everyday…it could be a silly ad that we mock, or something goofy his sisters did. Make it an aim to laugh together because that will keep you close. Don’t make everything serious and like a business transaction or speak in frustration most of the time. This may mean putting more time to be together on the calendar. If you only have 10 minutes a day with your son, chances are you have to talk about homework, taking showers, doing dishes, and other unpleasantries.
Seeking to speak his love language. My son is a words of affirmation guy so we talk a lot and I praise specific things. I tell him everyday that I love him and that I’m proud of person he is. He also likes gifts, so many times I will buy him souvenirs and pins from places we visit. Or I will bring him back something from my travels (like a cool NASA t-shirt from Houston). Find out what your child’s love language from my friend and co-author Gary Chapman and seek to speak it.
And of course, there’s always the main connector of FOOD, lots of food!