My son turned ten last year. Ten is considered a milestone of youth. Truth be told, with each year, and each milestone, I look forward to my son having more independence from me. With each birthday, I seem to hit a new limit. One year I drew the line, no more butt-wiping! I gave him a one month or so warning before his birthday, and that birthday came and I was never going to wipe another person’s butt again for the rest of my life unless absolutely necessary. A few years after that, I was absolutely not going to tie the shoe of another person for the rest of my life unless absolutely necessary. I would sit and wait ten minutes for shoes to be tied, no matter where we were, even if that made us late.
I remember when I was nursing my son we had a very natural rhythm, but there came a point when I just couldn’t get up in the middle of the night to nurse anymore. At that point I said, “I’m sorry, no more night time nursing, but you can nurse during the day.” And my son adjusted. Weaning from nursing was a pretty natural process, and I noticed that the dance of that rhythm had a perfect balance between my son’s desire to move into the world and gain independence and my need to have my body back. Now and then after my son was fully weaned from nursing, I missed the closeness of nursing, and when he was sick at about three years old, he used to ask me to go to the refrigerator and put milk in my breasts so he could nurse. At those times snuggling was just as comforting.
My son is now entering another rite of passage going into middle school. We are at another juncture, yet again, where I am as eager for him to gain independence as he is to have more independence, AKA freedom, in his mind. However, there are moments when we both still want to fall back into the comfort of him being a young child who is at his mommy’s heels. I find as my son grows older, my expectations of him grow and yet his behavior doesn’t always necessarily meet those expectations naturally, like with household chores or remembering his lunch without nagging reminders.
A routine that has been shifting recently is bedtime. We’ve had a bedtime ritual for years, which has long been full of stories, snuggles and talks, and hopes and dreams. This talking often turns into a long drawn-out bonding time and time for connection. When I think about the busy days that we live: school projects, homework, cooking, getting ready for bed, and getting ready for the next day, I know it is important to take those moments to be still together. I have talked to many parents who feel the way I do, though, by 9 pm the party is over! I acknowledge I need a few hours awake each day to myself. I got to a point where I said to my son, “Okay, the bedtime routine is going to last 15 minutes, and then you need to go to bed and I need to go do what I need to do.” After trying this a few nights, my son adjusted. One night though, much to my surprise my son says to me, “No, you can go now,” before any talking or bedtime hug. And I was like, “Wait, don’t you want me to stay a little while?” He said, “No, I’m growing older now. I want to go to sleep by myself sometimes.” I dragged myself up and let him have his space, which he was ready for. A few nights later after getting used to my new found after 9 pm freedom, he seemed to change his mind. “No mama, please, please stay a little, give me a hug and let’s talk a little.” And so I stay. Weaning is never linear. As much as I need my space, I love knowing my boy still loves to cozy up to his mama and talk about his thoughts and ideas.
Every family has their own rituals, their own rhythms. Knowing that there really is no right or wrong way for these stages of development to unfold is important. I learned that my son’s growing independence will not be hindered by his need for me to still tuck him in and snuggle him up at bedtime, nor will it be hurried or hindered by my own process.
What I’ve come to realize is that the place where you feel a bit of a struggle to get to that next stage of development, that’s okay. In that struggle nothing’s wrong. These are just growing pains for both parent and child. Sometimes they’re ready and we’re not. Sometimes we’re ready and they’re not. I think we just keep nudging each other along until it’s all just right, for a little while at least… until the next milestone.
P.S. I wrote this article after bedtime☺ I also made sure I had my son’s permission to share our story.
Photo: Andrea with her son Luca