Goodbye Childhood. Hello Sons

December 2020 – #OntheCoast – Families

For the last 12 years I have contributed to every issue of #OntheCoast – Families magazine. Today as I write this article I have decided it will be my last.  Time has come to hand the baton to someone now still in the game, so to speak. You see, today, my youngest Son just completed his final HSC exam.

School is done.

It’s a super weird feeling. He and I are feeling the same. It is sad and liberating and exciting.  He is 18 years old now and his brother celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday.

Today I am now a mother of adult sons.

Childhood is done.

I can honestly say that was – fast, slow, hard, the best, the worst, a blur, a blast.

I am not the same woman and I feel more fully woman, and at the same time, this week, I feel a renewed sense of me returning.

Another evolutionary loop is complete and I feel the whoosh of new beginnings seducing me forwards.

We are all at full circle.  Back to the beginning…..anew.

My sons are delightful and affectionate and pleasant again, like the gorgeous little ‘cuddly jubbly’ cute loving little beautiful boys that they used to be.  They are friends with each other again, like they were as little brothers, at the beginning of their life journey.

For quite a few middle years, however – perhaps a full decade to be honest! – they argued and fought, biffed and bullied each other. They stretched the invisible umbilical cord as is normal and right and made their fair share of mistakes and poor decisions. School, sport, work, friendships and girlfriends – we had the usual dramas. That’s life & love!

But along the way they also found great friends, found their strengths, found jobs, found their way and found themselves.  And, found their way back home, returning back into relationship as close brothers who are secure in their emerging manhood; returning back into easy loving, respectful and friendly relationship with their mum (me) and dad; and they have even become responsible contributors to the household too.

They are stepping up into an unknown future as good men with something to offer the world.

And hubby and I are like teenagers again.

My husband and I are very proud and just a bit shocked too.  How did we do that?

Honestly, some of it was sheer hard work and staying the course with love, hope and constancy, and some of it was….well how should I say it?…..some of it was a mix of luck and ‘trustful neglect’….meaning, sometimes we did nothing, or we missed things, we couldn’t do it all, we messed up and did it wrong too and we just had to trust it would be ok.

“Trustful neglect” meant that we had a pretty strong safety net of goodness and love and reliability so that we could brave into the times when we completely ran out of capacity, with our backs to the wall, white knuckling into the unknown. We just had to toss up all the balls into the air (into the hurricane) and trust they’d land OK and we’d all survive and we’d all be able to roll with it again after the wash up.

If I was to gift you something a bit more tangible for my last parenting article, let me share with you my Top 10 reflections on what I thought we did do right:

  1. When kids know they are safe, they will not only survive, but thrive. Physical and emotional safety is THE foundation for full healthy development. Of course we love our children, but this love must be experienced safely as affection, kind words, gentleness, kindness, security, loving firmness, good boundaries and forgiveness.
  2. Read and sing and talk to and laugh with your kids from day 1 and never stop. Surround them with a variety of books, music, fun and ideas. It is the building blocks for their creativity, vocabulary, empathy and critical thinking.
  3. Honour their emotional experience and love them through all their emotions. They will face the same big things in life as we do as adults – loss, sadness, fear, rejection, hurt, depression, confusion…the full spectrum of life and love – just with less words and experience. Sensations, feelings and emotions are our first language. They are real.
  4. The basics are the essentials – good food, proper sleep, daily exercise, fresh air, clean water, nature & sunshine and love. Best when taken every day.
  5. Model and teach healthy relationship skills – how to be respectful, recognise boundaries, give and receive, have empathy and compassion, how to appreciate and give friendship and love.
  6. Model and teach healthy conflict skills – how to acknowledge a wrong, how to take responsibility and accountability, how to attend to and care for another’s feelings (which is above proving right and wrong), and know how to say sorry and forgive.
  7. Give them responsibilities early if they want them. Trust they will rise into the outstretched open space and support them to build the capacity to take it on – be that riding their bike to school, walking home alone or getting a job etc. Own your own fear and don’t pass it onto to them by clipping their wings.
  8. Encourage them to participate in sports, reach out into a variety of friendships, get a job, look after their own money and learn to drive. Our job is to help them become adults.
  9. As they get older, share with them your feelings and experiences as appropriate. Allow them to see you not just as parents, but as fellow humans navigating the world and still facing challenges and changes. Talk to them about life, current affairs, politics and the world.
  10. Celebrate them. Praise them. Tell them you love them. I even tell them “I quite like them too!” Tell them you are proud of them. Acknowledge and affirm when they are doing things well.

Thanks dear readers.  Go well on your parenting journey. Trust life. Trust love.

But I won’t be far away.  I’m transitioning to a new column focusing on relationships, marriage and love.  Feel free to send in any questions, problems or relationship dilemmas and I will answer them all.  Much love, Sarah