Over the past couple of weeks I have been more mindful of the people in my life. I make sure my boys in college have their needs taken care of. I make sure that my husband and I spend quality time together. It has been hard, because for months I have been working more than ever. My work time is now including weekends and evenings. With all of my attention on work I forgot about someone near and dear to me, my youngest son.
He is a teen boy busy with friends and activities and is not home all that much. His life no longer revolves around me and I was OK with that. I was the one who was sad as I saw him grow and be with his friends more. It was natural and I was happy for him despite my feeling sad. But just because he isn’t home much, does not give me permission to not be engaged with him when he is home. I always said in the back of my head that he is busy doing his own thing and he is just fine, but I was wrong.
This realization hit me like a ton of bricks when I was taking one of those Facebook quizzes that has you to ask your children a list of questions. Well I asked the questions and I didn’t like the answers my son gave me. He stopped me mid quiz and said that he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings but he considers me either too in his business or absent. No middle ground. I knew exactly what he meant. When we were together, I really tried to squeeze every moment out of it. Obviously I squeezed too tight.
So what is a parent to do? First I was mad. I was thinking that I have been primarily a stay at home mom for years, but now as my children are growing and having large college expenses I needed to work more. His two older brothers are now in college. My husband is in a new job and he works long hours as he navigates his place at work. And I have increased up my own work by about 300%. Our family dynamic has shifted.
Then I was thinking how unfair his criticism was of me. He did not hold his dad up to the same standard. My husband can leave for a business trip and it isn’t noticed for days. But I am the mom and I was the primary caregiver when he was little. So I understand why he treats my husband and I differently. I can not be upset with the his feelings, but rather I needed to empathize.
But then sadness took over soon to be followed by a need to fix the situation. He is still home for another year I can reestablish the connection. But action needs to happen in order to make it happen.
First up was creating a family meal time where we all gathered. Studies show that a family that eats together is closer. I can’t have all seven days of the week, but I can have one. We chose our night and we decided to make it a meal that we go out to eat. We try to wait and have dinner with him every night. But when 6:30 rolls around and he isn’t home yet we do eat. But on Wednesday’s we wait. I hold those family meals as sacred. If I am traveling I make sure that I am home by Wednesday nights.
The next thing I did was I started greeting him again when he walked through the door. I pride myself in always being home when he walks in the door. But I stopped greeting him. I was focused on the work I was doing. So now, even if I was in the middle of a project I took the time to stop what I was doing and come in the room he was in. I made sure that he felt my presence.
The other thing I started doing was reaching out via text. Usually when he texts me he asks me two things….what’s for dinner….and…can I have some money? I want him to start texting me and asking how I am doing. But it needs to start with me. I need to set the example. This goes back to my earlier post of asking the question “how are you?”
Since we have implemented the Wednesday night dinner I have seen a change in my son. He is opening up more on what he is struggling with. I am loving that he again feels comfortable enough to tell me what his frustrations are. I needed to simply open the door and keep it open, no matter what. And if I ask the questions, I need to be prepared for the answers, not matter what. So this week, open the door and ask the questions, no matter what.
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!