Being a parent of little boys and raising men are not the same thing. As a mom this shift and dynamic is hard to wrestle with as your children grow up and begin navigating the world. Add on the role of a single mother which for some can be the extreme challenge of not having their father at all in the boy's life, or being in their life, but countering their growth because of his own immaturity and ego. These mothers are pulling their boys against the tide to find peace and grow into healthy men while the world and others are dragging them back into the water to drown. Every mother has had a different journey in this, mine has made me into the mother I am today and at times gives me an arsenal to tackle the world alone and other times feels like a gut punch.
This past weekend my children and I began a new tradition of our own gratitude and family dinner the weekend before traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. With all I understand about oppression and racism in the history of this nation, I no longer acknowledge this as a holiday. That's a conversation for another day. However this dinner with my children was an important first that has taken decades of complex dynamics to get to.
This week it was about a simple dinner with some requested side dishes from each child where we stopped to share the things we are grateful for, coupled the deep moments ragging on each other for our idiosyncrasies and prepared a meal together with love. This simple Saturday night filled so many holes in my once broken heart as a Mama. One year ago I spent this entire week with just me and my five year old daughter isolating ourselves in order to avoid the pain of what being a mother had begun to be for me. My boys and I have come through a lot to be standing where we are today.
For sixteen years I was a “Boy mom”. There are five years between my oldest and youngest son. Honestly raising them felt in many ways like a blur of something I just made it through, but I can’t quite articulate how I did it. The one thing I always knew was how my boys looked at me as their Mama. Boys and their moms have a different type of connection that fills you with abundance when it’s good and can feel like a knife in your heart when it is not.
When I was a boy mom, it felt like they always saw me in the best light. I was the nurturer and the safe place for their problems and hurts. My youngest would snuggle up so close to me that it felt at times he was trying to find his way back to my womb. Each one of them had a special and unique bond with me. Then there was a shift and they were no longer my babies, but they became grown men. Grown men who have their own beliefs about who I was and who they wanted to be.
From 2018 to the start of 2022, that shifted to a very different dynamic. One where every conversation felt like we were potentially ready to battle. I had lost to an opponent that had such a vice grip on their souls and minds that I could not win, and the truth is I was not in a healthy enough mindset to have been able to battle that depth of manipulation. So after too many triggering moments and arguments I took a path not easily taken by parents who love their children, I let go and allowed them to find what they needed through their own experiences. It wasn’t easy and we spent the end of last year to the start of this year in a constant state of distrust with each other.
I questioned myself often in this decision and worried that I was not a “good and supportive” mother. It didn’t help that the messages my own mother and family gave me was that I was sending my children into the world without a net and they would fall. I would regret my decision. But the truth is, I stayed strong in my resolve of knowing and having faith that my relationship with my children was stronger than others viewed. As much as it pained me, I believed this was for the best and that it was not for me to control the lives of these grownish men. They had to discover who they were and wanted to be on their own.
The journey took some twists and turns, stints in bootcamp, living with their father, starting and stopping school and I watched from afar without interfering as they navigated life to find their path and footing. Knowing that when they needed me and reached out I would be there because regardless of life situations and dynamics these were my babies. Still I chose my peace over the chaos the entanglement that other adults influences held on to their mental and emotional states.
Then the grip loosened without my interference and slowly my boys came back to me with love and apologies not defense and anger. I also took ownership and recognized times where I had made mistakes and missed opportunities to be there for them. My home was the only place all four children came together in one space. The healing and mending started over quick weekend meals together, because even if they wouldn’t speak to me, they would feel comfort in my familiar dishes and being fed. Slowly we spent more time each weekend talking, reflecting and listening better to the needs of one another.
Gradually that built up to spending time as a family unit at other family events. All the while safely retreating back into our own lives we had begun to nurture. We were like acquaintances that could handle the presence of one another for short stints of time. The walls were still up and conversations remained on the surface. The loss of trust and safety with someone requires time and many opportunities to repair. But I stayed patient, consistent and maintained my boundaries of the respect I required from my children and with time the wounds were closing.
So little is constant in my life as you have probably gotten from this and all my other pieces on this blog. But the one thing I know is that the universe’s plans are unexpected and consistently surprise me.
A month ago I fell into a deep hole of sadness and pain. It was a combination of being sick, overwhelmed by financial responsibilities and the most painful heartbreak from a man that I was feeling down to my bones. For days I stopped talking to everyone, ignored calls and texts and isolated myself from the world. I was falling deeper into a dark place and couldn’t even imagine how to move through it let alone out of it.
Then something pushed me to call my middle son. As soon as he heard my voice, his next words were, “Ma, do you need me to come over and take care of you?” If there was anyone I felt I could lean on at that moment it was him and he came. Then once he got here and saw how I was, he got on the phone and called his older brother, “ Ma needs us, come over.” and within a few hours my oldest two boys, the ones who a year ago were barely saying a word to me and spent most of the time reminding me of my faults and shortcomings as a mother, were sitting by my bedside and holding my hand making sure I ate and physically supporting me with their presence in my home so I wasn’t alone.
They stayed for two weeks, cooked, cleaned, watched dark comedies with me to keep me laughing, and reminded me of our inside jokes. They protected and loved me the way I didn’t even know I needed. They came to me and healed me. They rose to be the men in my life at a time when I was let down by the grown ones I trusted.
They didn’t judge me for my decisions or the choices I made as a woman with an open heart. They held my emotions with care and through that I came back into feeling whole and myself. Fast forward a few weeks and I jumped back into life and experiencing adventures and exploring new dynamics in dating and friendships. I know I would have eventually gotten better and found my footing, but they made it all happen with ease and sooner.
As a mom of men, it’s not always easy or comfortable, but what I can say is that the nurture and love I once gave to my boys as their Mama has been brought back into my life with their journey of becoming men. They have fought through a lot and against many tides and messages to get to this place. But they are rising and growing into beautiful souls and I am filled with immense gratitude for them in my life.
Motherhood is the hardest job I have ever held. But worth every trial and tribulation for the beauty of the rewards when they are present. Nothing is certain and anything can change, but I have faith in who we are as Mama and sons to know that we are going to stand strong and together through it all.