Sunday, August 24, 2014
Why those pro football players always say, "Hi, Mom!"
What's the deal with boys and their dads? It's a question I've asked myself ever since my oldest was a baby, when even though I incubated him for nine months and birthed him for almost a day, gave his first smile to his daddy, as well as his first word and first laugh.
I'm not gonna lie. This really bugged me. I'm not gonna lie. I was envious. I was working my ass off and the rewards, I believed, were going to dad. What. The. Hell.
Let me just say this. I am so very grateful that my son idolizes his dad. I really am. Everyone should have a hero, and what better person than your own father? I know my dad is my hero, but I'm a girl. Not all sons look up to their dads, and I feel lucky for him, lucky for me, and lucky for his father that's how it's played out.
But selfishly, in my darkest place, it bugged me. For like 16 years. But over the last six months or so, I've started to get it. And I say that only because of a conversation I had yesterday with a new friend who finally managed to get it through my head and completely change my perspective.
I've had more time with my son than his dad has had. That's just the way it is, and probably the way it is in most families, especially when divorce is involved. I've seen the really good and the really, really bad. I don't get the four days every other week where I'm not working and there's no chores to be done and very few errands to run. My life with them is the same as my life without them. That's just how shit played out.
I remember my son came home one day after middle school and was just being a holy terror. I asked him, "They say you're so good at school. Why do I get to see this side of you???" He replied, "It takes so much out of me to be good at school all day, Mom, that when I get home I just can't do it anymore."
If nothing else, my kid is honest about his feelings. And he was right. He COULD be a holy terror at home, because he knew no matter what, I'd still love him anyway. And I didn't see that for a really, really long time. Even though his dad said to me, "They come to me to wrestle, but if they get hurt, the first person they want is you."
Again, I caution that I'm not saying that my son can't be a holy terror around his dad. He sure as hell can. But the difference, I think, is that my son wants to prove something to his father. He wants him to be proud of him. And even though I know his dad IS proud of him, for some reason this is an elusive and continuing journey for my son.
Last weekend, we were fortunate enough to spend time together on a gorgeous lake in Idaho. My gracious friend with whom we stayed had a jet ski and offered it to all of us. My son's dad took it out first and of course opened it up on the lake. Then it was my son's turn, and he had to make sure he went a little faster than his dad. Back and forth they went, taking turns and doing tricks and pushing the envelope of speed.
He had nothing to prove to me. Except that he could scare the living crap out of his prissy mom (which he did.)
My son and I have had some pretty rough conversations over the past couple of years, and I've painstakingly learned how to listen more and lecture less. This has opened up a whole new aspect of our relationship. I've stopped putting my "mom mind" in the forefront, and just started listening to him as a young man - and yes, bloodying my lip in the process sometimes. Because he wants to talk. He wants to be heard. And he knows that no matter what he says, I'll still love him. Even if I don't agree. Even if I think he's wrong. And yes, even if it scares me.
I didn't realize he knew this until my new friend brought it to my attention. It is by the grace of God that she has been put into my life. We are in similar situations, and she has had more hardship than I, I am sure. In an hour of conversation, she changed how I look at my son and how he feels about his mom and his dad.
Basically, we both have our roles. His dad's role is to lead. To lead by example so that when my son strives to prove himself to his dad, he does, and is yet still challenged to be the role model that his dad should be for him. And maybe that means that dad gets the cool ski trips, and the endless talks about cars and motorcycles. Maybe that's why when things get a little too real, my son clams up or his dad just walks away.
My role is also to lead by example, and I try to, but it's also to sit on the sidelines, quietly taking notes. To observe all that is going on, file away my opinions and "what's best" and only bring those out if asked. My role is to listen and love unconditionally. My role is not to judge, but to let my son know that he can tell me anything, no matter how much it hurts me. That's my role. Why do you think when the cameras turn to all those football players they say, "Hi, Mom!" It's because we're on the sidelines, being the biggest fans of our kids.
And you know what? For the first time, I'm OK with that. I get it now. I have to stop comparing my relationship with my son to his dad's. We both have our place in his life. And like I told my son before, when he used to play his dad and me against each other, "You're lucky you don't have two parents like your dad or two parents like your mom. You got one of each."
I'd say that's a pretty good draw.