Yesterday was not an easy day with William. He pushed the limits and fought me on everything. It was a parenting day that seemed tilted uphill and I felt out of breath and off balance for most of it. We got Ava from school and she chattered away about picking a pink container from the office for her tooth that fell out over the weekend, and she just seemed so easy by comparison. My personality has always meshed better with hers. We get along with much less friction.
When I put William to bed after a couple of frustrating incidents after dinner, I asked him if he thought I was proud of him. With no hesitation, he shook his head, "No." Shocked, I clarified, and said, "Not right now, when you chose to do blank, blank, blank, but the rest of the time, do you think I'm proud of you?" No question. He said, "No." I pressed a little more and said, "Do you think I always love you?" Hesitation, then a slight shake of the head with his eyes averted.
I reassured that I could never stop loving him, and I'm almost always proud of him. I listed many of his good qualities and certain situations where I am bursting with pride in him. We sang Jesus Loves Me, prayed together and he went to sleep. I was devastated by our little exchange and took a few moments to look deep inside and I didn't like what I saw. I often say as a joke that I'm terrified William will be a "momma's boy" as I've seen a few in my time and I really do despise that dynamic. I wonder if it's possible that William is so clingy to me because I have intentionally removed myself from him in some way that I haven't withheld from Ava. Last night I saw him working for my approval instead of understanding that he already has it.
These parenting moments are deeply humbling. We have to become aware of the unconscious things that drive us, and fix what is not working. My drive to make William individuate from me, and in a very real sense, not need me, is having the opposite effect. He's working harder than ever before, and I'm trying to escape him. It's not going to be easy for me to turn and fully embrace his need for me. I worry that I will make him dependent on me as he grows, when I really want the opposite for him, but as I seem to be hurting him in the process, I must give up my own selfish desires and focus on what he needs at this moment, and try not to worry about what it may mean for the future.
I know that I love him and am proud of him, but the fact that he questions it, for any reason at all, means I'm not doing my job as a parent. It's never too late to change. As long as any of us are breathing, we can improve ourselves and our methods. We can try things that terrify us, and grow leaps and bounds in the process. We can be better moms, friends, spouses, children, and employees. Today is the day to turn toward the light, and begin forging a new path.