While at family camp, a couple of friends gave me some new ideas about my relationship with William. It's a constant struggle for me, something I've tried to keep private but has been made public, not only by my musings here, but also in day-to-day life when he pushes my buttons and I fly off the handle in front of other people. I had no idea I was capable of the kind of rage and irritation that William can engender in me. I feel shame about it, and a certain unanchored despair, like a ship who has lost her moorings.
I'm grateful that my friends took some time to gently offer a few alternatives to my current shameful "throw up your hands and give up all hope" parenting philosophy. I often hear, "He'll be better when he's older" or "He's not as bad as you think he is" which is encouraging in its own way, but I was looking for some new tools in my parenting toolbox.
One of my friends suggested I come up with a safe word, so that when I use it with William he knows my patience is at an end, and I'm about to lose it and get very angry indeed. I liked this idea and it has appealed to William, because he feels like we are part of a secret club. When I use our safe word, he knows he needs to go away from me for a bit because we need a break from each other. It's taking a little while to work into the daily flow of life, but it's practical, and I can see it helping to ease some of our relationship strain.
The other piece of advice was for me to try giving in to his demands for me. To stop withholding myself because I'm afraid of his dependence on me, and surrender to his obvious need for my attention and affection. This one is really hard for me, but trying to teach him to separate from me by fighting his attached nature, crazy-glued to me, hasn't worked, so I figured I'd try to fight my natural impulses and be more available to him.
Once the decision was made, it was easier than I thought. It feels a bit like giving in to his inordinate and constant demands, but for this short term I'm trying to break down the wall I've constructed between me and my son, and I'm hoping it will give him the confidence he needs to separate from me when he is ready. In theory, I want to accept my kids for who they are, but it's much easier for me to accept Ava's personality type than William's. Believing something doesn't mean anything unless my action backs it up. The time has come to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to William.
He is overly attached to me, and I have to accept responsibility for the fact that I have likely contributed to this by withdrawing from him. Perhaps if I'd have given him more of myself when he was a baby I wouldn't be in this position now. I can't go back and change myself then, but I can be more prepared to offer him what he needs now, even if it's uncomfortable for me, and pray that we can move forward from here with a relationship that is more mutually satisfying for both of us.