Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A New Approach

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.


  1. It takes courage to admit when you are wrong and to see the errors of your ways...but to publicly admit this is huge........WAY TO GO are now my hero of the month..and Willybum will appreciate your new game plan and you will reap the rewards!

  2. I don't think that you were wrong in your parenting style. Parenting is all about making mistakes, learning from them and trying new things. No one out there is a perfect parent and our children don't come with instruction manuals. We have to learn how to communicate and build relationships with our children through trial and error. Something that works today might not work tomorrow and vice versa.

    No one, and I mean NO ONE can criticize the parenting of another person. Just because their ways are different doesn't make them wrong.

    GOD created you to be the mother that your children need you to be.

  3. The toughest thing about parenting is facing our own inadequacies and fears. It's not an easy process, and one that is fluid and ever-changing. We all do the best we can, at any given moment, and re-evaluate as we go to see what is working and what isn't. It's definitely not an exact science.

    I love the idea that God created me to be the mom my kids need. Thanks for that encouraging word, Jan!

  4. It takes a lot of courage to admit these things to the public. I admire that in you.

    I think there is no way getting around the fact that our personalities are automatically get along with some people more than others regardless if they are a friend, co-worker, or child!

    I would struggle with a needy child as well! Perhaps thats why we got the "easy and independent" ones first? :)

    I think you got good advise. I of course have no experience with Williams age other than teaching many years of Sunday school for pre-school but I do think he is not out of ordinary and I dont think you have some how made him needy. However, I don't think you can make him not the way he is either. I think you are probably on the right road. Embrassing who he is and being what he needs.

    Everyone (with the exception of a few) will become independent. He is only a little guy still. Now, when hes 24 and still doing these things, then you might have to "force" him into independence.

    My mother in law said something profound to me at the time....Have you ever met a 18 year old who still sleeps with their mom or clings to her leg? Not likely :)

    This is an area where I have felt God speaking to me too. To not be so concerned about teaching boundaries, rules and independence but to just look for what the root need is for the day and fill it. I was raised in a very strict home and so this does not come easy!

  5. Thanks for your perspective and your kind words, Cortney. I really appreciate how encouraging you are about my struggles with William, and a lot of your reassuring comments have helped me, more than you'll ever know.

    I agree about the 18 and 24 year old thing, but my expectations have been that with each passing year, he would be less clingy, and in some ways that hasn't changed much, even though he's now 4. I have to be happier with small, incremental improvements, instead of looking for him to head off to college with a confident smile and a wave as each of his birthdays come and go. :)

    Thanks again, for taking the time to encourage me on this twisty and sometimes exhausting road. I do know it's getting better, very slowly, but progress is good and should always be celebrated.