Today my boy turns five. In this last year, my relationship with him has transformed itself from the inside out, and I marvel at how far we have come together. I discovered in September that I had been unconsciously pushing him away since the day he was born, due to fears of mine which had nothing to do with him but everything to do with my own damaged perception of mothers and sons. When I saw the dynamic between us, my heart cracked in two and I don't know that it has healed yet or will ever heal completely.
Everything was so easy with Ava. She was the golden daughter, the happy baby who laughed and ate and slept with no visible effort. She made me look great as a mom, and I loved her without reservation or measure from the moment I first saw her. Then William was born, and where it was smooth sailing with Ava, it was choppy seas from the beginning with him.
He needed more from me, and I was reluctant to give him what he was asking for. I had him late Saturday night, came home from the hospital midday on Sunday, and taught a stamping class to ten women on Monday night. Business as usual. That was my M.O. with William. I was going to prove that I could manage a three year old and a newborn just fine with no interruption to my schedule.
And I did, for a little while, until I couldn't anymore. I complained more than I should have about how awful he was as a baby, when really he just wanted me to stop and soften my hard heart toward him. When he was seven months old, we moved to Alberta, and my crazy busy home business of rubber stamping workshops and classes came to a screeching halt, and it was the best thing for all of us.
I focused on William for the first time, and I realized how much I had missed of his babyhood already. I was determined to make up for lost time, but unbeknownst to me, my walls were still firmly in place against my own sweet son, and as I didn't even know they were there, I felt frozen in my inability to love and accept him the way I could so easily for Ava. It was beyond complicated, and I had no words for it, or skills to fix it, or anything at all except abject frustration at his blatant need for me.
It took a new preschool to wake me up and get me into a counselor's office. He was terrified of going and being away from me, and I could see kindergarten looming a year away like a date with the firing squad. I was at an absolute loss to know what to do with him, and if I'm really honest, I was mortified by his fears and how he made no attempt to hide them from anyone. My defense mechanism involved bluster and bravado, and William's was the direct opposite, and it terrified me in its raw vulnerability.
In one session, that counselor changed my life and William's. She turned our relationship upside down and gave me new eyes to see what I was doing to both of us and why I was doing it. I knew that I had to forgive myself for the mistakes I'd made (never an easy thing and still a work in progress) and then I had to smash down the wall that stood between me and my small son. I took a metaphorical sledgehammer to it, and within days, he would turn to me, and I would be there for him, and everything changed.
I grew to see him as he had likely always been, but I had been blind to it before. I opened my eyes to how incredibly sweet he was at his very core, and hilarious, and stubbornly sure of what he wanted and determined to get it (something I actually know a lot about from personal experience). I discovered that I loved him with the same fiercely protective love I had for Ava, but was afraid to admit to. When I conquered that fear, and embraced my intense affection for my boy, the whole world transformed and instead of living underwater and struggling for air, I could breathe freely inside of our relationship, and so could he.
This year has been a journey with no real map, but it's the best trip I've ever taken. I did not know I could feel this much love and acceptance, but I can, and William takes it in and then feeds it right back to me. He is becoming himself, which is all I could have ever hoped or dreamed for him to be, and I can support him without losing anything in the process. I am so grateful for my five year old son today, and I see how far we have come together, and I get down on my knees and thank God for the counseling session which changed everything, and returned a mother to her son so the relationship could grow from where it was to where it is today.