And the saga continues.
I have been increasingly aware that the boy is changing. After going to my husband R for help, we sent M out on a mentoring trip with my former Marine brother complete with crazy clowns and bullets. Yep, they went shooting and it was expensive! What the heck? It’s just gunpowder! Also they went out to dinner and ice cream later but that was part of the whole mentoring experience.
But R wasn’t coming home for another couple of weeks and I needed answers. It was perfect timing. The girls wanted to hang out with Grandma, M needed Legos for a school project, and I needed to hang out with him, one on one.
We got to the mall pretty early so we headed over to Barnes & Noble to browse. We talked about a bunch of things. How many more days until Daddy would be home. How his youngest sister L is his friend and how the middle one A is annoying. I took off my mother hat and replaced it with the teacher one.
I listened and listened. I had to bite my tongue, to keep from giving him advice that as a mom I thought was rather obvious, to keep from scolding him from speaking ill about his sister.
Let me tell you. That was tough.
I am the only parent, the mother. The last thing I want for our only son is to be unkind to females. I didn’t want his future girlfriends to be mad.
But that was not the point of his rant. The point was to let him speak and listen without judgement.
Then something amazing happened. I stumbled upon the PARENTING section. “Just hang out in the chapter books area,” I said. “I’ll be… uh, over here.” How embarassing was I? Why didn’t I just drag him to the pharmacy and yell out that the kid’s got diarrhea?
I picked up way too many books and tried not to be obvious while I sat across from him. Some of the books were too old, unrealistic for our situation, or too whiny for me. But a few shed some light on our situation.
“Oh my God,” I said.
“What is it?” M asked, looking up from his Ripley’s Believe It Or Not book.
“You are totally normal.”
“You have been getting really mad lately but it’s because of your age, hormones, etc.”
He gave me a Look.
I went on. “It says right here that you get really mad really fast at this age but you forget about it just as fast. And get this. Some boys your age even bite when they’re mad.”
“Really?” he asked. “Why would anyone bite someone?”
“I don’t know. Are you going to bite me?”
“No,” he said and laughed. I even asked him if he could read the books I purchased and just highlight the parts that applied to him.
He was not amused.
And so my research began. Like finding the answer key to a secret code, it is finally starting to make sense.
In The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian, the author writes of how boys need three families:
Family 1: parents and/or grandparents (the nuclear unit)
Family 2: extended family (related, nonrelated, mentors, coaches, peers)
Family 3: culture and community (church, media, government)
[Disclaimer: This is a theory and may not apply to you. Not making you join my book club. Just sharing my a-ha moments. Etcetera, etcetera.]
His dad is not home, obviously, but I totally forgot about one aspect of his extended family that came to an abrupt end last fall. Gymnastics.
He had a coach in his early 20s who was very impressionable on him, believed he could compete at a regional level soon, and recognized his strengths and helped him with his weaknesses twice a week. Even when M didn’t have a class, his coach still interacted with him, asked him how his studies were going. Yes, we were there four days a week.
There was also the former owner of the gymnastics studio and the new owner who was a coach for the former owner. Both older, both worked with M.
He had friends who he saw twice a week. Three boys were older and were great, if not noisy, role models for him. There was a younger boy who looked up to the the rest of the team, including M. This group of friends were working towards a common goal of competing in the following year; they were working to make a name for themselves and for their gender at the female-dominated gym.
How did I miss all of this?
Easy. Saving money became a huge priority and we were not quick to replace this activity. At. All.
In planning for our future, it made sense to just take a step back and focus on school work. Focus on being home. Focus on saving money. Making an easier transition for our nuclear family to go from single-parenting to dual-parenting. Finally.
It was not all for nothing though. We were able to be more involved in our church, allowing the older two to assist me when it was my turn to teach our church’s version of Sunday School. The junior highs and high schools mandate volunteer hours every year; my goal for our kids is to think “We have to keep track? But we’ve been volunteering forever!” when they hit that age.
The DUH moment came the other day. M needed to build up that second family that broke up too fast, too soon.
Free karate lessons for each kid for the next month, starting Monday. This studio is deeply rooted in our community. Just showing up to sign up for free lessons, M was greeted by two of his friends from school. I saw a woman I recently met at a friend’s party. This same woman said that the mutual friend’s boys both came to the same studio.
I hope that M can truly find the second family he’s missed all of these months. If not this month, then maybe we will try somewhere else.
Since the accident, I have heard (and believed) over and over that things happpen for a reason. I believe that R needs to be where he is for another year for the same reason that I believe that this stage of M’s development is happening now. If R were home now, would I have given up so easily, surrendering the rest of M’s discipline to R? I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. The universe has made it so I wouldn’t.
Thank you, Universe.