"Mum!, Can we NOT have this conversation now?!!!"
I had been talking (well prattling on, if I’m totally honest) for a few minutes or so before my son angrily interrupted me with the above statement/question.
It was breakfast time before school.
I was trying to get a commitment from him about an upcoming family event. He was still disheveled and waking up chomping on marmite toast.
I felt affronted by his angry interruption and was about to assert my authority.
Then, I remembered my own advice to mothers who want to engage teenage boys in conversation.
- Be savvy about the time of day, place or context you choose to engage in conversation with him.
- Arrange a time or place with him giving him a 'heads up' that you need to talk with him.
- Be respectful of his timetable, state of mind, and whether he’s hungry or not. (most people are easier to argue with if they are hungry)
- Think about what his positive intent might be underneath the anger.
Respect him by being careful about the times you bombard him with too much information.
I was proud of the statement my son made.
- It cleverly kept the door open for the conversation happening at another time.
- He was managing his own personal boundaries
- It was his way of saying "Love you mum but back off right now".
I wondered if I could have been so succinct and respectful if roles were reversed.
His brain has gone to mush.
At the beginning of your son’s teenage years he might look like the boy you have raised until now. At 16 - 18 he can look like a fully grown adult. Do NOT be deceived!
On the inside he is more like a caterpillar gone to mush before it reconstitutes itself into another form altogether.
Between the ages of 11 - 25
- He’s a ‘living thing’ in transition. (half child half man)
- The boy he is has to fall away so that he can become the man he is destined to be.
- Testosterone intermittently surges into his bloodstream forcing changes that he has no control over.
The Brain Wave Trust (A not for profit group whose mission it is to share brain research) uses the analogy that the teenage brain is similar to a house that is being renovated. Research has discovered that a child’s brain is literally being completely rewired during adolescence.
One mother understood the research but she preferred the caterpillar analogy. She was struggling with her son’s non communicative grunts and sullen attitude. She felt that her teenage son was much like the fascinating caterpillar. Gone to mush in its chrysalis and out of that primordial pulp a completely new creature, the butterfly is formed.
Cut your son some slack in the transition from son – man.
At times on the inside he only has mush to work with.
Anne and her unpopular message go to Taihape
30 mothers and I laughed together over the stories and blunders of mine that I shared as a mother to four boys; The police cell incident, my ravings and rantings, my 'wrong crowd' son, the sausage rolls, porn, diversion and others. I always make sure there is easy access out of the room when I give a talk. Most mothers don't really want to hear the message I share, - I know I didn't when my boys were 17, 15, 13, 5 yrs old.
My message is unpopular and uncomfortable and yet it is exactly what will bring calm and confidence to you as a mother;
STRENGTHEN YOURSELF BEFORE YOU TRY TO ‘FIX’ YOUR CHILDREN.
I can help you do that.
Do you feel like you sometimes need someone to come alongside you who can;
- Show you HOW to be in charge in a respectful way?
- Support you to restore your belief in yourself as a mother?
- Help you bring back respect in your relationships with your children.
I finally accepted the truth of the statement 'Be the change you want to see' - I strengthened myself as a parent and eventually wrote a book about it.
Women came from around the Taihape area to hear my unpopular message recently and to be supported.
One mother commented, "This is good for relating to my son's but I can see that this is going to help me with my husband."
Mothers of teenage boys occasionally or often shriek "why me?"
Feeling overwhelmed by the antics of my teenage boys was an everyday occurrence seven years ago with three of them jostling their way to manhood. Just recently though, I was overwhelmed again for a different reason. Emotional tears threatened to drip onto the books I was signing at my book launch in Nelson this month. All the wise words I'd written about managing emotion evaporated as it seemed to me person after person asked me to sign their copy of 'Sons to Men – A Mother's Guide'. Family, friends, strangers and colleagues offered their love and support as we all celebrated the launch of my book.
I discovered that the writing process was quite an isolating activity and often I wondered to myself – on the hard days – why me? The contents of this book are quite revealing about me as a woman and about my role as a mother. To emerge from the isolation to be enveloped by such vibrant, loving, supportive energy was … well, just emotional.
Feeling emotion is a natural process and yet your teenage son will cause you to feel every emotion available to a human woman – and some. I learnt to harness the energy of my emotions and strengthen myself in the face of extreme challenges, some of those are recorded in my book and my intention is to support you to do the same as we raise our sons together.
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