Prior to the quarantine, I wrote this article and I am now publishing it with permission from my son.
Before I was a parent, I had heard about the “terrible twos” and the angst and mood swings of teens; but, I never heard much about the years in between. This lack of information led me to think I’d be on easy street for a long stretch after I survived the toddler years. However, I’m knee-deep in what I call the crazy eights!
My eight-year-old son is desperate to be grown up and self-sufficient. He wants to do everything just like his dad. On the weekends, he often wakes up before the sun, dresses in starched jeans, a button-down shirt and cowboy hat, and waits for my husband to get ready so they can go work on the ranch. He has also been named Jr. Assistant Chief at our volunteer fire department. He has a solid work ethic for what he feels worthwhile.
He is making new friends, developing his own unique way of doing things, and entering the world of all things electronic. There has been a shift in what he considers important. Legos, Hot Wheels, and board books are being replaced with video games and graphic novels. He has become increasingly particular about his appearance. He now has several hair products, and he recently asked for a suit, specifying one with the “secret pocket” in the jacket. I was excited to take him to get fitted and pick out ties; however, I secretly still want to buy T-shirts with dinosaurs and trucks.
What used to be so simple is becoming very complicated. I feel like I’m on the losing end of a battle against a barrage of outside influences. The world outside my door and the one streaming in through the internet launches me into police mama mode. My reaction is to put up a wall, enforce strict rules and boundaries, and parent in fear. However, the more I try to enforce my 563 rules, the more push back I get. Before I know it we are in an epic power struggle. After the smoke clears, I find myself with a heavy heart consumed with guilt and regret. My son recovers quickly, forgiving me long before I forgive myself.
Sometimes it feels like a tug of war.
Me: trying to hold on to that little boy I rocked in my lap, the one who loved to play with playdough and blocks.
Him: determined to make his own rules
Me: trying to maintain control over all aspects of his life
Him: trying to gain control over just a few.
I’m terrified if I don’t play the cards just right, I’ll end up messing him up, failing him, or even worse, losing him.
When parenting seems too heavy and I feel like a failure, I take a breath and remind myself that of all the women out there, God chose me to be the mother of this boy. Knowing each of us, he still matched us together. He has a plan for this adventure and luckily, he will be there each step of the way, never abandoning me. Luckily, I also have an amazing husband who has a skill set of calmly extinguishing our fiery tempers.
While the frustrations are evident, this season of childhood is fascinating. I get a front-row seat to observe talents and skills blossom. My eight-year-old still has the curious and adventurous spirit he did when he was just a year old, but he has become stronger, bolder, and more determined. He is creative, outgoing, loving, and compassionate. He is funny and bright and continually amazes me with his ideas. He is nothing like I thought he would be, he is even better! My heart swells with pride as I watch him develop into a young man.
Just like the terrible twos, the crazy eights feel like an emotional roller coaster ride. I’m white-knuckled, holding on for dear life, screaming and seconds later laughing. When everything slows down and I have a moment to take it all in, I grasp how much time has already past and how little is left. Not long from now, I’ll have to let go. It makes me realize how much each moment counts and how much I waste in a combat zone. I pray for guidance and lots of patience so I can be the mother my son needs. I hope when he is grown, he will carry on the best parts of me and smile when thinking back on his days as a boy and knowing, I’ve always and will always love him ALL the time.