I have a great relationship with my teenage son. It’s not because I’m perfect or our lives have been easy and without challenges. His childhood was brought to a screeching halt as we assumed a care giving role due to his father’s battle with a progressive neuromuscular degenerative disease. He’s gone through the divorce of his parents, not once but twice. We’ve gone from a secure family with a mother and father who worked from home and lived in an affluent part of town to a one-income, single parent household living in a rental property.
So, how did we forge a connection that has endured life’s challenges? I made a decision from the time my son was a baby to be available for him in a way that my parents were not for me. I love my parents dearly and I understand that they did the best they knew to do. Yet, I felt invisible for most of my life. I felt overlooked. I felt that my needs were severely neglected. I knew very well that parents can be physically available, but emotionally absent. I never wished for my son to experience this.
Nevertheless, I can remember it like yesterday when I was confronted with my unavailability. My husband and I had divorced the first time and I was under intense stress. The role of single parent and breadwinner was overwhelming. I felt completely incompetent to raise a male child on my own. My son was so clingy and needy and it often irritated me to no end. So, I am ashamed to say that I began hollering at him. Almost everything he did triggered my irritability.
One day, I exploded. I had threatened to spank him and was fussing at him harshly. I will never ever forget the look in my child's eyes. It was the look of absolute terror. To even think about it brings tears to my eyes.
For the first time, I saw myself through my baby's eyes and I was horrified by what I saw. “You are doing the very thing to your child that your father did to you, ” echoed in my head and penetrated my heart. Immediately, I felt the pain of my father’s words. He rarely spanked us but he could fuss at you until you felt that the skin was being clawed from your body without any anesthesia.
I humbly asked my son to come back in the living room. I sat him on my knee and told him I was sorry. He said that he didn’t mean to make me mad. I held him more closely and assured him he wasn’t the problem. Mommy was the one with the problem.
Now, one might think that was enough, right? Well, as I cried and hugged my child, that same voice echoed, “You’ve apologized before. This child needs to KNOW that you will NEVER EVER do this again. ”
I told my son that momma was going to get some help so she wouldn’t fuss at him anymore. I found a family counselor and wisdom required that I take my son to the first session. It was important for him to see that I valued him that much. The counselor asked if he understood why I had brought him to the session. He answered, “My mommy wants me to know that she is getting help so she won’t fuss at me no more. ” The counselor affirmed that my son was that important. I nodded in agreement. I’ll never forget the big smile on my son’s face.
I believe this was the defining moment for my son and me. Over the years, I’ve made mistakes. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been more prone to accuse him rather than trust him. Yet, it’s been our return to our sacred place of vulnerability and honesty that has nourished and strengthened our relationship despite life’s challenges.
Suzette R. Hinton, SAC-I, Certified Life and Mentor Coach, Counselor and Mother. Graduate of CANA, Inc. (http://www.CoachingInstituteofNorthAmerica.com ) and Founder of Purposeful Connections (http://www.purposefulconnections.com ). Suzette believes that purpose is not only a destination but it is the energy that pushes us toward its fulfillment.