Don't Be Afraid to Let Him Go (a Little)
If we approach our sons’ teen years with the fear that we are losing them, we may respond in such ways that actually cause us to lose them. Sometimes, when we feel they are drawing away, we can become more possessive, pushing our way into their lives by forcing affection on them at the wrong times. I have known mothers who become jealous when their sons have their first girlfriend and thus subconsciously sabotage the relationship. They may call their son’s phone when they are at the movies with a girl, or they may even say things like “I’ve worked all these years to make your life nice and this is how you repay me? By ignoring me?”
When a boy goes to preschool, he makes new friends, and most mothers are happy about that. We want our son’s world to expand and we know that adding healthy relationships to his life helps that happen. As he moves into elementary school and then middle school, we realize that we are spending less and less time with him. Then, when he begins puberty, another level of separation occurs because he suddenly feels an internal pull to distance himself from his mother. This is a painful juncture for many of us, but the separation is extremely important to our son’s healthy development.
As our sons mature, a large part of the separation process involves them forming healthy relationships with friends, teachers, coaches, girlfriends, etc. This can be really hard for mothers who feel dependent on their sons. Single mothers, mothers with only one child, mothers who have no other family or few friends might feel resentful toward their sons when they form new relationships. I have seen mild-mannered mothers become manipulative with their sons when they sense that friends or girlfriends are replacing them. Other times mothers simply feel insecure in their relationship with their sons and thus they become jealous.
Whether we are single, married, have eight children or one, the truth is that watching our children grow up and “away” from us is tough. But we must learn to gently let go of our sons in healthy ways as they mature. If we keep our eyes open to the process, we can handle it much more carefully and stand a better chance of having it go smoothly. To do this, remember a few things.
First, we needn’t be afraid. The love that we share with our sons is unlike any other love and we must feel confident about this. No one can replace us in our sons’ lives. When we really wrap our minds around this truth, we will feel much less afraid of losing them.
Second, jealousy never leads anywhere good. If we feel jealous over friends, our son’s father, his girlfriend, or his wife, no one wins. In fact, we stand to lose a lot if our jealousy takes control of our actions. But we can’t oust it if we don’t recognize it, so identifying jealousy for what it is is extremely important.
Third, we need to realize that letting our sons grow up is our job. As they mature, they aren’t supposed to stay too emotionally or physically attached to us. Good mothers want their sons to grow up and be independent. We can let our sons go and we can be strong enough to embrace the changes that happen in their lives, confident that we are no less valuable to them than we were before; in fact, many times we become closer to our sons when they mature. Ask a mother whose son serves overseas in the military if she is close to him. She will tell you that she feels a stronger connection to him in many ways, much more so than she did when he was three. Hardships and physical distance bring challenges, but when we handle them in a healthy way, when we embrace every stage, every change, and all the friendships and romantic opportunities that our sons have without fear, we can have better, more meaningful and lasting relationships with them.