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Letting Go of the Little Boy

Our series on discipline has taken us from the Raising the Impossible Child, Premises for Child Training, Pretreen Trouble, to Teen Trails.

Where did the years go?
Remember when your son was just a toddler, and you did everything for him? Now he's a teenager.
We’ve talking about teen trials and the importance of allowing the teenager his own values and his own choices.
Now we will discuss other issues that the teenage years brings.
Joey reminds me that when he was a teenager, he told his mom, “I’m going to Monterrey.” (His brother lived there.) He could be gone within an hour and spend the weekend.
He was involved in sports, worked, had home work. He thrived with activity, movement, from a mom’s perspective “being gone.”
With the entrance into teenage years, family time becomes eating ONE meal together, maybe, one day a week.
As a mom, I struggle with this. Why do they need to be gone all the time? Can’t they stay at home a little? See have wings will fly. My husband reminds me that’s what he did. I stayed at home when I was a teenager. I don’t understand this “running around.” I don’t have to understand it. But I must realize it will happen. That is part of that breaking away that I’ve explained before. (Boys must break their mom’s heart a little at a time, so the mom is ready to let them go when they really must go.)

As a mom, I needed to re-adjust my thoughts on family. It’s not about staying “a family unit.” It's about preparing our boys for their lives with God in the world. During the teenage time, they are ready to be in the world; their mom is still wondering where did her little boy go? Allow them to be men.

What guidelines do we have for this running around?
I need to know the interrogative pronouns: who, what, where, when, why and how. Some boys have balked at this interrogation.

My husband reminds them that’s what mom’s do. He still calls his mom when he returns from army drill. He tells the boys, “Mom’s worry. It is a simple courtesy to tell them.”
They tell me their schedule for the day, where they will be working, where they might go later. (Sometimes they just say errands. I don’t micromanage them.)
I don’t expect them to text me throughout the day. (Maybe because I know they won’t.)
They often will text me as they’re coming home, so I can plan whether to wait dinner for them.
Saturdays use to be work day. It has changed over the years to be their errand day. I ask them what their schedule is. I conform what I need done at home to those who are left behind.
I’ve lost a lot of energy over the years. Instead of working additional projects, I’m happy with a clean bathroom, microwave sometimes, and maybe clean counters. The older boys are quick to recall "History" for the younger boys about how Saturdays were work days from 8 AM to noon.
The older boys say, “Back when we were young…
Joey reminds me that the younger ones need us too. I let go of the older ones and focus on those left behind.

What about curfew?
My boys have established trust. We’ve disciplined for truth. (Truth is important to God and me.)
We live in the mountains where it takes one hour just to leave the mountains and get “somewhere.” So if they go anywhere, they’re gone at least three hours.
When they haul a cow for someone in the valley, and start a 6 PM, they could get back around 10 PM, maybe.
When they take the younger boys on events, I remind them, “Sleep is good.” They choose when they get home, although I will ask for a reasonable return time.
I go to bed by 8 PM. I can’t stay up and wait for their return. When I get up in the middle of the night, I look for their vehicle. If they haven’t returned by midnight, I text and ask if they’re okay. Usually they are almost home.

If I find they're too late, too many times, and their attitudes with us at home are not pleasant, I question their activities. (“Maybe you should return earlier tonight, so you can be nice at home?” or “Your schoolwork is priority, will it be finished?”)

So you’re still asking, “What about curfew?” We don’t have one. But I do on occasion tell them, “Be back by 11 PM.”
They have friends whose culture has no sense of time---like Mexicans or Russians. When they visit them, I remind the boys, “Watch your time. Be home by ___” Not that I don’t trust their friends, but my boys must stay alert and awake to drive home (at least an hour) and function nicely the next day. And 1 AM is not an acceptable time to get home, regularly.

One son wouldn't tell me until as he was going out the door to a major event. It would be the first time he even mentioned it. I couldn't get the interrogative pronouns, except where, maybe. I felt I had to say “yes.” I didn’t like this. I needed to be able to work with everyone’s schedule. So I began referring his PERMISSION to Dad, even if Dad wasn’t home. “That’s a Dad question.” (This was not for routine work or school activities, but for special needs, i.e. fishing, going to an auction.) He would have to ask Dad. This encouraged him to ask ahead of time.

Most of my boys go to bed by 8 PM. It seems unusual for teenagers putting themselves to bed that early, but remember, they are getting up early to milk cows, bottle feed calves, then do school or work.
One son works best at night. He sleeps in the afternoon, when he can, and I’ll hear him making his tea and studying around 10 PM to midnight.

I remind them all, “Sleep is good.” But they usually decide when.

The teenage years aren’t about fitting into the family’s schedule. It’s more about preparing the mom to allow her babies to grow up.

They are growing to be men. I must treat them like men.
They will soon be out of the house and making their own decisions. If I haven't let go in pieces over the years, than letting go may just about rip my heart out. Even if I have let go in stages, and allowed them to make decisions as they grew up, that letting go will hurt.
My husband describes it like ripping off a band-aid. You can do it the slow, pulling each individual hair and feel each pain, or you can wait until it's almost a part of the skin and then rip it off with some skin. But some day,sons must leave their moms. Some may loose out on marrying a great girl, because the mom wouldn't let him go and he couldn't break free of her claws. I'd rather gain a great daughter-in-law, even though I take second place in my son's life. That's why the Bible says the man must leave his parents and cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. His wife can never give herself totally to a son who is owned by his mom. Let go...

And sometimes I cry because the time of “family” is so short. Where did the years go?
The diapers, the nursing, the discipline, all that seemed so long ago.
Today, I encourage them to do what's right, stand firm in what they believe and remind them of the Savior Who makes it all possible.

Teen Trials? No, I think it’s more like a mom’s trials as she learns to let go and allow God to work.



What other issues would you older women suggest?
 

You sure got all of this right. It's so very hard to let go and even when I think I have, something comes up and (unfortunately) I open my mouth with advise they don't want. Or probably need. It's a process and much harder on mothers than the children. Thanks so much for sharing, it helps to know how others struggle with this.

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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