Most afternoons I phone my 14-year-old son at around 5pm to make sure he is at home and safe, following the bus trip from school. I also love to hear the sound of his voice and the chatter that ensues as he fills me in on the highlights of his day. We discuss his homework and I remind him to feed the dog. He always sounds happy to hear from me.
Twice a week I panic-call his mobile phone after 6pm, over and over until he answers. The phone is usually in his sports bag after soccer practice while my son and his friends slowly walk home together via the hot chips shop, oblivious to my anxiety. He is supposed to phone me if he is late getting home but he rarely remembers to. When I tell him I was worried, he laughs.
He is almost six foot tall and quite an independent young man but also at that boy-man stage where hormones go nuts and the mind gets scrambled. We are extremely close. He shares his ups and downs with me and I am desperately trying to hang onto that, and to him. I’m not sure if this is a normal reaction to the feeling that your youngest is starting to outgrow you, or if it’s because the pain of the past is still raw.
Ten years ago before he started school I had a major work/life balance meltdown. I woke up one day and panicked that I didn’t know this child as well as I knew my older one. That wasn’t actually true. But what was undeniable was that he would go to his father when he was upset. For at least a year, he never chose me. My husband worked full-time too but as he worked evenings he was at home with our son all day so naturally they developed a wonderfully tight bond, which remains to this day. In contrast, I would arrive home from work after a long day in an executive role, completely exhausted. Soon after, my little boy would be ready for bed. It was heart-breaking for me and probably my toughest period as a mum.
I promised myself I would never allow my relationship with my child to get to that place again. In the work/life juggle you know the line has been crossed when you feel you’ve lost touch with your child. From that time on I have made an effort to be there for him more often, even if I have to schedule it into my day.
On the odd occasion I surprise him by turning up towards the end of soccer training. The wide grin that transforms his tired face when he sees me is food for the soul and a reminder that he may be growing up but not necessarily pulling away. His friends pile into my car and I taxi them home. My son loves it…but I love it more.
Have you experienced panic at the thought that your teenager is outgrowing you? How did you deal with this?