Yesterday morning my son came over to me with arms reaching for me. I literally had no idea what he was doing, he has not given me an unsolicited hug in years – that’s no exaggeration.
When he wrapped his arms around me, I felt his familiar warmth. I tried not to act too surprised and excited. This wasn’t just any hug – it was a loving embrace. He meant it, he wanted me to feel it.
I thought he’d be quick about it, then he kissed my cheek and kept hugging me. I will never forget it; words can’t say how it made me feel, so I didn’t try. I just hugged him back, hard.
I know it was just a hug, but here’s the thing: My son left for a while. He was physically here, yes, but him and I have been struggling the past few years to connect. He’s been testing me, challenging me in ways I don’t always know how to handle. And there have been many moments where he hasn’t felt like the same boy I gave birth to.
Despite the heartache that comes with all this, I’ve stood my ground. There have been times I’ve wondered if I’ve parented him too hard or have been too strict. But still, I carried on because that’s what felt right in the moment despite how much I hated punishing him and constantly arguing with him.
He continued to test the boundaries more. There were months when I’ve felt like all we have done is fight, or not speak. I’ve cried countless days in a row, and wondered how I’ve failed him. I asked him (and myself), why he’s so moody; so angry; why he’s struggling so much.
But the one thing I did religiously, a few times a day, even if I didn’t feel like it, was to reach for him and tell him I loved him. Most of the time he’d pull away, even if he was in a rare pleasant mood. There were times he would be still and let me rub his arm for a moment, but that was all he could muster. And I had to learn to be okay with it.
It was hard not to give in and try to be his friend just to make everyone’s life easier. His brother and sister have been affected by his actions, I know there were times he went to school after being punished at home and he didn’t make good choices. Once he even said to me, “I’m already grounded, Mom, what do I have to lose? I might as well be an asshole at school, too.”
That was a scary and telling moment for me. He was asking for more discipline, love, and attention. I didn’t know if I could give it to him to be honest.
But what I did know was the risk of giving in and being “nicer” or acting like his friend would be like writing a check I couldn’t cash. He and I would owe the rest of our family, his teachers, and his friends way too much if I did that. And my son and I are not going down like that. He doesn’t need his mother to be cool, he doesn’t need another friend– he has plenty.
So, that hug we shared as I sat at the dining room table, took my breath away because I’ve had moments where I didn’t know if my son was ever going to come back to me. I didn’t know if I would ever catch a glimpse of the stunningly sweet boy I gave birth to almost 15 years ago.
I just didn’t know. And that thought has crushed my soul a thousand times.
I’ve missed that boy; I’ve longed for him; I’ve prayed for him; and there he was, showing me I’d done right by him.
Maybe it’s just another fleeting stage and he will revert back to his moody self before I can enjoy the fact he is clearly telling me he needs a better relationship with me, I don’t know.
And it really doesn’t matter What matters is he feels safe enough to be his whole self, that he feels safe enough to reconnect with me, and that he is loved and accepted, no matter what he is going through.
Your kids, they leave, but they come back. And even if they leave again, just remember, you made it through the pain of that once, and you can both do it again. Just stay true to you and what you believe is the right way to raise them, and you will be rewarded in the end.