Tuesday, September 25, 2012

reaching out

This past year, as is pretty well known, has sucked. And it was not a transition that was painful just to me, but to my whole family as well.  That is probably the worst part of everything - seeing my kids hurting, too.  

Part of this time included the emotional roller coaster of my 15 year old son.  Putting aside the fact that he's a teenager, and that comes with a wealth of emotional highs and lows, this year scarred him for life.  For the past year, he has tried to pull away, to hide, to lose himself in video games and tae kwon do. 

And it would have been so easy for me to let him do that - to let him have his space and figure out his new normal in his own way. But I have never been a stand back parent, and more than anything, I missed being able to hug my son.  For the past few years, I had been getting a one-armed side hug at most; over this past year, he would physically jerk away from any touch I tried to give him. 

I'm a touchy person, a hugger.  At the end of the day, I could not let my son turn from me; moreover, I could not let him think that anything he did made me turn from him.  I heard a saying on the radio that if your child pulls away, that is when you need to step in and pull them closer - that is when they need the affection the most.

He may want to pull away from me, but I have long legs with which to step in.  And it was so hard - the hardness, the being pulled from, the feeling like I'm being rejected by my own son.  But that is not what was going on. Pouting and angry and sad, he was pulling away because he felt hurt and rejected, and that is when he needs someone to hug him the most. 

So that is what I did.  And when he tried to pull away, I hugged tighter.  If he flinched his head away when I tried to touch his hair, I grabbed his head and kissed the top of it.  If he tried to roll away when I went to wake him in the morning, I leaned over and hugged him in bed. A good morning hug every morning after he was out of bed. A good night hug every night, no matter how bad or low the day was, and an "I love you" on top. Sometimes I would even yell at him: "Hey, I love you and want to hug you, so come here."  When I started to get the one armed hug back, I was grateful, but did not rest on my laurels. If something really good happened, I said: "Ok, this deserves a two arm hug. And a big squeeze!"  

It has been just over a year since this whole fiasco began.   And it was hit or miss, but at the end of the day, every day, I pulled him closer because I was not about to lose my son to hurt and anger over something that was not his fault. I pulled him closer because even if he didn't think he needed a hug, I needed one. It is not something that happened overnight, and it was painful at times, and I can't give up now that we are getting into our new normal. 

We still have really bad days, but  now there are fewer tears and more smiles. There are more easy touches. He doesn't jerk his head or body away when I reach out to touch him. He makes jokes about giving mom a hug. And he may be 15, but he now knows that he can always give mom a hug; he can always reach out to me about anything, and no matter what, I am there. And he knows that even though he is 15, and at a public place like the Airsoft field with his friend and several other young men, his mom will still want a hug before she leaves, and she gets it.  

Having to hold on like I did reminds me of the Gaelic story of Tam Lin: http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/AMisc/TamLin.html