Wednesday, June 10, 2015

So Embarrassing

"Mom!" my six year old exclaimed when I asked him to change into his swim shorts in the back of our minivan.  "This is SO embarrassing!!  I can't believe you are making me get naked in the middle of a parking lot!"
I was completely disconcerted. Embarrassed?  At six?  I thought I had a few more years before this happened. "I'm so sorry, bud," I told him earnestly.  "I didn't realize that would embarrass you.  I won't ask you to do that again."
"Thanks," he grumbled under his breath as he climbed out of the car, ready for swim team.
As we walked, I started to recover from a bit of my surprise. This is a child I have to remind regularly to change his clothes in private when we have friends at our house. He swims in his underwear at home. I didn't even know he was body conscious.  And yet, I have started to see other subtle changes that tell me he's striving for independence and seeing himself differently.

I went to lunch with him today so that I could spend some one on one time with him.  "Let's take a picture to remember our lunch date," I said as I scooted beside him in the booth. "Mommy, this is not a date," he said firmly.  "Would you please just sit over there on your side?  And I don't really want to take a picture." He looked at me uncomfortably as if he didn't want to hurt my feelings.  

Deflated, I returned to my side of the booth.  "Okay bud.  No problem. How was camp today?" I asked, trying to move the conversation forward.  Happy to be on firm footing again, he opened up to tell me about his basketball feats. I, however, still felt a bit unsure.  No picture together?  No sitting together? This is new territory for me.  I swear he was writing me love letters six months ago.  And suddenly, his world has gotten bigger and my role in it, smaller.  

I talked to both my mom and my husband about it.  I wasn't sure if I should let my son know that my feelings were hurt.  They both asked the same question.  "Was he mean about it?"  I told them he wasn't at all.  He just seemed like he needed to set a boundary.  "Then let him go," my husband said.  "He's doing exactly what you have taught him, right?  Telling you how he feels in a kind way?  It sounds like he's just growing up.  I know it hurts.  I know.  But that's our job, right?  To raise them to be great adults."

Yes, it does hurt sometimes, doesn't it? Letting go isn't natural to a mother. But I am learning that it is necessary.  If we can respect their boundaries, they will respect the boundaries set by others.  I don't know what I'm doing quite yet but I know God is with you and me, showing us how to teach these children to fly.

How do you handle it when your child begins to assert his or her independence?  How can you respect them and teach them kindness at the same time?

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