I am a researcher. Science has been my specialty until recently. Now in a humanities undergraduate program, I have become quite familiar with the theory of “us” and “them.” In concept, this notion is easy to apprehend, but in practice? I had to experience it first hand. I was officially “them-ed” today.
Two days ago, my son and I had an outrageous fight. It was first thing in the morning, and we were rushing to school – as always. He awoke, ready to attack, and chose his little sister as his victim. Don’t get me wrong, she is an expert at stirring emotions, but not that day. She was FINALLY happy. After 3 days of cranky she had caught up on her sleep and was a passive target.
My son is turning 10 and I fear the worst is coming to fruition: I fear he is hormonal. Twice this week he looked at me forlornly, and said: “I just feel like there is something I need to talk about.” There was no memory, there was only inexplicable emotion.
In a rant to friends (yes, they are indeed dear, dear friends), I described my anxieties about this new stage, but also my realizations and my plan to adjust. One friend, meaning well, referred me to research on the importance of “cutting the apron strings” for cognitive development.
Which apron strings, I wondered?
When he started walking?
When he transferred into his “big boy bed?”
When he went for a play date without me?
When I watched him disappear into his kindergarten room?
When he first rode around the block alone?
When I waited anxiously for him to come out of a public washroom for the first time?
When I let him wait at home while I walked his little sister to daycare?
When I watched him shimmy 50 feet up a circus silk to touch the knot at the rafters?
When I held my breath while he first swam the length of the pool?
When I gave him his first set of carving tools?
My friend read my rant as a wistfulness about my aging child. While raising children might sound romantic (I call it the Disney Delusion), anyone in the middle of it knows better. My rant was not about “my little boy is growing so fast.” No, it was a walk through my own reasoning, a way for me to work out my concerns and intentions. In the end the logic worked out, and I’m really enthusiastic about the shift we are about to take.
Here’s the thing, “you” researchers: There are no apron strings. Kids are a roller coaster of stages, and the best information researchers can give “us” is to learn to recognize the signs that our own kids project when they need a little more freedom BUT also which signs tell us the kid still needs a little guidance.
Apron strings. I don’t even wear an apron. My mom gave up on that years ago.
Live within limits without limiting life
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May 31st, 2012 at 7:11 pm
Quick update: We’ve been exploring new freedoms (and the responsibilities and consequences that come with them), which has been working really well. On occasion, I also slip a note under his pillow. I list the things he did that day that made me proud, happy, or maybe realize how amazing he is. He likes them… a lot. And, his forlorn expression is wiped from his face… for the moment.
June 12th, 2012 at 8:44 pm
Oh B – this left me breathless. Gorgeous.
“learn to recognize the signs that our own kids project when they need a little more freedom BUT also which signs tell us the kid still needs a little guidance”
Yes, yes, yes.
And my eldest is the one helping me with the research – it’s a lot to carry. I should let her know how much I appreciate that.