My teenage sons don’t want hang out with me anymore. For 17 years, I’ve been a single mum and the three of us have been Team Z. I raised my kids with limited financial or parenting support from their father. So, I was always the main character in their story, but it seems that overnight, I’ve been demoted to a support character and will continue falling down the credit listing.
Yet they will be forever the stars in The Days of My Life.
Of course, this is natural and if it was any other way, it would be weird because we raise our sons be independent adults who want to go into the world without their Mummy tagging along. But, bloody hell, it still hurts my heart.
The other day, I sold our ageing camper van because my youngest son, aged 16, kindly patted my hand and told me that our days crammed into the van together were now gone and, fun though our memories were, if we were ever to road trip and camp again, they would be in their own vans.
It seemed to have happened so fast. One day, we celebrate all the firsts in our children’s lives: when they learnt to sit, crawl, walk and talk, ride a bike without training wheels, or first day at school. Yet how many of us remember the last time we picked our growing child up out of the bath and snuggled into his damp warm skin? What about the last time your child fell asleep and you carried him to bed? Do you recall the final time your child crawled onto your lap to cuddle? And what was the last bedtime story book you read to your child? Already I’ve forgotten the last time I rocked my children to sleep in my arms or swooped them up onto my shoulders to dance around the lounge.
I cried when I noticed they had both grown taller than me.
I cried even more when my eldest son jumped into my arms a few years ago, and I fell over because he was heavy.
In a few months, my eldest plans to move to another city to study, followed the next year by his brother, and they’re horrified when I wishfully joke that I should come along too.
The time is soon coming for them to fly free, without me hanging onto their feet, pulling them back into the nest. The eldest is already driving, his brother in the passenger seat, thrilled with this step towards independent living.
Not only am I no longer Number One, they’ve long since realised I am not the most wonderful woman who ever lived, and in fact am irritating, quite slow and wrong on nearly every single thing I say or do. I do however note that though my cooking and cleaning skills may not be to their exacting standards, my offers to hand over the tasks have been kindly declined.
Being a single mum of boys is an extraordinary journey, and I know there are many other single MOBS (Mums of Boys) out there like me, muddling along, wondering if we’re parenting them correctly. Are we raising our sons to respect women? Are we making them mamma’s boys? While I reckon love and being together lots is everything, other things that help too.
They slept in my bed till pre-puberty despite tut-tutting from the peanut gallery – and despite the uptight doomsayers, they are now they are like any other teen boy, where their hugs are granted to me as rare treats. I taught them to swim, cycle, fish and play cricket, and anything “manly” they wanted to learn, I outsourced to professionals. They can also cook and sew and enjoy crafts like knitting, card-making and even crocheting. The downside is that they have learnt few DIY and home-maintenance skills.
I imbued them with a joy for learning and literature, yet they have still became passionate science and maths from mentors and teachers. My obsession with firing brain synapses when they were small with big adventures and constant fun learning activities paid off, and keeping them fairly free of the schooling system in Junior School ensured their curiosity for information wasn’t killed with boredom. But when I heard them stating my opinions as facts, I realised it was time to open their minds to other views, and off they went to High School. Now of course, all my ideas are pronounced either out-dated or ill-informed or, worst insult of all, unscientific and not validated by research published in a reputable scientific journal.
When the boys are young, my modus operandi was to keep them super active with sport; swimming, surfing, soccer, cycling, climbing, wild lounge dancing, we did it all. I took mine out morning and afternoon, and once they were in High School, they became serious swimmers and with the 18 hours training per week, ensuring they are far too tired to get up to mischief. Hardest swim sessions and racing is over the weekends, so late night parties, along drugs and drinking, have never been an issue (that I know of!). I became a teacher to fit in with school hours, and in the afternoons, while they swim, I walk the dog. I have worked my life around theirs
It’s a myth that close mum-son bond makes weak and effeminate men. But nurturing tight bonds has helped my sons understand women better and they are comfortable around them. They’ve learn to calmly debate issues and discuss emotions and know that telling an angry woman to “calm down” is dangerous territory
Many women share custody with wonderful Dads who adore their children and share the financial and emotional load. For the rest, our sons don’t need dead-shit dads who belittle and humiliate them. But we must counter-act this by boosting their self-image and making them know how loved and wanted they would forever be in our homes and lives.
Of course I have so many guilty worries and sad regrets. The time I told my son that if he peed in his pants one more time because he was too lazy to go to the toilet, I would rip his penis off. Or the time I screamed so much at my youngest after he spent an entire hour-long walk kicking the back of my heels as a joke, despite my telling him to stop, that a passer-by worried for his safety. Or the time my eldest had a report with 5 A’s and a B, and I said: “B for History!? OMG, what happened?” And the kids will never let me forget the time one child was throwing an empty plastic water bottle at me while I was driving, and it went under the brake, and I panicked. So I pulled the car over, leapt into the back like a crazy woman, and bit his arm. After a stunned silence, we all burst out laughing. Poor parenting indeed.
I wish I’d not wasted energy fighting for parenting payments and permission to leave the city with the kids. I wish I’d put aside my hatred and bitter resentment in those early days, not shared my hatred of their father so loudly to friends and family in front of the kids, nor pulled them into any situation where they felt they had to take sides.
But when I look at my sons and their many successes so far, I know: I am winning so far. I might not have been the perfect Mummy-Daddy, but I reckon my sons are pretty frickin’ fantastic.
So, single mums doing it tough out there – the fatigue, the struggling to make ends meet, the fear of the challenge, the loneliness and the tasks that seem endless and so boringly repetitive – focus on the joy. Lean into what brings you and your boys together, and know that this time goes so fast. Soon they will be off into the world on their own adventures.