Squish is a dad’s boy. He likes his dad more than anyone else. He wants to sit by him at mealtimes. He will only ride on the bike Dad is driving, if given a choice. And he’s very loyal to his dad. He’s careful never to admit that he may just have the nicest, prettiest, strongest, smartest mom in the whole world because, well, Dad is actually the best of everything.
It’s a good thing, and a good stage to go through. It’s fun to see his attachment. And funny to see how far he can take it. Okay, and maybe it is just a little tiny bit frustrating, in the same way it’s a little tiny bit frustrating that despite my sincerest efforts, I cannot get the boys to cheer me on as I’m pedaling up the hills. Or in the way they are quick to say that they don’t like the dinner I’ve made before I’ve even finished putting it on the table. Or in the way I sometimes hear in their voices that they don’t think I know what I’m talking about.
I’m feeling a little bit like I’m a piece of furniture, or a handy tool to have a round that they are free to ignore when convenient. This is despite Micah’s best efforts to remind them that their mom is awesome and amazing and deserves their respect.
For a while now, I haven’t really known how to handle it. I tend to sit back silently and let Micah do the talking. After all, shouldn’t they learn from their dad how to treat women? I also have this strange idea that demanding their respect will, somehow, make me even more of the enemy. I envision the irate, irritated mother yelling at her kids that they will respect her, and as she does I feel the fear in those children growing and the respect shrinking. They may obey her, they may acquiesce, but I doubt they will look to her for guidance. Not if they have any other choices.
So I’ve hesitated to step in. But recently it occurred to me that “demanding” respect doesn’t have to sound like giving orders. Asking for encouragement and recognition can be done humbly and in ways that make them feel as good as it makes me feel. It doesn’t have to sound egotistical when I say, “Don’t you feel lucky to have a mom who will sit and blow-dry your homework pages for you?” Or, “Isn’t it great that your mom magically does all the laundry so you have clean clothes to wear?” Or, “Wasn’t that nice that I let you watch weather channel videos on my phone for 10 minutes?”
After all, being the mom is often an isolating pursuit. After school, when the homework is finished, and the boys are given their hour of screen time, I’m in the kitchen making dinner. When Micah comes home he can play along with them, but I’m still manning the stove. And while I’d like to get the chance to join in the game and be part of the team, in on the secrets, beating the bad guys, the kids still need to eat. And bathed. And put to bed. More often than not, it’s me that’s putting the pressure on to find a good stopping place so we can move on to the next thing. I’m working hard for them, to give them a happy and healthy life, but all they see is that I’m not playing with them. All they know is that I can’t keep up with their games any more.
It’s fair then, I think, to let them see that I am working for them, even if I’m not playing with them. It’s fair to let them know that I’m supporting them more than anyone else. And it’s fair for me to tell them they have the nicest, prettiest, strongest, smartest mom in the whole world – even if I’m not the best at everything.