How I Fired Myself As a Parent So My Son Could Thrive
One of the biggest blessings of being self-employed for the last 15 years, is that I’ve been there for my kids when they needed me. Since I was home with the kids, I got to spend a few years letting the kids homeschool. We had an amazing time spending hours in the forest, and studying the things that really interested the kids instead of what they were being force fed to memorize for a test! We took extra courses in grammar, communication, and ethics–the things school never really teaches you properly, anyway. I got to bring my children with me on trips to meet amazing people and see beautiful parts of the world. We had our ups and downs, and unexpected “adventures,” but overall I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be present to my kids the last many years.
But it’s all about to change and way earlier than I imagined it would.
A Little Bit of Background
This year Mika is in her last year of high school. She’s done such a beautiful job stepping into herself and deciding who and how she wants to take up space in the world. She’s got clear goals, strong boundaries and an unapologetic ability to stay true to who she is.
I can remember when she was a little 6-year-old peanut. Back in my strict and self-righteous vegan days, I was convinced that the secret to vibrant health and peace on Earth rested on nothing more complicated than the global consumption of chlorophyll.
Mika didn’t agree with me.
Even at a very young age, she knew what she wanted for herself and was willing to defend it. One day in the kitchen, I’d made the umpteeth green smoothie of the week and was getting ready to offer some sprouted, dehydrated substitute for “real” food, when Mika tugged on my sleeve.
“I know you think being vegetarian is good and that eating meat is bad. But it’s not bad for me, Mom. Eating meat is good for me.”
How was I supposed to argue with that? I didn’t. I allowed her the right to have her own viewpoint. I allowed her to voice her own needs and opinions and I was willing to honour them, provided I still got to determine the quality of “meat” or animal products she included in her diet.
And I had one other caveat. I would let her make her own choices about food as long as she continued to stay in good health. If I observed her food choices were compromising her health, or costing me a lot of time and attention because she was unwell, then I would start to call more of the shots. Mika has struggled with psoriasis from the age of two, so it was very easy to see when her system was protesting her personal choices.
Having paid a lot of attention to the subject of nutrition over the years, I really do think animal protein is better for Mika. I haven’t been as attracted to it or felt I “need” it in the same way, but I believe it was the right thing for her body and what she needed. One of Mika’s greatest strengths has been her ability to know who she is, what she wants and is willing to fight for. I have no worries about Mika as she prepares to move out and carve her own path in the world!
More to the Story
Seb has had a different experience growing up. He’s been a lot more like me, to be honest. And maybe because he was a lot more like me, I seem to have had a much more difficult time letting him be him. Let me see if I can explain…
Having been raised by two parents who really didn’t like each other, I sometimes struggled to know who I should be around them both. If I was like my Mom, I was pretty sure my Dad wouldn’t like me. If I was like my Dad, I was afraid I’d drive my mom nuts.
In that back and forth struggle, I took quite a while to figure out who I wanted to be. With my friends, I was easily influenced depending on who I was with at the time. I knew how to be a pious church-goer when that was most helpful, and a rebel trouble-maker when called for, too.
Seb seems to have caught the same not-totally-sure-who-I-am disease that plagued me in my teens.
Seb is in his second year of high school. In Quebec, the social gradient from elementary to high school is rather steep. There is no middle school, so children go from being 11 or 12-years old playing tag and making snow forts in the school yard, to being surrounded by 17-year olds talking about sex, drugs and alcohol! There doesn’t seem to be an intermediate stage of holding hands or kissing in the back of the school bus.
For Seb, that transition to high school represented a massive switch in environments and social pressure. He went from being a cute, curious kid, to being an attention-getting trouble maker. The more Seb started to let his rebel spirit out, the harder I worked to reel it in. I was obviously uncomfortable with a lot of his personal choices. Everyone likes being likeable, but when the need to be liked overrides the need to be true to yourself, expect a lot of trouble.
Seb didn’t care if his pants had paint stains or if his socks matched.
I felt like matching songs were a divinely-stamped sign of approval and proof that he had his act together.
Seb didn’t always feel the need to have clean fingernails, brushed hair or clean clothes to go out in public.
I would constantly keep an eye on his fingers and send him washing whenever he was leaving spots on my walls.
Seb wanted to get attention for being a goof in class.
I thought he should get attention for being top of the class.
Seb wanted to eat truckloads of ice cream.
I would force him to make healthy luches, only to find out he’d throw them away at school.
It didn’t matter the context or situation, it seemed that wherever Seb wanted to assert his rebel spirit, I was there wanting to reel him back in. I loved it when he had short hair, wore a suit just for everyday activities and knocked people’s socks off with his knowledge of world history. I loved it when he was a totally rule-abiding, socially adorable angel. But most days, he wanted to be a dirty, disorganized, mismatched sock-wearing adventure-loving BOY!
Sometimes You Have to Know to Let Go
I think there’s something healthy about a young teenage boy being a little trouble-maker. I was a second generation single mom, so I didn’t really grow up spending much time around my Dad, and I wasn’t able to offer that constant masculine presence to my children, either.
It probably drives Seb up the wall that he has to spend so much time in long-winded “discussions” of personal ethics and honesty whenver he messes up. I think sometimes he’d prefer a smack to the head or a hostile remark, then be left to get on with things. With me Seb didn’t get much wrestling or rough and tumble play. In fact, since he was about seven or eight years old I’ve stopped all kinds of that sort of physical play with him just because I never wanted it to cross a line as he got older and stronger.
Seb and I have been trying, and trying hard for the last 12-14 months to find a way to make peace with one another--find a way to let him be him without my having to throw out the rules and values that are important to me. It all finally came to a head about two weeks ago when the decision was made that Seb would move out.
So I Officially Fired Myself as His Parent
If you’d like to know more about the story, including;
- the things I tried that often worked to help improve things for a while
- the fundamental reason they didn’t work in the end.
- the clever trick I used to make this an AMAZINGLY positive experience for everyone involved, in spite of the challenges.
- and the more important lessons I learned that finally got my son smiling a whole lot more again!
I’ve learned a lot and put some amazing things in place, and I thought you might like to hear about a few of the lessons I learned that you could find helpful! I’ll be hosting a webinar this Saturday, if you’re interested. It’s definitely an exciting time of change and I really hope it’s all going in the right direction. I certainly believe it’s all going in the right direction.
I guess time will tell…
Join me for the live webinar if you’d like to hear the full story or chime in and join the conversation! Click the image below to register!