You are my heart and knowing that yours is breaking is breaking mine.
You are my love and it is the worst feeling in the world to know that you might not know that right now.
You look at me with big confused eyes and I can’t understand what you want from me. Do you want me to fight? Do you want me to hug you? Do you want me to go away? I just don’t know and I don’t think you are capable of telling me.
When you were a little tiny baby you couldn’t tell me what you wanted so I had to trust that I knew what you needed. In a way we’ve returned to that time. You can’t verbalize what you want. Truth me told you might not even know what you want. I’ve got to give you what I think you need and trust that it’s right and it is enough.
Part of my job as your mom is to provide for your needs and to teach you about wants. Sometimes the 2 aren’t the same. At 13 I am pretty sure you don’t understand that yet.
At 13-almost 14-you feel grown. You want to burst out of my clutches and be you and be FREE. You want to do what you want, when you want and how you want. In your eyes I stand in the way of that. I have rules, you don’t like that. I ask “where” and “with whom” and don’t allow the phrase “hanging out” to suffice as any answer to any of those questions. Every afternoon I ask, “Do you have homework?” and “What did you learn at school today?” On the weekend there are chores. Not a lot but more than you want. You want to be free to be with your girl all the time. You want to date and to meet up and to kiss in public. I don’t let that happen. You want XBox whenever you want it without limits on when or how long. You want to talk about things on the phone that you think are grown up but then I go and read them and you get in trouble and that just flat out ticks you off. Solitude and space are what you want and this “family time” that I insists on is totally stupid. You want noodles for dinner every night and I am just mean when there are things for dinner that you don’t like. Little sisters are irritating and you want me to make them go away or at least side with you when you don’t like what they do.
I know what you want.
What you don’t know is what you NEED. It’s my job as your mom to know your needs. Furthermore it’s my responsibility and to meet those NEEDS first. If I can give you something you WANT while giving you what you NEED all the better. If I can’t…well…needs win. You NEED someone asking you who you will be with and what you are doing. If those answers aren’t appropriate than you NEED someone to say no. Those questions I ask every day? They are to help you. You NEED to know that I care about what you learn and am here to help you if your education requires you to do things at home. You need to know that I will ask and I will prod and that I care. Someday knowing that you are going to answer those questions might give you an out when there is something you know you shouldn’t do. Rules, believe it or not, keep you safe, they help protect you and they are a show of caring…all things you NEED.
Chores aren’t fun. No one wants to spend Saturday or Sunday helping out around the house. Guess what? Someday you’ll NEED to know how to do laundry. You need clean clothes, you need socks and undies and shorts and shirts. You also need to know how to keep them clean. You need to learn the value of hard work, you need to to understand that work comes before play. You need to learn to be responsible and to be accountable because someday I hope you have a little one relying on you to be both. Chores teach that. You need to feel part of this family and to know that you will always have a place with us. Not allowing you to hole up in the bonus room with and Xbox and games, believe it or not, are part of me filling that need.
You need to learn how to be a good man, with a good heart who does the right thing even when no one is watching. You need that. Rules and questions and punishments and taking away screen time are all part of helping you navigate your way to manhood. It is.
You need boundaries when it comes to girls. You do.
You also need to hear, “I love you” and “I am proud of you.” You need hugs and affection. You need someone to listen. You need someone to explain things to you because, believe it or not, you don’t know quite as much as you think you do.
I am comfortable with those needs. I get them. I understand–very clearly–my role in meeting those needs.
Now you are 13 and you’ve decided that in less than a month you have to decide where to live. In your heart I think you also think that you have to pick a parent. Is it a need or a want for you? I don’t know. Your heart is heavy and your soul is sad. I see it and I want to hug you and hold you until I don’t see your sad, sad eyes and feel your pain. I want to tell you that there is no decision to be made –you have a home and that home is here. I want to beg and to plead and to cry for you to stay here with me where you are loved and protected and sheltered. I want to tell you truths and show you what is right. I want to take you and run away where you are safe from such adult decisions and such adult heartache.
But…like you…there are wants and there are needs and I can’t always have or do what I WANT. Sometimes I have to do what is needed despite what I want to do.
I wish I knew what you needed right now. Do you need me to fight? Do you need to see me cry or will my broken heart add to yours? Do you need the truth or will certain truths just hurt you? Do you need me to take away the choice so that the burden isn’t yours to carry? Do you need me to turn away, to give in and to let you go? Do you need space or do you need me there hugging and loving you loudly?
What do you need right now? I wish I knew.