‘Dear Mums. Your sons will pull away. But they will come back.’
Written by, LUCA LAVIGNE
It’s hard to imagine the feeling of heartbreak for the mother whose baby boy turns around, and tells her that he hates her.
If you have a son, however, it’s going to happen.
Your ‘baby boy’ – the same baby boy you gave birth to; the one you brought into the world and protected from danger and fed from your own breast (or bottle).
So when he tries to break away – and trust me, he will – it’s almost impossible to not take personally.
It may help however, to know you’re not alone. Despite everything your gut is telling you, this isn’t personal.
Listen: Luca Lavigne shares his own experience with Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo about the toughest time in a mother’s life – when her little boy tries to distance himself from her – on This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.
The relationship I had with my own Mum growing up was one of unconditional love. She was my person.
You know how when a family adopts a dog, it always ends up picking one family member to follow around? That.
I shared everything with her, because she wasn’t just my Mum… she was my advisor. My life coach. My friend.
She still is.
We gossiped at age six, when I confided in her about my first crush – a girl in my kindergarten class; we laughed at age eight, when I decided I liked her older sister better.
We cooked at age nine: mum standing over the stove as I – perched atop the bench in a dry pool of self-raising flour – read aloud her Auntie’s fudge recipe.
And we fought at age ten, when I realised we were different: me an organised, precise, forward-thinking virgo; and her a delightfully impulsive, flappy, live-in-the-moment irrationalist.
‘Fight’ is a liberal term. Rather, we argued.
Not regularly. And certainly not maliciously.
But we disagreed on a number of matters, and I felt that for the first time in my life I possessed the vocabulary to voice my opinion. So I pushed back.
“I shared everything with her, because she wasn’t just my Mum… she was my advisor. My life coach. My friend. She still is.” Image supplied.
It was no longer ‘what Mum says goes’; it was ‘what I say goes’. What Mum says can get stuffed.
I was always respectful. I never abused or swore or let my emotions overcome me. Nothing undermined the unconditional love that ran through our relationship.
I merely asserted. At every possible opportunity.
Asserted I had no interest in moving to the school she’d always wanted me to; asserted I wanted to spend time alone instead of time together; asserted I’d make my own decisions in regards to everything from where I’m going on the weekend to what we’re having for dinner.
I was argumentative. For the sake of being so. And she took it to heart.
It’s hard not to. The same little person with whom she once lay in bed, reading Where Did I Come From? and laughing at the penis illustrations, was now standing in front of her… breaking down into simple terms why she was such a moron.
Of course, in hindsight, she wasn’t.
But in that moment – in that moment of pent-up teenage coercion and obligation – the easiest thing to do was lash out.
For Mum and I, it never really escalated beyond the occasional argument. But for a lot of mother-son relationships, that’s not the case. More that I just withdrew from our relationship and shut her out for several years.
Many of the young men I know found themselves engaged in shouting match after shouting match. When they weren’t shouting at their mums, they were ignoring them. And when they weren’t ignoring them, they were fielding any questions their mothers had about their lives with a dissatisfied, swine-like grunt.
We’re through that stage, now. It’s behind us and we can laugh about it. Image supplied.
When I tried to break away, my Mum let me go.
But that’s not the natural response: your child runs, and every single bone in your body screams for you to ‘FOLLOW’.
And despite how much you love them, despite how much it breaks your heart, following them – smothering with love and affection and advice at a time when they want nothing more than to establish themselves as an individual entity – is pretty much the worst thing you can do.
I’ve since learned how upset my Mum was when I distanced myself from her and shut down our communication. She’s told me that she struggled with the idea she might be losing me forever.
It’s an age at which your boy is trying desperately to prove he can swim by himself… and yet, you aren’t quite ready to let him take off his life-jacket.
It’s an age at which your son wants to advance your relationship – from dependent to co-dependent – yet at which you want nothing more than to keep him close and shield him from the reality of being an adult.
And it’s an age at which – as your son strives to become his own human being, with his own opinions – heated debate is simply par for the course.
He will come back. He will come back.
He just needs to know he has the ability to break away before he does.
You can listen to this week’s full episode of This Glorious Mess, here:
You can follow Luca Lavigne on Facebook, here.
What experience have you had with your own son? Is he mortified at your mere existence yet?
Luca writes a guest chapter about his mum’s parenting wins and fails in Mia Freedman’s new book, Work Strife Balance. You can buy a copy of the book, here.