I Love You, Too.
I don't write much about my 13 year old because I respect his desire for privacy. In return, he accepts that there are times when I will mention him, or share a picture. We have an understanding on this subject and I don't push it.
He wants, and deserves, his personal space.
This last year, I have been watching him move into teenagerhood -- becoming a "proto-adult", as I refer to him -- and it has been exciting and bittersweet to see. I admire the personality into which he is growing, and I have no worries about him getting lost in his peer group. He is comfortable in his own skin and I respect how well he knows himself.
Bittersweet, though, is the shedding of the last vestiges of childhood. He no longer wants or needs the hugs he used to seek out. My advice is often heard and then ignored. I try to meet him on his level, instead of speaking as a voice of authority. We have been communicating more as adults -- peer to peer -- than Mother and Son. He has his moments when he behaves more like the 5 year old than the 5 year old, but those moments happen less and less often as time goes by.
When I say "I love you," I no longer get "I love you, too" in return.
If I'm lucky, I'll get a "Me, too," but I don't hold my breath. He is a lot like me at that age -- all pointy elbows, gangly limbs, and an awkward inability to express feelings of affection -- I get it, and I don't push.
I get it, and I don't push.
As a toddler, his dogged insistence that he only loved me was amusing -- it was as though his little boy brain couldn't conceive of loving Mom and anyone else at the same time, that he could only love one person and he would love them fiercely. He loved me and I never doubted it for a moment. He told me all the time.
I still tell him -- frequently, loudly, like second nature to me, like breathing...
I still tell him, in words -- frequently, loudly, like second nature to me, like breathing -- because I know how important it is for him, and all my children, to hear those words and to never feel my affection is an after thought or accident of birth. More and more, though, our "I love you's" are taking on different words, different actions.
"I picked up your favourite juice today." ("I love you.")
"I did you a favour and washed your clothes last night." ("I love you.")
"Do you need a drive to your friend's house?" ("I love you.")
He uses different words to say it back:
"Can I help make supper tonight?" ("I love you.")
"I can watch the baby while you fold the clothes." ("I love you.")
"I will come with you and carry the groceries home." ("I love you.")
"Today, at D&D, we [insert some relatively unintelligible stuff about campaigns and upping his charisma and killing ogres, or something]..." ("I really love you.")
Some day, when he is no longer a proto-adult, figuring out how he fits into the world around him, he will remember how to say those words again. Until then, I am content with our silent conversation as he navigates his teens.
...he will remember how to say those words again.
Tomorrow morning, when he heads off on his bike to start Grade 8, I will be sending him off with:
"Be careful and wear your helmet." ("I love you.") "Have a good day." ("I love you.")
"I can't wait to hear all about it when you get home!" ("Oh, how I love you, my eldest son, for always and forever.")