The thing about my parenting…I am the main common factor when it comes to my boys. They have quite a gap age wise between them and as my little one hits phases and/or ages that my big one has already grown through, I sometimes have already forgotten how it went with the big one. Other times, my little one’s behavior is so similar to my big boy it hits me like a bolt of lightning. We have recently hit one of those lightning bolt phases and it leaves me pondering if it is really my boys’ behavior or my reaction to the behavior that prolongs the issues.
My little one is eight years old. When his brother was this age, our grief was still very fresh. Their dad had only been dead a year and a half or so. Many years have passed, so I don’t expect some of the behaviors that I now see in my little one as he walks through this phase of his life. I wonder many times if it is grief, normal eight year old behavior, or my responses to the similar behavior in my second child. When his brother was eight, I was struggling so much. There was so much change in our lives. We had switched schools, I was still crying all the time, I was still in the fog of the unknown and the sadness of what had happened. My sweet little one was just a toddler. We spent most of our days together while his brother was at school. With the exception of school obligations with his brother or visiting cousins at my mom and dad’s, we really didn’t get out much. I sat many days lost in sadness. I often wonder how this will affect his sweet little soul. He and his brother were my only sources of joy. He was the sweet little toddler who helped me survive. His brother was pretty sad at the time too…really lost without his dad who had been with him so much. For my big boy, his life had changed so radically. He and Dave had all their afternoons and weekends together for so many years. Dave always pulled the afternoon shift with him. I worked midday into evening and Dave worked early morning until afternoon. We worked hard to avoid too much daycare/preschool for my big boy. When my husband died…so did my big boy’s regular routine.
As my little one walks through the same age, I witness much of the same behaviors that my big boy went through at his age. There is anger, disappointment, and conflict when he is asked to tend to his responsibilities. He seems unhappy much of the time we are together and it makes me sad. I’m not sure if this is an eight year old thing, just my kids’ thing, or me. As a parent, I often wonder how my behavior steers my children’s behavior. Once again, we are trudging through big life changes. This time, the changes are not tragic, but they are altering our lives nonetheless.
Back then, I would reach out to one of my friends (who was a MSW, educator, children’s and women’s advocate) for help gauging my behavior, keeping my grief in check, and basically making sure I wasn’t going crazy. She patiently guided me through parenting while living with great loss. She would often remind me of the parent I wanted to be and the goals I had prior to losing my husband. She would help me with language when I spoke to my children about my own grief. I always wanted to be honest with them, but never leave them with fear or insecurity of their own safety and to make sure that they knew that I would be able to care for them even if their dad was gone.
For my little one, this school year started with many unknowns, much like the beginning of his brother’s third grade year. Although the circumstances are different, the changes for my sweet boy were many. I would no longer be on campus with him. We no longer ride to and from school together and most afternoons, my kids get home before me. Evenings go by so quickly and my workload has increased. We are all a tad bit more tired as we move from the laid back summer schedule to the regular schedule of the school year. We also didn’t have our abundant, summer time together because I worked most of the time. He is feeling the impact of all these things. I am sure about that.
As we settle in more (his words), I had hoped to see him drop some of the behaviors that were concerning me. He has…a bit…but now a few others are rearing their ugly heads. I am very aware of them now though. I know that when he wanders into my room every night to sleep, he is missing me more during the days. I know that when he refuses his homework, he might just need me in the same room while he works. I know that when his anger erupts, he is most likely feeling like his life is out of control.
Will I be the same mom to him as I was to his brother all those years ago? No, of course not. I can’t be that same mom. I’m not the same woman. He is not the same child as his brother. Although, behaviors may echo his brothers they are two very different souls. Even if it is the similarities of how grief may affect an eight year old, my little one’s grief is his only. This lesson I have learned because of my own journey…everyone has their own grief journey. Will I alter how I deal with him? Will my actions be different with him than with his brother? Most likely…yes. Will the big ideals change? Nope.
In many, many ways my boys have similarities. They look very much alike. They both have their daddy’s beautiful smile and his mischievous eyes. They are hard workers, love to play silly, boy games, and both have great senses of humor. Even their behaviors mirror each other at times. As with anyone that crosses my path though, I must always remember that they are two wonderfully individual souls. As that sentence hits the page, I realize how lucky and really blessed I am to be their mom. I realize that no matter how hard parenting can be at times, it is an amazing gift. No matter how much I worry, no matter how much I struggle with my own proficiency at parenting, and no matter how frustrated I may get along the way, I will always cherish these moments…and will always, always hope that their dad is close by and not missing how wonderful these boys he created with me are. They are so much like him in so many ways…yet so themselves in so many ways.
Even though behaviors and time feel like they’re repeating, it is truly new every day. The best I can hope for myself is that I’ve learned a few things along the way and my compassion and love for them shines through the most…even on those days when it feels like we’ve been here before…