Let’s face it, moms of teenagers: the days of snuggling and cuddling your little boy or baby girl are long gone. The cuddles are replaced with forced hugs initiated by you and the equivalent of a snuggle becomes the quiet tap and whisper at curfew to let you know they are home. Loving our older kids looks much different than loving little ones, and I’ve learned over the years that while some may view it as enabling or spoiling, I view it as quiet reminders that I love him, I’m still his mom, and he’s still my #1 boy.
Here are a few ways I show my older son that he still has my heart:
1. I pack his lunch. I am fully aware that he is a sophomore in high school and has both the knowledge AND the capability to pack his lunch. Sometimes when the morning gets away from me, he does pack his own lunch as we are running out the door, but more often than not, I am the one doing the packing for him. My mother packed my lunch every single day of my life until I went to college. I took great comfort in my roast beef, mustard, and lettuce sandwich and the grape Capri Sun that I knew would be in there. I loved that I could come downstairs every day before school to breakfast on the table and a lunch already packed. She didn’t have to do that. I was perfectly capable of packing my lunch, but she probably knew that I’d one day be packing lunches for what seems THE REST OF MY LIFE, so why make me do it more? My son has the rest of his life to figure out what he’s going to eat for lunch, so while I am able to, I consider it one way of showing him I love him, I care about what he likes, and I’m happy to give him that 5 extra minutes of sleep in the mornings. (Also, I know what his lunches look like when he packs them so…yeah.)
2. I do his laundry. Again, rest assured my son’s future wife, I have taught my son how to do his own laundry. There are times when he will dig something from the bottom of the slimy abyss (his hockey bag) and need it washed right then so he does it himself, but for the most part, I’m knee deep in laundry anyways, so why would I not do his? I do my little kids’ laundry because they can’t, but I do my husband’s laundry because I love him.Why would I exclude my teenager’s laundry? To prove a point? Because he’s “almost an adult”? We all know that laundry is one of the worst parts of being an adult, and I will happily add this chore to his ‘Welcome to Adulthood’ basket one day, but I’ll do him a solid and wait until he’s actually an adult. You’re welcome, son.
3. I (clean-clean) his room. The phrase clean-clean is one I made up because my son is required to clean his room every week, but I clean-clean his room on special occasions. When he cleans, it involves throwing away all the 44oz. Weigel’s cups and bags of snacks that look like animals have chewed through them, piling ALL clothing in the laundry basket (whether the clothes are dirty or not) and building a pyramid of pillows on the bed just to hide the Little Debbie wrappers and Powerade bottles that are actually under the covers.
When I clean-clean his room, I do it when he’s gone for a few days on a hockey trip or a trip with friends. I enter with caution (gloves are a must) and make his room look like he no longer lives there. It genuinely brings me joy to have him come home to a sparkly clean, normally rearranged (#ihaveissues) room. Why do I do this? I do this because at 42-years-old, if I were to tell my parents I was coming into town to stay with them for even one night, the room I sleep in would be ready for me. It would be immaculately cleaned, bed turned down, lamp turned on, ready for me. Do you know what that tells me? It tells me they thought about me before I got there. It tells me that they are excited to welcome me home. It tells me that even though they no longer raise me, I’m still their child and their home is still my home.
The reality is that I’m still raising my teenage son. I’m still his parent, but I know we are inching closer to that next stage of becoming friends. I have to work harder now to connect with him because he’s not always home for me to tell him I love him or force him to hug me. These “chores” are the best way I have found to show him that I’m still always here for him.
In two years, he will begin doing these things on his own and he will fail at first. He will wear dirty clothes to his college classes. He will eat snacks as meals. He will live in a state of filth that only 18-year-olds can live in. And one glorious day, he will call me and ask me if he can come over for a bit and I’ll read between the lines. Maybe he has a broken heart, maybe he just wants a hot meal, or some laundry done.