Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Raising A Son

It’s the moment when they take the bed out of the room that you know it’s all over.

A few years back, my youngest kid went to college. And I was a nervous wreck about it all. As proud as I was that he was “all grown up,” I hated that those childhood years were behind him. Behind me. Me. Yes, it’s me everyone should be thinking about. The mother.

When he left for school, his room stayed pretty much the same. The closet still held his yearbooks, basketball trophies, and the clothes he’d outgrown years ago were still squeezed between his Varsity jacket and lone black suit. The room was still a bedroom — with a bed, dresser, desk. It was still his bedroom. And that made the leaving part so much easier.

And now, in just two days, that bed will be packed into a U-Haul and carted off to Alabama. Five hours away.

When I tell people my son is moving away, I get a lot of “Wow, that’s exciting…what an adventure.” What I want them to say is this: “Oh my God, I can’t believe he’s moving so far away.” Yea, again, it’s all about me, right? And yes, I’m excited for him. I am. As the youngest of four, he wants to fly. Be on his own. Start his own life. I get it. He’s got this. But I’m also nervous. And, yes, I’m sad. I’m really just kind of sad that it’s really happening.

I wrote in his journal last night. The journal I’d been writing in since he was a toddler. (Sorry, I guess I should have warned you from the get-go that this is going to be a sappy post. I will understand if you stop reading here — especially if you’re a mother. I hear ya.) So, yes, he’ll be taking that journal with him when he leaves. That last entry was a tough one. Went through an entire roll of toilet paper as I filled the pages with all kinds of motherly advice:

  1. “Change your sheets every week.”
  2. “Use baking soda to absorb odors in your fridge.”
  3. “Buy a fire extinguisher.”
  4. “Brush your teeth.”
  5. “Call your mother. Once a week, at least.”
  6. “Text as often as you like, but call.”

I scribbled and scribbled, madly gathering life’s questions and making sure I’ve told him everything he needed to know. Though I know I’ve been preparing him for this moment his entire life, why does it feel like I’ve missed something?

He’ll figure it out, I know. On his own. It’s how it’s supposed to be–even if it does suck for me, the mother.

My own mother arrives in town for a visit on Wednesday. How serendipitous is that, eh? As I sit here thinking of my son being so far away from me, it does make me think of how I just up and left all those years ago. I moved to an entirely different country without giving a single thought of how my mother felt about it. I never even asked her what she thought of the idea. I was a “grown up” capable of making my own life decisions. I didn’t really consider the fact that other people would be impacted by my decision to move away.

Yea, feeling a little selfish now.

[Insert full circle moment here]

As I reflect on my own decision to move away from home–as sad as I know it probably made my mother feel–I know I would do it all over again. It was my journey to take and no one was going to talk me out of it. I guess my mother knew that. She understood it. Her journey to independence began when she left home at the mere 18 years old. She packed her bags and moved across the country, from Newfoundland to Ontario. I’m sure her mother, my grandmother, was sad to see her go — and yet excited that she was beginning a new life.

So my son has his own journey to take, now. It’s his turn and the greatest gift I could give him is to let go and place my trust in him. I’m trying. I really am.

I will be fine (in case you wondered, since it’s really all about me). Just not today.

Repeat after me, “It’s a beginning, not an end. It’s a beginning, not an end.”

This week is going to serve up some life lesson shit. I can just feel it.

This article was originally published on Gwen’s blog, Eat Drinkn Play. Featured image via.

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“Do I look beautiful mommy?” asked my five year old son in the middle of an aisle at Target. He held up a shirt against him and wanted to know if he looked good.

“You look so beautiful,” I responded, bending down and planting a kiss on the top of his soft head. He smiled back and put the shirt in our cart (I don’t really remember telling him he could get it but whatever). I heard people snicker around us as I told him he was beautiful. Only one other mother in the boys clothing section smiled sweetly at us. I paid no attention to the snickers and kept on shopping. My kids followed suit and the snickers and one rude comment (regarding my response) made no impact on our day.

At five years old, my middle son has the brightest, bluest eyes, a sweet little face (it fools the best of em’), and a cute little body (totally not weird when a mother says this). He really is a beautiful boy, as is my seven year old son who has dark grey eyes and a long, lean body. I didn’t always tell they them were beautiful. I would tell them they were funny, sweet, smart, strong, quick. I didn’t begin telling them they were beautiful until I had my daughter.

She was a petite baby, with the same bright eyes as my middle son. She really was a gorgeous baby girl. I didn’t think twice saying this to her, whispering it in her ear as I rocked her to sleep as an infant. When she began playing dress up with her little friends at one year old, I had no qualms telling her she was beautiful then too. It was during one of those dress up sessions that my middle son put something on and after hearing me tell his sister she was beautiful, innocently asked “am I beautiful too mommy?”

I didn’t hesitate one second as I responded, “Of course you are my little love.” You see, in our house we don’t have gender roles. Nor do I really teach my kids about them. I’m (hopefully) teaching all of my kids to speak for themselves, speak up when something is wrong, not to let anyone take advantage of them, never judge any person or situation, that they are strong, smart, and quick. All three of my kids, even though two are boys and one is a girl, are all being taught this.

Several friends of mine shared a post on Facebook with the line “I’m going to teach my daughter to be strong and not let any man tell her what to do. I’m going to teach her to be courageous and be leader.” I was instantly irritated. Teach your daughter(s) that, great, but what about teaching your son(s) the same thing? At three years old, my daughter is more out spoken and more courageous than either of her brothers. Yes, these are qualities that I will help nurture, but also I will instill them in my boys as well.

Teach boys how to be gentleman? Great, then teach girls to be ladylike. Teach boys how to “treat a girl right” (as many of my friends have claimed)? Then teach girls how to treat a boy. The street goes both ways in gender equality.

When I first met my husband we were 15 years old and working our first jobs together. From the beginning, our relationship was built on equality. We had a friendship and a partnership. We did the same job, learned the same things, and supported each other from the start. This partnership has carried into our marriage and how we parent our children. We both pay the bills, we both take care of the household chores, we both make important decisions together. It’s not one of us wears the pants and the other takes orders. I mow the lawn and my husband cleans the kitchen every night (he also scrubs the toilet better and has more patience painting our daughter’s nails than I do).

People want gender roles to disappear, for gender equality to take hold in all areas of life: jobs, pay, leadership, etc. What about never teaching our children gender roles in the first place? What about teaching our sons that they can play dress up, be beautiful, play football, and are the smartest? What about teaching our daughters that they can do the same things?

The next time you claim to want to teach your daughter something, be sure you teach your sons as well. Imagine a life without gender roles, with gender equality, with no “who’s better than who” mentality. Food for thought.

This article was originally featured on Ashlen’s blog, The Kid Sperts. Featured image via.

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I’ve now reached the stage of parenting in which I’m supposed to start talking with my son about his private parts.

Setting aside the fact that I feel as though I just gave birth to the Muffin Man, let’s discuss how bizarre it is to try to have a conversation with a two and a half year old about his penis. In case you’re not familiar with what it’s like to converse with a small child about well, anything, it usually involves you speaking, your kid not listening, and then him repeatedly asking, “Why?” even when you’ve given him the answers 10 times in a row.

That’s what it’s like when you’re having a perfectly regular discussion about things like the sky being blue or what day it is. Imagine, if you will, attempting to talk with someone who doesn’t really have the ability for abstract reasoning and trying to impress upon this person why it’s not okay for strange people to touch his private parts.

Me: Muffin, do you know the difference between boys and girls?

Noah: Can I have a snack? I want a popsicle.

Me: Noah, I need you to listen to me.

Noah: Okay, but I want a popsicle.

Me: What’s the difference between boys and girls?

READ MORE: THE TRUTH ABOUT TODDLERS 

Noah: I want a popsicle NOW!

Me: I’ll give you a popsicle if you tell me what makes you different than girls.

Noah: I can pee pee outside. I want a cherry popsicle.

I hand Noah a cherry popsicle. It’s homemade with organic fruit, free of any artificial flavors or colors and sweetened with agave.

Me: Do you know why you can pee outside?

Noah: Because you told me it was okay. I don’t like this popsicle.

Me: Can your friend Sarah pee outside?

Noah: This popsicle is yucky. I want a red one.

Me: You’re a boy, and Sarah is a girl.

Noah: Sarah likes popsicles too. Her Mommy gives me yogurt pops when I play at her house.

Me: That’s just fantastic. You’re a boy, Noah, so that means you have a penis.

Noah: I have a peanut! I love my peanut!

Me: Penis, you have a penis.

Noah: Peanuts, peanuts, peanuts. I like nuts. Can I have some nuts, Mommy?

READ MORE: THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE TERRIBLY STINKY: TODDLERS VS. TEENS

Me: Your penis is your private part, and it’s not okay for anybody you don’t know to touch you down there.

Noah: (nodding) Uh huh.

Me: It’s really important that you tell me or Daddy if anyone ever tries to touch you in a way you don’t like, okay?

Noah: Okay. Can I have a juice box? My peanut is thirsty.

Me: It’s also not okay for you to touch other people’s private parts either.

Noah: Why?

Me: Because everybody has private parts, and it’s not nice to touch our friends there.

Noah: Why?

Me: Because they are private and just for us.

Noah: Why?

Me: That’s what the word private means.

Noah: Why?

Me: If anyone tries to touch your private parts and then says it’s a secret, come and tell me or Daddy right away.

Noah: I like secrets. Daddy puts ice cream in secrets and they are crunchy.

Me: Remind me to strangle your Daddy.

READ MORE: THE BIG ISSUE THAT MOMS SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT…BUT AREN’T

Noah: Okay. Mommy, ‘member to ‘rangle daddy.

Me: If someone tries to touch your private parts, what do you do?

Noah: Can I have a secret for dessert? Those are yummy.

So, yeah, I think the whole private parts talk is really going swimmingly. Just on the off chance that Noah didn’t quite get the message, we’ve been reading this book together.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go ‘rangle my spouse.

This post was originally featured on Anna Lane’s blog, Misadventures in Motherhood. Featured image via.

I had just settled myself into our empty nest when our youngest son, Dylan, decided to ditch dorm living and move back home. It had been a rough entry to University for him — with pain and back surgery overshadowing his first year of freedom — so while I knew that his return would ruffle some of our routines, I was secretly breathing a sigh of relief to have my youngest child near me again. The kid had barely unpacked his suitcase and I was back into full-time mom mode.

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“Have you eaten anything today?”

“Did you study?”

“What time did you go to sleep? You need more sleep.”

“When are you going to get a haircut?”

“Didn’t you wear that yesterday?”

“Where ya going?”

“Who’s going to be there?”

“Drive safe.”

“Drive safe.”

“Drive safe.”

And so on.

Dylan humors me, most of the time. Thankfully he’s well past the eye-rolling stage of teenage-hood, and a tad more understanding of my necessary mothering (I think?). He knows I can’t help myself. He knows I’m just looking out for him. And I’m sure he knows that one day he will be free from my constant reminders to brush his teeth or pick up his clothes.

What he doesn’t know–what none of my children could possibly know — is that it’s not the act of letting go that I struggle with, it’s the being let go of that does me in. And the letting go usually starts with the “I got this.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” “I got this, Mom.”

“Do you want me to go shopping for jeans with you?” “Mom, I got this.”

“Did you sign up for classes yet? You know…” “I got this.”

And they do. My children are making decisions about their future. They are managing adult relationships and negotiating car loans. They are decorating their homes, picking out furniture and learning new skills. And half of these children of mine are taking care of babies! They’ve clearly got this. Making this shift from first string mother, always in the game — to one that sits on the bench, suited up and waiting to be called — is not easy.

Sitting on the bench, I don’t have any input into what’s going on in the game. The plays are made without my approval. As skilled as I am in my position, the kids have drafted other (life) players on their team now and so I wait. Don’t want contribute to “too many men on the field” or have a penalty flag thrown at me for encroachment, so I wait to be called. Ok, yes, I’m a football fan, and the more I think about it, the more similarities I see between the game of football and motherhood. Our careers typically last less than 20 years. And even when we’re good for a few more years, we’re tired. As many times as we fall down, we know we have to get up and keep playing. We have to stay conditioned, both physically and mentally, because we never know where the next “hit” is coming from. And as hard as we try, we don’t always win.

There are disappointments. And there are celebrations. And, we hope, lots of touchdowns and happy dances in the end zone. And just when we think we’ve figured out “our” game, one of the plays change and we are forced to adjust. Accepting the fact that my youngest child has benched me is getting easier. It helps to have him close, where I can watch from the sidelines. From the bench, I’ve learned that he will give his last $20 to a homeless man. That he takes his new role as uncle to his two adorable nieces so seriously. I’ve learned that family is the most important thing to him. And I’ve learned that he wants to learn sign language and loves algebra (what!?).

During these past few months, I’ve learned that he’s got this. And I couldn’t be prouder.

This post was originally featured on Gwen Morrison’s blog, eat drink ‘n play. Featured image via.

Well, the time finally came. I had to have the “S-word” talk with our 8 year old. No, not the sex talk…The Santa talk. It became painfully obvious to me last year that he didn’t believe anymore. But I thought if we could just make it through the holiday without him blurting it out to his younger brother and sister, we’d be able to let it go for one more year. So how did that year pass so fast?

A few weeks ago it was just the two of us cleaning up his room. At our house it seems so rare to get alone time with any of my kids, so I knew the timing was right. I took a deep breath and carefully broached the subject. We both tip-toed around for a bit…and finally with a smile he said, “Mom, I’ve known since I was like, 5.” (Ouch!) But I wasn’t surprised. So we talked about it.

I told him how when I was his age my mom took me to Pizza Hut and it seemed like a great time to tell her that I didn’t believe anymore…and how I cried because I didn’t want her to be mad at me…and how she made me go have my picture taken with the big guy that very afternoon…one last time. I told him about the year my brother and I found all of our presents hidden away before Christmas, already wrapped and taped with (then new) magic tape…and how we ever-so-cleverly opened every single gift to get a sneak peak…and how we ever-so-cleverly taped each one back together when we were done…and how we didn’t anticipate that the tape would eventually lose its stickiness…and how when my mom went to get them to put them under the tree they had all “popped” back open…and how we were so  busted.

We also talked about how I still believe in the spirit of Santa. He was confused. So the only way I could think to explain it was to compare it to Disney magic. When you go to Disney World you know that magic isn’t real. But you chose to let yourself believe in it anyway because it makes it all so much more fun. That’s how I feel about Santa. He totally got it! (Score one for mom.)

Ben swore up and down to me that he hadn’t ruined it for his 6 year old brother (although he’s starting to drop hints that he’s in on the secret too…double ouch!). He said he’d act excited so he wouldn’t ruin it for his 4 year old sister. And I promised him one extra present if he kept the secret. At the very end of our conversation he asked, “So…where do you hide all the presents?” As if, kid…as if.

And just like that, it’s the end of an era in our house. We will never again have 3 kids who fall asleep listening for Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. We will be lucky if we get another 4 years of wonder and belief out of our youngest. We will never have all 3 kids wake up on Christmas morning and run to see if Santa ate the cookies. Such is the life of a mom of little kids. You spend all your time making sure they have everything they need to grow up right….and then when they grow up, it hits you like a ton of bricks. It really is bittersweet. But I’m so thankful it’s light on the bitter and heavy on the sweet.

This post was originally featured on Marie Bollman’s blog, Make Your Own Damn Dinner. Featured image via.

Dear Teachers,

It’s that time of year again.

It comes every winter with the first snowfall. I can read it between the lines of the emails you send letting me know my son’s failing every subject. I can hear it in the exasperation when we speak on the phone and you carefully craft your sentences, trying not to let on that you have no more solutions and have run out of patience. You’ll never say the words out loud but I see them there behind everything you do say: you’re giving up on my kid.

My son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He was only diagnosed with it late last year but we’ve been struggling with his inattentiveness, disorganization, and lack of focus for much longer than that. We’ve had years of missing homework, unreadable handwriting, half-assed projects, and almost-failing report cards. But you? You’re still new here.

Every September we start fresh — a new grade, a new curriculum, a new set of teachers, sun-kissed and ready to help. We meet with you sooner than you’d prefer to have to deal with parents but we want to make sure you understand the saga that has been his school career thus far. You promise to work hard and are confident that together we’ll be able to fix him. He’s not the first kid you’ve encountered with ADHD, after all. The summer vacation has evidentially erased your memory of exactly what it means to deal with a kid with ADHD though because you seem a little too hopeful and you look at me with concern when I seem skeptical about your ability to perform miracles.

At first, things go okay. You go above and beyond, checking his agenda book religiously, offering extra tutoring, keeping me up-to-date with his progress while using words like “encouraging” and “proud”. He does his part, completes his assignments, studies for quizzes, and appears to make progress. We try to stay on top of him at home with charts and medicines and pep-talks. We all sigh and pat ourselves on the backs. Then slowly and quietly, things fall apart.

It always happens right around this time of year. We’ve all gotten a little too comfortable in our roles and no one sees it coming until the panic of two C’s, three D’s, and an F in health class hits us all and you and I and his father are in full-fledged “what the hell are we going to do?!” mode. The only one, it seems, who is still relaxed at this point, is my son, who appears to not realize or care that things aren’t going as the grownups had planned.

So there we are, the “village” charged with raising this kid, flailing about, trying to make this work, until one day I look around and see that it’s just me standing there holding on to him for dear life. You won’t admit it now, but you’ve given up on him.

Don’t get me wrong, I get it, and I don’t blame you. You’ve got dozens, if not hundreds of other kids to deal with. You don’t have the time to focus all of your energy on saving a kid that doesn’t care to be saved. Shoot, he came out of my vagina and I still want to throw in the towel regularly. So I get it. But, I’m begging you, please hold on a little longer.

You see, my son is completely content to fall through the cracks. He waits for it actually — that blessed moment when you give up on him and he’s free to slink down into that comfortable dark crevice where he can hide out quietly and peacefully until the end of the year, free from the overwhelming pressure to focus on things that bore him and unencumbered by the stress of having to achieve something he sees as out of his reach. He waits all year for you to let him go and finally, right now, he’s getting away with it. I try to pull him up out of that crack on my own but he’s getting bigger and stronger and my arms can’t hold him as tightly as they used to. I need your help.

I need you, his teachers, his “village”, to continue to believe he can do better, to expect better, to demand better from him. I need you to encourage him and forgive him and have faith that he’s worth the time and energy he’s taking from you because what you’ve forgotten from the beginning of the year is how much his smile charmed you the first time you met him. You’ve forgotten how kind and polite and wonderful he really is underneath that blank and frustrating shrug he gives you when you ask why he didn’t hand in his homework. You’ve forgotten that he’s lovable because he’s stopped acting lovable.

But he is still lovable and he is still worth it. I haven’t forgotten it and I need you not to either. So I’m begging you here, please remember that and please, please, please — don’t give up on my child.

Sincerely,

His Mom.

This post was originally featured on Eve’s blog, That’s My Apple.