Raising an Independent Son

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I have been looking forward to this day for months. I thought that I would be over the moon; maybe even throw a small celebration in my honor. I thought I would feel liberated, like a new woman. And yet, I find myself in a state that seems like grief. I’m mourning a loss, the passing of a time. Suddenly I find myself wishing for “back then.” Back when Milo needed me more. Back when he wasn’t quite so independent.

We’ve started the weaning process. To be honest, I’m a person of routine. So I just kept nursing Milo every 3 hrs because that’s what we did. I didn’t give much thought to weaning because it meant a change. But then he turned 1 and I realized he was still nursing for my sake more than his own. Within the matter of a week, we went from every 3 hrs to first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I did hold a brief celebration. I wore a turtleneck sweater dress because I could. I went on a date with my husband and didn’t need to worrying about having milk for the sitter. I felt like Mel Gibson on top of my horse yelling “FREEDOM!!!”

That’s when the grief began to set in. I realized that, in the most basic sense, I was no different to Milo than anyone else. What made me unique, what only I could provide, was null and void. He doesn’t need me for sustenance; he could just eat a banana. I can be gone for days and he’ll miss me, but he’ll be fine without me.

I wanted to go back to the way things were; back to when I was necessary. And then I realized, to give in to that temptation was to raise a dependent son. A Momma’s boy. A man who still lived at home and had his mom doing his laundry when he’s 40. That’s not what I want for Milo at all (or for myself for that matter).

These are the first steps toward independence. And it’s so hard but I’m coming to terms with the fact that as Milo’s mom it’s my job to make sure he keeps taking these steps. I have 18 years to prepare him for a lifetime on his own. I know it might sound like I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill; that he’s only 1 which still makes him a baby, a toddler at most and all we’re talking about is nursing. But it is a big deal because it’s a turning point for me as a parent.

How can I embrace this change? How can I celebrate the fact that my son is an individual and that I am a participant in his life, not the keeper of his life? How can I provide an environment that encourages him to learn and grow, while also maintaining boundaries. How can I stand out of his way so he can mature into a functioning adult?

But there is always a silver lining. The other day I got to walk hand in hand through a store with my independent little guy. And while he may not need me, I know he chooses me every time he wraps his arms around my neck. And pretty soon I’ll get to hear the words I’ve felt in my heart, “Mommy, I love you.” These are my rewards to letting go of my baby embracing his independence.

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