Where did my little boy go?

"You worry too much Mummy," he tells me, with a big frown on his face and standing up as tall as his almost 9 years frame can make him, when I ask him to be careful one more time as he runs down the slope. "Of course I am supposed to worry" I tell him, and whether I like it or not worry came as part of the package the minute he was born! I was always a calm and relaxed person before that. Who would have thought that all this while, this anxiety was lying hidden inside me, waiting to surface along with the tiny head crowning! I always had to be on guard while he was growing up, asking him to hold on to something while he was learning to walk up the steps, or making sure that he did not put the lego pieces in his mouth when he was building a castle. At times I would be so exhausted watching over him that I couldn't wait for him to grow up and take care of himself, thinking my worries will vanish.

I was so wrong.

What I have learnt in this short time being a mother is that the tiny hand that holds your finger also holds your heart really tight. And while you maybe ready for him to let go of your hand one day, it is the one on your heart that makes you his slave for life! Whether we like to admit it or not, a mother can never see wrong in her child. Whether she covers up his sins by making excuses taking all the blame herself or whether she chooses to be oblivious to it, it's her choice. The truth is our children can make us dance around their little fingers as and when they want. Now how we would like to dance, what steps we need to learn, should we dance for them and then wait for that "Thank you Mother! You are the best!" day or should we hold them firmly and make them dance along with us, to our steps, to our tune, is something that we need to ponder, plan and then execute.

My little baby who let go of my hand to walk all by himself one day, is now trying to take another step towards independence. ''Isn't it too soon?'' I ask myself and all other mums in my circle. "Aren't they supposed to show these signs a bit later in life, maybe in their teens or tweens? Are they growing up too soon or are we being left behind already?

Going by my own experience I know that teenage hormones can play havoc in your life. It turned me from a 'Mehra Ketli daai chokri che' (Mehroo is such a good girl) to a stubborn, rebellious person who did the exact opposite of what her mother said. "It's my life" I would tell her and wondered why she couldn't understand me. At that time I told myself that I'd be the coolest mum in town, that I would party with my children, share their secrets, joke with them. Well.....

A few months after his 8th birthday, my son went through a sudden growth spurt. While I was all oohing and aaahing about how tall and big my son had become and how we both could fit into the same size t-shirts and how he could now actually lift me off my feet, I failed to realise that he is also getting more matured emotionally. Gone are the tears that I used to see so often, a bruise here, a wound there that could heal with a magic kiss from mummy. Gone is the anxiety that I used to see in his eyes when I left him at home with his father to get a quick pedicure - the running out to the door, the tight hug which made me feel both special and guilty. Gone is the 'Mummy can you make me sleep?' at bedtime with him preferring to read his book by himself. In fact last year for the very first time he also went for an overnight camp! Now all these things are kind of expected, kind of cute, but what really troubles me, what makes me lose my patience, what I can't comprehend is his complete change of attitude change of late.

From being my obedient little boy who would complete his tasks the minute he was told, he has moved on to a "Ya ya whatever," to anything I say. Tasks like practising his piano, doing his homework or even just putting his clothes for a wash could take several reminders and repetitions! Besides his increasing knowledge of the world around him including the Gangnam style craze, he has been copiously adding to his 'new' vocabulary learnt exclusively from peers at school! 'Oh c'mon he is a boy!' I tell myself when in a lighter mood. But the other reason why I feel distanced is because of the growing differences in our interests. Chess, rugby, football all those sports that I have never liked, never cared for are his passion. I remember the day when we enrolled him for his first football class in London on a Saturday morning. I was hoping there would be no tantrums as going for football would mean missing out on PS3 time. But week upon week it was my son who would wake up by himself, get himself dressed and be ready to go on the pitch even on a cold winter 's morning! I was delighted for him and encouraged his love for the sport getting him soccer books from the library and read it to both of us as I wanted to learn more about this sport. I also tried my hand on chess but failed to arouse enough motivation or interest, same with piano. Earlier on he would plead with me to play football with him which I did with a complaint and a groan, now I don't even get offered that luxury! So of late I find a big gap in our conversations. Fact is I do not feel needed anymore.

Being a stay-at-home mum whose main interest and motivation is to stay involved with her children, this came as a major setback. I alternated between yelling and moping to improve the situation, but realised that I was not going anywhere with it. So now, I have taken it upon myself to deal with this situation in the best possible way to get positive results for both sides. I have chatted with other mums, Google-d and have tried to have some conversations going with my son. This is what I am learning and what I need to do:

What I am learning:
Yes there is a generation gap. What I did as an 8 or a 9 year old child is far different from what this generation does or expects. I have learnt that my child is not the only one who is going through this developmental phase in his life, most of his peers are.

What I need to do:
Stop giving my own examples. Life is not that simple anymore. Today they have choices by the dozen, activities to keep them occupied. I cannot compare my whole evening of playing hide and seek with my neighborhood friends to his evening filled with various activities like football, piano practice and play dates.

What I am learning:
9-year olds are moody, moving from being very upset one minute to absolutely calm the very next. As they get more independent, they also get more competitive resulting in friendships being made and broken everyday, even with their siblings.

What I need to do:
Give him more attention, more one-on-one time, more freedom in doing things. Let him decide how to plan his day - if drawing is what he wants to do first then fine, as long as he has his home work planned for a later time that day. Show him love and assure him that I am always here for him. Try not to compare him to his brother, try not to take sides.

What I am learning:
9-year olds want to be able to 'fit-in' resulting in a lot of peer pressure. Opinions of friends are getting more important than opinions of parents. This could also be in the case of choice of food resulting in bad food habits. If no support received from the peer group then embarrassment, doubting or criticising oneself is common.

What I need to do:
Build his self-confidence. Make him aware of what is right and wrong and that it is ok to think differently from others and voicing your opinion. Encourage him to make his own choices and then defend them. Encourage healthy eating by example. Show news/information on how unhealthy eating can cause disorders.

What I am learning:
9-year olds can get stressed from the demand of daily activities. Homework, school work, extra curricular activities get more demanding at this stage putting pressure on them to perform.

What I need to do:
Understand his fatigue levels. Slow down or stop an activity if he no longer wishes to pursue it, focus on the activities that he loves and wants to pursue. Make him understand the importance and result of hard work giving examples of people excelling in that field. Reward his good behavior by offering extra TV time or a play date with his pal.

Phew! Sometimes I feel that this is a wake up call for me to leave my comfort zone and go out into the world  once again to find my place. After all which boy would be proud of a stay-at-home mum? He needs something more exciting to show off to his friends, doesn't he? "My mom writes for National Geographic!" rather than "My mom can wash 500 dishes in a day." Having said that there are times when I suddenly catch him off guard as he is busy playing with his Ben 10 aliens or spider-man figurines making them fight with a 'whoosh' and a 'bang' just like he used to when he was 3. I get up and hug him. Here is my little boy and I do see glimpses of him now and then. Like yesterday at school when we we sitting together and he was proudly showing me some of his school work, he got so excited that he gave me a quick surprise kiss, but not before checking if anybody was watching. I love you my son and I know that after the aches and pains of growing are over, we will sit together and laugh about these days. I am so proud of you!

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