Mothers of Sons

Orchids at the Melbourne Zoo

It’s a tough gig with a bad rep.

Most people annoy me at some point or another. I think if we’re honest, people annoy us all. Especially those that share relationships with us. When our lives intersect on a daily basis or intersect over shared loved ones … well, it’s not always going to be sunshine and lollipops.

Speaking of sunshine and lollipops, I have a friend whose nature is so beautiful that when  I decided to give her a unique ringtone, it was Sunshine, Lollipops. I don’t know that she was so impressed. In any case, her relationship with her mother-in-law is problematic despite her attempts otherwise.

My relationship with my mother-in-law has not always been Sunshine and Lollipops. A credit to the both of us is that we have both dealt with our own feelings, pushed aside hurts, built bridges, pushed back our self and forged a relationship based on the love we both have for her son and his children (they’re also mine but the sentence read better by claiming them as his). We’re in a good place.

When my son was in pre-school, one of my friend’s was having particular issues with her mother-in-law. She also had two boys. She did not want her future daughters-in law to feel about her as she felt about her husband’s mother. She felt that she could write a “How To” book on how not to fail in this relationship. There is definitely a need.

In the last week, I heard of a mother who has been dealt a dreadful blow at the hand of her sons and a possible girlfriend. She’s not happy. Not at all. And she’s reacting … her words are full of leaking pride. Full of hurt, rage and embarrassment. Her words have bounced like water off the backs of her sons and are now aimed directly at the girl. She hopes she never has to meet this woman. If she does … well the words left unexpressed do not bode well.

In relationships we often get hurt. Especially where we did not have a choice in who we relate to. However, when people are brought into our sphere, should we be antagonistic towards them and try to destroy a relationship because we disagree with it?

It’s not just the mother of sons who do this but I do think it is a little harder for the mother of a son. Especially when you may feel that you are being replaced as the primary woman in your son’s life. This is the case of the hurt mother mentioned above. She believes her son will never leave her. I read “replace her”.

He will. Maybe not with this woman but perhaps with the next. He’ll choose the girlfriend. He’ll choose the wife. And that is the natural order of things as much as the process may hurt. Insensitivity may be like arrows that pierce your heart. Indifference may leave you standing outside his circle. You may feel pushed away.

He hasn’t pushed you away. He’s just continuing the process of growing up that you have encouraged him along his whole life. He is stepping into the shoes of the man you want him to become. At every point in his life, as he grew more independent, there was a place for you, his mother. There still is.

It’s sensitive. It can be very difficult. It can be frustrating. It can make you angry. It can make you want to cry. Your behaviour can keep you in his circle or push you to the periphery of his life forever.

I write this as a mother of a son. He’s young and for me there are plenty of years before I will need to face this thorny issue. However, in the years between, there are still opportunities for me to keep my place in his life or work my way out of his confidence. After so many years working so hard to develop a close relationship with him is there anything that is worth risking being shut out of his life?

In my experience as the girlfriend, I offer this advice to a mum (or my future self). Please be forgiving of the the girlfriend’s mistakes. Forgiving of any disrespect. Forgive the flippant tongue. Forgive the times her thoughts, her actions, her words, her attitude caused you pain. It was not intentional. It was thoughtless.

Hold onto your son. Embrace his newfound love(s). His new love may become dearer to you than you ever thought possible. You may not get lollipops but the sun will shine.

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2 Responses to Mothers of Sons

  1. This post is closer to the bone that I’d like it to be… as the girlfriend. But from the above it sounds like you are wonderfully self aware of this thorny issue and I envy the girls who will come along and get to call you the mother-in-law. Have a lovely day 🙂

    • Laney says:

      Thanks. It took me awhile to get where I am. Managed to survive and I hope I will be able to live out the next phase when it comes along with a little bit more panache. Hope your situation improves. I managed to focus on my partner (now husband) and did it all for him. Was not always easy but has led to a better place.

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