As I watched my 6-year-old son, Matt, ride his bike back and forth past our house with the training wheels that I thought would have been off by now, I thought about our relationship and about who he was. We just had a treacherous time together after school: His Power Ranger broke and he was angry. He threw it at the house hard, making a noticeable mark on the siding. I asked him to pick up the toy and he screamed “NO!” It all started there and ended up with him crying in his room and myself aggravated and upset. In the process he told me he hated me because I wanted him to cry and on and on.
I began to realize that occasionally he needed to lash out at me in order to purge all of the stuff he held in. Matt had just started first grade and like most first-born children, he doesn’t take well to changes. I understood this in my head, but my heart hurt -I began to doubt my competence as a mother. Why would he tell me he hates me when I’ve done all I can to be the best mother I can be? Nobody told me about this when I was pregnant. And it didn’t help when I asked other mothers about this. They told me their child had never done this.
I found comfort in realizing he needs to do certain things when he is ready, not when I am ready. I realized I cannot force him to be and do what I think he should; I need to let him show me the way.
As obstinate as he can be and as hard as this is for me, I know that I am his and he is mine. While Matt rode back and forth with those darn training wheels, he slowly began to tell me about his day at school. As I listened, his sweet words calmed me. I then understood that he took his anger out on me because he feels loved by me and knew, even before I did, that I could handle this.
Our time together as he rode back and forth was salve to the wound for me. We bonded and felt close again. Times have changed and he isn’t my baby anymore, but he still needs me. Matt now requires me to provide structure, discipline and to be there in the rough times, too. He may continue to dump his negative feelings on me, but as long as I provide rules around this, it is OK.
I am learning that I can’t always take the lead. I have to know when to follow him, too.
Annemarie Husser is the mother of Matt and Bryan. She is a licensed clinical professional counselor practicing in Schaumburg. Matt finally rode a bike without training wheels at age 7-when he was ready.