I am a lot of things to my son- kisser of boo-boos, catcher of crickets, hide-and-seeker, nighttime tickler, meal delivery system (because, you know, it just appears), disciplinarian, teacher, bath time enforcer, and most importantly his Mommy.
What I cannot be is his Daddy. There are many things I can teach him, but what about all of the things he and Tyler were supposed to do together? Boy Scouts? Building Fires? Killing bugs? Sports? Pee standing up (the best I have is a solid hover)? And whatever it was that Tyler spent hours in the garage doing (his name for it was “Man Shit”)? Since Tyler’s passing, the question has plagued me- How do I, as a woman, raise a son to become a man? And not just any man, a man that his Daddy would be proud of.
In the beginning I worried about it, but knew I had plenty of time to figure this out. After all, Sawyer was only 10 months old when Tyler passed away. He was a baby..a baby boy I could do. I’m a mother- I nurture and love and protect. All of those I can do and, as a baby, that’s all Sawyer needed. I had this under control, right?
As we all know, babyhood doesn’t last long. Before I had time to catch my breath, Sawyer turned two. All of a sudden I had a little boy who loves trucks, sports, tools, and has a hardwired drive to put things together after taking them apart. How am I to teach him the mechanics of things when all I want to do is sling it across the house in a fit of rage because I’m pissed that Tyler isn’t here to do it? Take for example the yard sprinkler. It’s a simple, stupid sprinkler that clearly a man designed. After the 20th attempt to adjust it and correct its spray radius, I snatched it out of the ground, chunked it in a bucket and cussed. Only to find my incredibly eager son ready to give it a go. He pulled out his plastic tools… and broken Popsicle stick and says “me fix it Mommy”. You go right ahead baby- maybe one day you can teach Mommy.
This is where I have over time learned to accept help from others. And I can’t even say I have graciously accepted it. I’ve accepted it kicking and screaming along the way. I’ve never been very good at letting people help me. In my mind, I should be able to do it. No matter what that “it” is, I should be able to do it all and juggle everything this life entails. I know, I’m delusional. However, I was raised by the strongest woman I know- my mother. Her unfaltering love, tenacity, and tireless effort to make the world right for my sister and I in every capacity is something I try to live up to as a mother. And she did it by herself- so why can’t I?
The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is a very accurate description. And thankfully Sawyer and I have a pretty great tribe and he has some incredible male role models in his life. Where my skills lack, ya know- like the sprinkler, someone else picks up the torch and carries Sawyer along with it to show and teach him. I think as mothers in general we put so much pressure on ourselves to be everything our children need. But the truth is, we aren’t meant to do this alone.
With Tyler passing away, it certainly changed the dynamic of our family in every sense of the meaning. And as everyone grows in their own grief, that dynamic is constantly changing and evolving. But the thing I can continually count on is the love that everyone has for Sawyer and the light of Tyler that he carries within him.
A huge component I have truly realized is that I can raise Sawyer to be a wonderful man and me being of the opposite sex has no forbearance on that outcome. It isn’t about gender or status of a single-parent family versus traditional, but rather it’s about the relationship with your child. Love, structure, expectations, morals, trust- all of those values I teach and practice with my son. I certainly don’t exemplify them with patience everyday, but we say our apologies and get back to showing love to one another.
I have also realized, you aren’t required to have all of the answers. I have said it before and I stand by this- as much as we teach our children, they teach us. I may not be able to pee standing up, but damnit if I have to learn how, I will.
And that’s why Sawyer is going to be just fine- I am determined and won’t accept anything less for him or from him. My hope is that Sawyer will find strength in my resilience and gain confidence to go forward in this life to be the man I know he will become and be the man his Daddy would pat on the back and say “good job, son”.