My oldest son looks so much like his father, but his personality is a twin of mine. To any who doubt the substance of a zodiac sign, I would argue that there is at least some merit. You see, we share a birthday. We are both cancer, born June 24. Those born under this water sign, ruled by the moon are said to are loving and emotional, tenacious and strong-willed, nurturing and sensitive, indecisive, moody and intuitive.
There is no doubt—he’s an emotional, strong-feeling child. He’s also sweet, sensitive, gentle and kind. He has intense mood swings that can be fierce and volatile, and then just as quickly spill with happiness. He plays hard, and cries hard. He’s just like his mother, intense.
And I’m finding it challenging.
As much as he is like me, he is not me. Because I see so much of myself in him I feel compelled to care for him just how I would like to be nurtured. I over-mother, play comfortably to his sensitivities, fuelling and validating his emotional side. It causes struggle between us, and between him and his father. I recognize that an emotional child, whether boy or girl, presents unique challenges. And while our particular struggle has less to do with raising a boy, and everything to do with inspiring confidence and comfort with his emotional side, I fear I’m not doing a very good job of it. I worry about him every day. I see him taking his first tentative steps forward in school and with friends of his own and I want to provide a safe place to land, I want to ensure that his every experience is positive and without strife.
It’s impractical and unhealthy. I’m living vicariously through him, trying to correct the heartache of my past through how I parent him. I’m protecting him from my hurts, instead of letting him live and learn in his own way.
The painful truth is that I don’t know how else to do it. I see myself in him. I identify with his challenges. I want to inspire his sensitivities so that they stay with him and become a part of the man he will be, making him tender and kind and loving. At the same time, I’m struggling to be firm, to recognize that he is a boy, naturally testing his boundaries, challenging me and his father, but playing to my inconsistencies. He needs boundaries, physical and emotional. He needs to learn what’s acceptable and what’s simply indulgent and inappropriate.
How do I balance the two? How do I raise a boy who is confident enough to be gentle and kind, but strong enough to be confident and self-aware? And how do I do that without emotional baggage so that he can live and learn from the breadth of his own experience, rather than the pain of my own?