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True life: Watching my son grow up is hitting me harder than my daughters

There's something special about my relationship with my son—my mama's boy.

True life: Watching my son grow up is hitting me harder than my daughters

There's something special about my relationship with my son—my mama's boy. And watching him grow up is breaking my heart in ways it doesn't with my four girls.


He needs me in ways my girls don't because he's different than them. He needs to be nurtured in a way that balances out his rising testosterone levels and his rough and tumble ways.

Raising my son has come with a different set of joys, toys and challenges. I have loved getting to experience aspects of motherhood with a different lens based on who he is and what he specifically needs from me (of course, each of my children provide that in their own ways).

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I love the way he notices little details and compliments when I do something new to my hair or wear something new to church. Hearing "I like your dress. You look beautiful, Mommy!" never gets old. I love the pictures and stories he writes about me at school or on cards for my birthday.

He has a tender heart amongst his active movements. He seems to express his love for me in different ways than my girls, and it truly makes my heart sing. I want to (and try to) file those memories away to save forever.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being a girl mom, too. They get me in ways my son doesn't and we have similar interests. I love getting to see the same outfits passed down from daughter to daughter and being reminded of the memories we made when they each wore them. I love our tea parties and their enthusiasm for fancy dresses. I love how they ask me to do their hair everyday. Though all my girls are unique in their own way and have their own distinct personalities, they are also similar in a lot of ways, too.

But with four girls I get to experience having a girl over and over again. With each being about two years apart, as soon as one leaves a phase, another seems to enter it. What breaks my heart in these fleeting days with my son is that this is it—this is my only time experiencing being a boy mom.

I get to see the girls' hand me downs over and over and their dolls repeatedly played with. They have their common bond of being females no matter their age difference, while my son's things don't really have anyone to pass them down to in our family.

He doesn't have a little buddy to play with his cars or Toy Story figurines when he's over them. We don't get to experience the house covered in race tracks anymore, or birthday banners proclaiming his obsession of Cars. His tiny Lightning McQueen shoes he wore every day for a year went to a stranger instead of one of his siblings. It was a sad, sad day for this mama.

As a mom of five where my oldest is 11 and quickly approaching the phase where moms aren't needed as much and aren't really considered cool anymore, I know his time is just around the corner as well. He may still be little now, but I know how quickly these years pass.

I'll blink and he will be hitting puberty. His voice will change, he may be taller than me, and he will likely be embarrassed by my affection.

But for now, at 7 years old, I'll cherish these sweet moments with my boy for as long as I can. One of my favorite parts about our day is how he falls asleep—needing me every night for one last dose of affection for the day. One last assurance of safety. Sure, it takes a few extra minutes to sit with him as he falls asleep, but I wouldn't miss these moments for the world.

It's there in the quiet, when the battles are forgotten and only love pours out between us, that the frustrations of the day are washed away. As he falls asleep holding my hand until I sneak away, it tugs at my heart knowing that this won't last forever.

One day he'll be too grown-up for his mama's affection, just as he's already left behind his affection for Cars. He's moved on to Minecraft and Legos, and one day he will move on to a different special someone in his life—and it won't be me.

But for now, I am his special someone. So, I will hold his hand until he is ready to let go.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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