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One day last week, I brought my teenager a surprise.

A whopper with cheese and a large Dr. Pepper to eat while he did his homework at school before evening basketball practice.

It maaaaay have been a little sneaky.

I maaaaaay have had an ulterior motive.

I maaaaaay have been using bribery to get one of his rare smiles and a “You’re the best, Mom!”

You see, those sweet tender moments are so few and far between anymore.

I miss them.

I miss HIM.

When he came to the car to get his basketball bag from the trunk, his eyes fell on the Burger King bag and he lit up. “Is that for ME??”

I nodded as his face broke into a wide smile. Just like I knew it would.

Then he gave an enthusiastic, “Thanks! You’re the BEST, Mom!!” Just like I knew he’d say.

It used to be I made him light up.

And even though I reinforced rules and sent him to time-outs or scolded him for fighting with his brothers, he wanted nothing more than to snuggle next to me on the couch or play LEGOs together or read books at bedtime . . . always with a “Just a little bit longer, Mom.”

But now, most of what I do to love and care for him is L.A.M.E.

I enforce screentime limits and harp on grades and insist on knowing where he is all the time. I monitor what he’s watching and set curfews and make him do his chores and take him to church and talk about responsibility.

And now, most of my “love” is met with heavy sighs and eye rolls and “Come on, Mom.”

No more snuggles and LEGOs or back tickles and books.

He’d rather sit in his own corner of the couch. He’d rather keep his eyes on his phone. He’d rather just give me a quick hug each night before he hoists that long, lanky body up onto the top bunk. I can’t even remember the last “Just a little bit longer, Mom.”

Even when he’s sitting right in front of my eyes . . . sometimes I just MISS him.

I hear they come back around.

And I do my best to keep showing up. Keep being here in whatever way he needs me. Driving him around. Reinforcing rules. Listening. Loving. Praying. Offering those quick hugs. Laughing at the funny memes he shows me. Asking questions (even if I know the answer might come with a grunt). Telling him I’m proud. Reminding myself this is what is SUPPOSED to happen. Making sure, somehow, he still KNOWS how much I love him.

Most nights, I hover in the kitchen pretending to do the dishes while he has a snack before bed. And every once in a while, he chatters away with a, “Hey, Mom. Guess what??” as he tells me about his day.

I LOVE that.

I soak in every moment.

And if it goes too long and I’m desperate for a wide smile and maybe even a “You’re the best, Mom!” I know what to do.

I’ve got my secret weapon.

A whopper. And a large Dr. Pepper.

(FYI: the way to a teen boy’s heart is ALWAYS through his stomach!!)

This post originally appeared on Ordinary on Purpose, by Mikala Albertson

 

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Mikala Albertson

Mikala is a wife, family practice doctor turned mostly stay-at-home mom to five kids, and writer. She is the author of Ordinary On Purpose: Surrendering Perfect and Discovering Beauty Amid the Rubble available wherever books are sold. Mikala writes to give you permission to release your grip on all the should-dos and have-tos and comparisons and “I’m not measuring up”s and just be free to live your life. THIS life, however imperfect. In this body with these relationships in this house at this job with these parents and these circumstances. Your ONE precious, beautiful life! Join her on Facebook and Instagram.

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