From the middle aged mama files

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life95 Comments
This is a story about my soon-to-be 16-year-old son, Cole.

But it’s also a story about a soon-enough-to-turn 50 mama, me.

Last week, he came down with a sore throat and a fever on Friday. By Saturday, he felt badly enough to warrant a trip to Urgent Care so we climbed into the car and made the five-minute drive to the clinic.

As with most of our drives, be they five-minutes, 15 or longer, we rode in silence, me trying to think of something to say, him, feeling like shit but as always, sitting silently to my right.

We sat in the waiting room for nearly an hour and after about 10 minutes, I looked at Cole, who was now sitting to my left and put my hand on his back, tentatively and said, “I’m sorry you feel so crappy, buddy.”

And that’s when it hit me: it’s so rare these days that I ever have cause or permission to touch my son.

Recently, I was in the kitchen standing near Cole, and I looked at him, smiled and said, “Huggy?” He quickly moved out of the reach of my arms, citing back pain and I played it off like it was no big deal. No big deal is a smart mantra for moms of teens.

I get it. At least I think I get it. But see, I can so clearly remember conversations with an 11-year-old boy, back when I’d lie in his bed every night and we’d read stories or just talk and he’d say, “Mom, I’ll always want to snuggle with you.”

I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe that we had a bond that wasn’t going to fall prey to the scripts of disconnected teen-parent relations.

Now I get that this is waxing a bit on the sentimental, but something hit me really hard sitting in that waiting room: humans need physical touch. Who is giving that to Cole if not me and his Dad?

I was talking to Dan about this and he pointed out that when he and Cole rough-house, which thankfully they still do on a regular basis, usually while playing basketball together, that there’s a lot of moments of extended contact. Cole will jump on him or Dan will grab him and so forth. Right now, I’m so grateful for that physical interaction, even if it has nothing to do with me.

I get that you can’t force a hug on someone who doesn’t want one. In fact, that day in the kitchen, it was me who needed the hug. Cole was fine. He was doing his life and that was something I projected onto him.

Maybe this is similar.

Last year, he and I were driving in the car and the silence got the best of me and I turned into a blathering idiot. I started crying, saying I didn’t understand why we never talked and how sad that made me feel. I’m sure he wanted to jump out of the car at the first stop light. In fact, I’m shocked that he didn’t.

I brought up the exchange with my therapist who told me that yet again, I was making something all about me that had nothing to do with me. She told me Cole was fine and I was living in my usual world of fantasy, wanting things with him to be easy and natural, rather than working to understand him, offer him what he truly needed and be a real parent.

I write about this today because it’s not always easy this parenting gig. It requires real skill that I’m working to develop every day. And as soon as I think I know something, everything shifts, requiring me to try and see things as they are in each moment. Not exactly something I’ve excelled at over the years.

My therapist also recently told me I’ve lived 100 percent of my life based on my feelings as opposed to facts. She told me that a life based on feelings sends you into fantasy land where you can construct all sorts of ideas and beliefs that allow you to act a certain way. I asked her just last week, “Are any feelings legitimate?” to which she replied, “Absolutely! If they are in response to facts.”

I guess today I’m looking at what I perceive to be a fact: my son is navigating his adolescence and I am not always sure what is needed.

It may not be a hug or a pat on the back, but if it is, I’m here at the ready.

In the mean time, I continue working to see him, give him acknowledgement and do the best that I can every day. And it’s my complete privilege to have the opportunity.

Photo by Dave Clements
Cathy ZielskeFrom the middle aged mama files

95 Comments on “From the middle aged mama files”

  1. #1

    Cathy, I love you, but your therapist sounds like an idiot sometimes. Stop being so hard on yourself…and letting her be so hard on you. 🙂

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Kate, it may seem like that, but she has helped me to change so, so many things that needed to change. She is one of the smartest women I have ever met. For reals.

    2. #1.2

      this is exactly what i was thinking. your therapist is an idiot. i say that as a graduate of a decade of therapy. never once did my therapist tell me that my feelings were not legitimate. assuming that you do not have an underlying mental illness, feelings tell us something that the facts do not yet show. you need to trust yourself. …… and look for another therapist.

  2. #2

    It’s hard with teen boys. My oldest son will be 23 soon and I felt as though I lost him for a few years and the truth is, I did. The separation from mom is necessary for a young man. The upside is he came back to me – as a man. On the other side of puberty the chats resumed and so did the hugs. Becoming an adult is no easy task, but being a mom isn’t either. Your feelings of loss are just as valid as what he’s going through too. Not that you can do anything about it, but there is a loss there to be sure. Parenting – good parenting – is not for the weak. I say that as my youngest son is set to turn 13 this summer and puberty has clearly begun. At least I know what to expect in the next few years, but I sure won’t enjoy him pulling away even as I know he has to.

    1. #2.1

      This gives me such hope for my own relationship with my 20-year old son. He and I are very much in the “separation and loss” part of him becoming an adult. I can only hope that he will come back to me and realize that I’m not the bad guy. Thank you for this, and thank you Cathy for writing this! I also have a 7 year old son who promises me that he will never grow up 😉 and I know better…..

    2. #2.2

      I hear you Athena! When my son was going thru puberty – 13 ish – I couldn’t touch him, couldn’t talk to him…I felt like I was being cut off from his life. Prior to this – we had been so very close. But I have had your same experience. He is 21 now and we are making our way back to each other. He lets me in on his life, he lets me hug him and he hugs me back. Like you, I knew it was a necessary part of his life – but that didn’t make it any easier for me. And I also agree – good parenting is not for the weak. I say that as my youngest – my daughter just turned 18 yesterday – gets ready to head off to college in a few months.

  3. #3

    You are so right Cathy…this parenting gig is SO hard. I have a soon to be 16 year old son too, and it is definitely hard to let go of your little boy, wishing he would still hold your hand as you walked through the mall or crossed the street and called you “mommy”. A few months ago…..I became MOM. I asked him why my name has to change? He just looked at me like I was weird. Lol. Anyways……it is a privilege to be his “mom” and we will get through these crazy adolescent days together.

  4. #4
    Erin McAulay

    Wow Cathy! This is the exact thing I am struggling with right now with both my teens (daughter 16, son 15). My oldest son who just turned 21, I did loose him and he is still lost. I have been an emotional wreck lately trying to not overstep my ‘boundaries’ with the teens in hopes that I dont ‘loose’ them like I did my oldest. Parenting is a very up and down 24 hr a day job that somedays I feel like I am not that good at! For me I still cut cuddles and snuggles from my 2 youngest so I guess that helps for now. Thanks for the story. It makes me feel like I am not alone!

  5. #5

    Here I am, commenting again… For the last few years (I feel so weird saying this), I’ve really connected with the things that you share about your therapist. So much so, I feel like I should send you both checks. The things that she says to you, are exactly what I need to hear!

    I’ve lived my life based on my feelings and my perceptions and my reality. Sometimes, feelings are just bullshit. I don’t get to act like an asshat because my husband/kids/friend/bank teller/customer/cross guard/whoever does something and I don’t like it/get butt hurt/want to take my toys and go home. Sometimes, I just need you and your therapist to remind me not to be an asshat.

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well, I have been the Queen of Asshat, literally. My friends wouldn’t necessarily see that. No, I have saved it all for Dan, mostly, but to clarify, she says my main purposes in life have been How Do I Feel? and What Am I Getting? But that it’s pretty much been my unconscious response to a normal life. No need for curiosity. No need to see other people’s perspectives.

      I’ve been working on this for four years now. I am not some damaged abused soul. I just grew up with normal priorities. I hope that some of it makes sense when I write about it. I know it’s not going to make some people feel good. Or they’ll think it sounds crazy.

      But it does boil down to being an asshat who is ruled by feelings and ideas. That has been me. I’m changing that.

  6. #6

    Cathy–I feel for you and I love this post. So honest and real at this time in a mom-of-a-teenager’s life. My oldest was the same and sometimes still is, but I remain patient and open to whenever she wants to let me in. I agree with Athena above–parenting is definitely not for the weak. Trust that you have done a good job and that he will come to you when he needs you–he will someday (hopefully soon).

  7. #7

    Oh my goodness! This is exactly what I need to hear! I get so sad when my teenage girls don’t talk to me in the car and I start thinking
    “They don’t like me,” “I’m losing them,” etc. it helps so much to know that someone else feels this way too. Thank you for your eloquent, thoughtful words.

  8. #8

    I am now 42 and my son is 8. I’ll be there, where you are now, in 8 years. We got to enjoy every phase of your lives with those precious kids of us, no matter what. And well, I have to agree with kate, go for the feelings, your therapist probably don’t have kids or don’t enjoyed life with them LOL

    1. #8.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh, she has five children. She and I are very similar people, strangely enough. She can see through my bullshit like transparency. It’s freaky.

  9. #9

    Once again, your words express my thoughts. When Reilly and I spent the better part of two days in the E.R. this week with what turned out NOT to be the stomach flu, but rather appendicitis . . . I was so torn. Here was my boy, okay, almost an 18 year old . . . in so much pain that there were tears in his eyes. My thoughts went back to the last time we had been at the ER . . . when he had rotovirus at age 3, when I could be in full-on Momma Mode. Hard to walk the fine line between mothering and respecting his almost-adulthood. Thankfully, he needed his mom in both of those situations . . . but I was much more mindful of the space he might want/need. He’s on the mend, and I’m grateful for the chance to nurture a bit! I don’t think that facts are necessary . . . just a willingness to be mindful that my kids might want something contrary to what I think they need! But always listen to thy gut, my friend! <3

  10. #11
    Kate G

    It’s not just teen boys – my youngest girl became very anti-hug while in high school. I rarely got any sort of physical contact from the kid who was my snuggler pre-teenagerhood. Here’s the good news, Cathy – be patient. This kid just finished her freshman year of college – and is off living her dreams this summer (but not at home) and every time I see her – I get lots and lots of hugs. Evidently now that mom-hugs are no longer readily available, they are a much more precious commodity! <3 After the long drought – every time she approaches for a hug now, I'm totally surprised!

  11. #12

    I’m just starting down this road, and your post was helpful on so many levels. I know I need to give my son space, but it just kind of sucks. His struggles are so out of my control these days. I used to think parenting toddlers was hard, but if someone was mean, you just didn’t schedule that play date again. This is a whole different ballgame. I really appreciate you sharing your insights from therapy as well. I must say to myself 50 times a day, “It’snot really about you”. Separating the facts from the feelings can be tough. Lots of food for thought today, Cathy…. Thanks much!

  12. #13

    I’m so there with all 3 of my daughters–22, 16, 14. In the past, I had always felt connected to at least one of them. Now they’ve all disconnected from me and it’s been so, so difficult. Mostly because I wasn’t expecting it. I try so hard to not be naive and anticipate some changes, but, man, it IS so hard when all you want to do is reach out to them but you’ve become an outsider. Hugs, Mama.

  13. #14

    I have two boys who are now 32 and 33. The younger one has always been independent and high-maintenance in that things were never easy and natural with him. He’s still like that. And when I worry about him he tells me that he’s fine and I’m making up stories in my head to worry about (sounds like your therapist). You’ll never have the kind of relationship with Cole that you have with your daughter, but I’m pretty sure he’ll talk to you and let you hug him again once you get through the teen years. Mine do…even my younger son. Lol.

  14. #15

    I’ve had a similar thing, but in reverse. My husband, who had a really close relationship with our teenage daughter when she was little, misses the hugs and the snuggles he got from his little girl. I was able to reassure him that they’ll return when she’s older – well hugs but not snuggles will – and that one of the things preventing them at the moment is that she’s growing into an alien body. She’s got lumps and bumps and hormones etc. as does he, and she’s awkward about hugging a man. He’s no longer just her Dad, but suddenly he’s very much male, and it engenders a degree of awkwardness while she works out who she is and her place in the world. I’m sure Cole feels the same, even if he doesn’t realise it. You’re not just Mum, you’re a woman, and he’s at the awkward “teenage boys don’t hug mums” stage.

    What your therapist isn’t saying is that you’re allowed to mourn this loss as long as you acknowledge that its a transition stage and you will have something different at the end of it. But it doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t valid, nor that you’re not allowed to make a small bit of it about you. She’s right, as it’s not ALL about you, but some of it is and being able to recognise that you have these feelings and that they are a direct result of your love for your son is important. Celebrate what you had, anticipate what’s coming, and be there now for when he needs you. I’m sure he appreciated that small demonstration of love, and the little boy inside him was probably begging for a cuddle from Mummy just as the teenager inside was screaming no, I’m a big boy now…..

    Sending you hugs from across the pond…

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, yes. The dad perspective too… that is something they navigate and work through.

      Appreciate the comment. I appreciate all the comments today. Feeling a little vulnerable, you know.

  15. #16
    Andy T.

    Cathy – I normally read your blog in silence and don’t comment often, but I feel like I need to speak up this time. I completely disagree with your therapist. I am the mom of 2 boys – one is 11 and the other is 16. Boys need physical affection – sometimes I think even more than girls. The feelings you are having aren’t from you “making it all about you”. It is about you AND your son. About your relationship with him now and what it will be in the future. It isn’t too much to want to talk to him and to show your love through physical affection. Every time I am in the car with my son I ask him questions and he isn’t allowed to give me generic or one word answers. It usually ends up with us having a great conversation. I also tell him that I need an endorphin boost, so (based on an old conversation we had about 20 second hugs releasing endorphin) he usually rolls his eyes and comes and gives me a long hug. He may roll his eye, but since he thinks he’s helping his mama, he does it and I think he needs it just as much as I do. Your son may resist, but I think it’s important to pull him into conversations with you and important to give those hugs and pats. If not now, when? If he starts to accept the distance as normal, why would it ever change? Sending you big hugs!

    1. #16.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh, it’s totally not about not conversing! That’s what’s I’m working to do every day. To ask him questions, to understand his perspective, to have conversations. 🙂

      1. #16.2.1
        Andy T.

        Steal away! Raising teenage boys is not easy. Total different set of issues from girls. Sometimes I wish I could see what is happening inside that mind of his…but maybe not… 😉

  16. #17
    Michelle t

    I feel the same way that Kate did (first comment) about your therapist, but I’m happy it’s working for you and won’t mention it again. I so get where you’re coming from. Hello, boat mate! Waving from a water logged canoe in landlocked Pennsylvania. Michelle t

  17. #18

    All I can say is that it does get better. Keep talking. Cole may not hear everything but if you keep talking he will know you are there. You have entered the mind field that is young adulthood. How you act now will determine how he comes out the other side. Your talking is like the voice on the GPS. You may think this is all about you now but Cole needs what is familiar to him like you and Dan. You two, your values and love for him is what will guide him to make the choices he will take on this road.

  18. #19

    While your therapist may say that it is not all about you….have confidence that, in the not so distant future, your son will hug you because he can see that you need it. The tables will have turned. Your boy will be a man.

  19. #20

    Just had to hug my 11 Year old son after reading this post. I am glad I am not there yet because I already know I Will have a hard time with it as well!

  20. #21
    Kelli Panique

    I have two teenage boys and I feel you. {HUG}

    Thank you for going to therapy and working out all these issues for the rest of us! I think many of us see ourselves in your stories. <3

  21. #22

    Cole is not damaged goods. He got plenty of hugs and cuddles when he was young, and he gets all the physical contact he cares to have-just not from you. As soon as his age doesn’t start with a “1”, he will be back. Maybe even by the time he’s in college. My youngest is the same age as Aidan; I have two older kids who have come out the other side. Turns out, they no longer think I can’t get out of the house in the morning without drooling on myself, and occasionally even acknowledge that they still need me. He’s just learning to be separate, before he can be part of the collective again. I send you giant hugs, because I may or may not have been a little tender about the very same thing once upon a time, until I learned to separate myself from my babies and see them as adults. And they are pretty awesome adults!

  22. #23

    Hi Cathy..when my son was a teen I would tell him that I’ve never been a parent of a teenager, I’m going to make mistakes and we are going to get through this together. I said that not only for him but for myself. It helped both of us understand that I’m human and am trying my best. When he needs you he’ll come to you and it will be the best thing ever. But until then you just have to sit in the silence and know that he knows you love him and he loves you. 🙂

  23. #24
    Lynne Moore

    Oh, what are those kids thinking? (Inside of us we are still kids too – navigating what we thought we knew…)

    Just remember, a friendly elbow nudge counts as contact too. Not all of it has to be huggy-huggy. Tho what do I know, my Giant Child never stopped hugging me.

    I think the previous comment of teenagers stop wanting close contact because it get physically awkward for a few years is spot on. We felt it here. (So your therapist is right. about it isn’t all about you right now.) It’s mama-heartbreaking when you all of a sudden realize it, but pfffffft, you can let that go and find the right elbow nudge that works for you for a while. It’s all a dynamic and moving with it is the happy challenge if you let it.

  24. #25

    Cathy, I remember those years, when our son was too cool to be hugged by mom and although we were never at a loss for conversation, it was usually not about what was going on in “his world”. That son is in his late 30’s now, on his honeymoon as I type this, and he is a warm-hearted, loving son who cares deeply for his friends and family AND he gives the very BEST hugs! He knows his father and I are there for him and he is there for us. I tell you this because I honestly think that what you’re experiencing is a stage. I understand your concern, but I really think it will be okay. Just keep the lines of communication open for when he’s ready.

  25. #26

    Love this post – and can so relate. Austin graduated on Saturday, so I’m navigating the 18-year-old post-high-school-getting-ready-to-leave-for-university path. Good times.

    Have you read The Four Agreements? Short read, big impact. I have found that the 2nd agreement – Don’t Take Anything Personally – to be super helpful when interacting with Austin. I don’t get it right all the time, but I keep practicing.

  26. #27

    sending you some loving feeling today for your authentic and brave voice in telling this story. I can’t imagine what having teenagers will be like (mine are now 7 & 2) but I will always keep trying to connect with them while respecting them as you do. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that we’re all learning this parenting thing together with every changing day and every changing year.

  27. #28
    Jenny B.

    I really needed to read this, Cathy. My oldest son will be 16 in just six-and-a-half short years. Right now, at ten, he wants a “huggy” (he says that too) 🙂 all the time. I’m a little ashamed to say that I’m often slightly annoyed by it. I mean, I’m trying to read blogs here, and he’s all up in my space (sarcasm… sort-of). Sigh… People often tell young moms to savor every moment because it goes by so quickly. I can’t savor *every* moment, but I should at least stop to savor every HUG.

  28. #29


    I don’t have much to offer on your post, but I wanted to comment on that picture of Cole. Wow. He’s grown. I feel like we haven’t seen him a lot around here and somehow he managed to grow up – like – really all up. That is an awesome picture.

  29. #30

    Speaking as a mum of a 26 man (my baby still) know that the hugs come back. I had a snuggly boy until 13 then overnight he became a stranger. But now the laughter is back and the hugs too. Never ever doubt yourself Cathy he will always need you and your love.

  30. #31

    I have 17 and 18 year old boys and have found the past few years difficult. My friends with older boys tell me “they come back!”. But there are moments it is hard waiting for that to happen. I am surprised people are so hard on your therapist — I think it sounds like she has given you good information for taking care of YOURSELF while your son is going through a normal development phase.

  31. #32

    My daughter and I talk all the time and hug as well, but it’s tough between my her and my husband….really tough. I don’t know how to get past that either. I’m a “fixer” and their lack of communication is nothing that I can fix nor understand for that matter. They have the same personalities and sometimes I think that’s part of the problem, but I could be wrong. Maybe it’s just that they have so little in common, combined with the awkward teen/parent gender divide. Hugs to you.

  32. #33

    Yeah, sometimes I’m not real keen on your therapist either, but I can tell in your writing that she’s raised a lot of good point. Nonetheless, I think it’s completely ok to be selfish now & then… as long as you’re not being an asshat about it. LOL! Maybe that’s the only child in me talking, but sometimes in life it IS about what YOU need & what YOU feel, & that’s perfectly ok. My son is an only child too. He’s 8, so puberty is sneaking up on us soon enough. He still insists on holding my hand in public, but I’ve noticed he is becoming a tad less snuggly. 🙁 I will miss it, but it’s what happens. Even though we’re a lot alike in many ways, it has always been a struggle to get him to talk to us. Not as much for me as my husband though because I’m home more & we spend more time together, but also because my husband has a hard time connecting to people too. I think they’re alike in that way. I’ve been married nearly 17 yrs & a mom for 8 & I’m still learning how to get them talking. It’s frustrating. No one has trouble getting me to talk. LOL! 😉 I think that right there makes it hard for me to see things from their perspective sometimes. I’m of a mind that when people don’t talk something must be wrong, but it’s normal for them.

  33. #34
    Annette Davis

    Hey Cathy–loved this post. I’m a soon to be 50 year old mama, too, with an 18 year old son and almost 16 year old daughter. I’ve done the therapy road as well and your therapist is right on track. I spent most of last year struggling with separating the feelings/thoughts from facts and what is real. It’s hard, but man does it change the way you see the world. It’s liberating. At this point in my life, it’s about me again and letting go of things I cannot control. For a control freak, it’s been rough, but I am a happier person:) Enjoy the hugs when you can get them!

  34. #35

    You are just alright Cathy Zielske. You are willing to be fluid when it comes to parenting. You are willing to put aside yourself when it is time. You love that boy like no other and are willing to wait. Willing to wait is not a trait everyone has or even willing to nurture to fruition. Keep the faith Baby…

  35. #36

    Ooooh. I have a ten day old baby boy and my heart hurts a little, because I know, even though this is far away, this is coming for me. My husband and I live across the country from our families and his mom thinks he doesn’t want to be around her the way he used to, but the truth is, he does- she just can’t understand it- maybe Cole is feeling some of that? I hope and pray that watching their relationship and reading blogs like yours help me in 15 or 16 years when I am going through the same. I hope I can remember back to this and know that it’s normal to feel this way.

    I hope Cole gives you a big hug at some point soon!

  36. #37
    Cindy B

    Um…am I the only one who had tears busted out by paragraph one? Cathy..I can relate SO much to this. My oldest just got married a couple weeks ago but he was really my baby (I was a teenage mom). I had SO many nights of those snuggly moments that when he became a teenager I had a stranger in my house. Enter age 18 and a crazy girlfriend and even crazier x-husband telling him he could do want he wants and BAM my son ran away for 2 years without ONE word to all of us. Talk about ripping my heart out. 🙁 our relationship has never been the same and I do my absolute best to deal knowing I’m a good parent (praise God for my husband) so the feelings of doubt about parenting is something I can TOTALLY RELATE too. It’s hard beyond belief and I just pray I don’t screw them up and my kids grow up to be happy and healthy people and to be always be grateful. ..

  37. #38

    First of all, I can’t believe how much Cole has grown up! And I admire your adult-ness and aim at being the parent/adult. A fine reminder to all of us.

  38. #39

    Hi Cathy – thanks for sharing these thoughts and feelings with us. I can totally relate. My oldest, now 19, absolutely separated from me. It was so slow, I hardly noticed it until it was too late and he was gone. He came back though, the day we dropped him off at college. Starting that day, he began to give me hugs and tell me he loves me. The first time I about near fell on the floor and thanked God right in front of him. Which would have been bad and he never would have told me again. So I held my cool, told him I love him too. Now, when he leaves to go back after breaks, I know I’m getting my hug and love. Hang in there. It’ll all come back around. xo

  39. #40

    So, I’m the almost-50 mother of a 12-year-old boy and I cherish the times he’s willing to hug me because most of the time I get a very quick side-hug, which makes me so sentimental for the toddler days when he wanted to be as close as he could to me. I’m also a therapist, and I’m guessing that when you tell the tales of therapy, you’re summarizing what your therapist is saying and she’s coming off as more blunt and harsh than she actually is. I usually react with, “Ouch,” when you talk about her, but the fact is, the message that I would give would probably be similar. One of the biggest problems we have in life is believing that our feelings are telling us the truth, when really they’re probably telling us is that our past is somehow getting triggered. We need to engage with both our feelings AND our brains, and recognize when not to believe the story we’ve told ourselves.

    1. #40.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Colleen, actually I quote her directly. 🙂 She’s very direct with me, but… we have a four-year-long working relationship. But you nailed it: our feelings and the truth need to be separated and examined. 🙂

      1. #40.1.1

        Exactly – I’m sure she knows you well enough to know how blunt she can be, and that you’ll understand.

  40. #41

    I know this hard time well. We raised 3 boys with the youngest now 22. There was a period of time with all 3 boys that they drew away from me. It was SO hard. I was heartbroken. As little boys, I felt like a queen. Now, I felt like a peasant woman being thrown scraps. I just held in there and took little snippets when I could, hugs, conversations and time together. I don’t know much but I told myself that to become a man and leave the nest they must cut their ties with mommy and eventually you become mom. The time they spend with dad is what I believe they need now to navigate life as a grown man. It can take years for them to come full circle. 2 of the 3 of mine are there and I am loving my relationship with them. The third one is SLOWLY moving closer to me again, but I am giving him space to learn to be himself. It is still difficult because when I feel rejection, I pull back and away. So, I must be conscious of not doing that. Continue to be yourself and if that is being a hugging person, do that (maybe it will be a half, side hug that he will allow when the excitement of winning a game is there) and always be ready for them to open up to you because it may happen when you least expect it.

    I once heard a story that children are like dogs and cats. When they are young they are dogs: loyal, love being with you, would do anything for you. When they reach a certain age they become cats: independent, feed me now, I will allow you to pet me only when I want you too otherwise leave me alone. They eventually become dogs again as they become adults. Each one in their own time. HANG IN THERE!!!

    Next phase, marriage and if that doesn’t throw a mother with a son for a loop, uffda (to use the Scandinavian word). Bittersweet to say the least.

  41. #42

    Hey Cathy,
    I feel your pain , teenagers are tough! I think boys expect themselves to be tough and not need anyone or expressions of caring. I got lucky at one point and was able to discuss with my son how I still needed to “touch.” He thought about it for a minute and came up with a thumb touch that got us through his teenage and early twenties. It satisfied my need to physically touch him and it came to be an unspoken “I love you” while still allowing him to keep his teenage cool. At about 25, it became ok to hug again but to this day we still touch thumbs ….even after a hug

  42. #43

    I’ll make no comments about your therapist because I know you have to have shared so much more with her than you do here. Boundaries.

    I recall that feeling of looking at my two man children, 6’2ers at Cole’s age to my 5’7. While I could still see the little boys I remembered in them I could also see the men they were evolving into. I see a man in Cole’s photo and it’s an amazing photo that brings tears to my eyes because he is so on the cusp of so much. So much new stuff he doesn’t even have words for. Hugs? forget it. You are another sexual being and yet his Mom so you can imagine the muddled feelings that his hormones send through that poor male brain!

    My eldest had his first son at age 24 and that is when it changed so much for us. Once he became a husband, and then a father, I could go back to being …just his Mom. A neutral female. It was also when it hit him how much we (his divorced parents) loved him because he loved his son so so much he cried in telling me. Hugs, real hugs came back All The Time we see each other. Ones he tends to initiate!

  43. #44

    I didn’t take the time to read all the other responses but I have a comment.

    We are all human and we all make mistakes as a mother of 3 grown men (wow that’s hard to say I still think of them as my boys) I can really relate to what you wrote about.

    I think it’s ok to say Cole, I need a hug today as see where it goes, maybe he is willing to give one when he understands it’s because you need one. My middle son was not coming to my mother’s memorial service he had been to see her and he did not feel the need to make a the long trip again once she had passed. I wrote to him to say I understood but was disappointed. Long story short I learned that if I need something from my son(s) I had to learn to ask because they can’t read my mind and know what I need.

    I’ve have done a lot of things in the 30 some years as a parent I wish I hadn’t but that is life we are all human – for me the important thing is to accept there are something’s in life you just can’t change and there is always time to say hey I wish I had of done that differently. Sometimes the response you get is quite surprising, I know I have carried around a parcel of quilt then when I have discussed it with the person I thought I had wronged I found out it wasn’t that important to the person after all.

    You are amazing, go easy on yourself you are working very hard to be the parent your children deserve, lucky them they have you. Yes even if some days they don’t get it.

  44. #45

    I have an 8 year old boy who still snuggles and says he wants to live with me when he grows up. And most times I just enjoy being close with him. But sometimes I get sad knowing this connection will end. And while I agree that it is not ALWAYS about us moms and how we feel, I feel like sometimes it should be. And part of going from a teenager to an adult is recognizing that your parents have needs too!

    Recently a friend’s son got married, right after coming home after being away for two years. My friend felt like she had no time with her son and was losing him right after he got back. I pushed her to demand an evening with just the two of them for dinner, connecting etc. They didn’t get a chance for that and I can’t help but think her son will regret that someday.

    Charting the seas from teenage years to adulthood is hard and I agree that we can’t project our needs onto our children, but I believe that they won’t fully become adults until they can recognize that we have needs too.

  45. #46

    Cathy, I so appreciate your thoughtful posts about parenting. Your perspective is really valuable and I feel like I’m on the two bookends of the spectrum. I’m a mother of very young children (all under 8) and I’m the 33 year old daughter of a mother that just hasn’t learned how to SEE her children as they are now. My mom is wonderful and helpful and loving – but it makes me sad that she doesn’t see me, she just keeps wishing things could be like when all of us kids were still living at home. I get it, because that’s where I am with my children and I love this time in our lives. But so far my mom and I are missing out on what’s great about THIS time in our lives.
    So, all this to say that I realize it’s a bittersweet and difficult transition for the relationship between a mother and a child to change and to take a few steps back to allow the child to grow into himself/herself. But you’re doing you and your son a favor by doing the work now rather than trying to hold on to a time that has gone by and missing out on the time that you have now.
    My friend’s father has such great advice about parenting/life in general. He says to look at the stage that you’re in and identify what is specific to that stage and then focus on it, magnify it, and try to enjoy the crap out of it. You and Cole seem to be in a pretty cool stage where you get to see him grow and develop his interests and talents and you get to be front row to all of that growth and awesomeness. Pretty cool.

    1. #46.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks for the comment, Emily. It’s a loss to your mom and you that she doesn’t want to see you as you are now. I mean, I’m thinking about this a lot. That we are not the same people for all of eternity. We change and therefore have to readjust how we see things. To lose curiosity about the people we say we love the most? That is the saddest thing of all. Something I’m working on right now.

  46. #48

    I have a 16 yo, too. I get it. I should be putting away for his “treatment” now, as I don’t even try to not touch him. I pester him constantly. And Im JUST NOW, for the first time ever, wondered if that’s a bad thing? Like is that Huggie rape? hum…. not sure.

    as for making it all about you. I do that. My ENTIRE life I’ve thought everything was about me and believing my feelings. Truth be told, my brain is a big fat liar head and the minute I start acting on my feelings (going on that they are VAAAAAAAAAAALID) is the minute I get into real trouble. Today I try to live in the the TRUTH. maybe that’s what your girl calls “facts” but that confuses this simpleton. For me, it’s just about be authentic and remembering that I’m not the center of the universe. I’m not a five year old. It’s not all about me (dammit)

    1. #48.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh my god. Yes! I’m not a five year old, but hoo boy, let me tell you, I have acted like one for most of my adult life.

  47. #49

    *hugs* Cathy!
    Have to say, one of the reasons I love your blog is that you are a couple of years ahead of me in terms of raising a boy. I have two, the eldest about to turn 14 in a couple of weeks. I am learning stuff from your sharing. Thank you. Thank you to Cole as well for being a normal kid and letting you mum share some truths now and again. t

  48. #50
    Kate Teague

    Oh man do I ever get this post. Having a daughter who is coming up on 13, this teeanger stuff is way harder than I expected. I also have been making it a lot about me and forgetting that there is a LOT going on for her too. It’s such a tough patch as I think I am grieving the little girl that I have had for so many years as she navigates her way into teenagerhood. She still needs cuddles from time to time and other times it’s a no way jose deal. Thank you for your open writing. Just knowing that others feel similar always helps!

  49. #51
    Cindy E.

    Oh Cathy, I hear you, have gone through it, and think I understand. I’ve read a few of the comments, but don’t have time to read them all now. But I just wanted to pop on here and say real quick that what you’re experiencing is not uncommon, but still hurts. As far as your therapists recommendations, there is wisdom there. And I can’t help but to suggest Byron Katie’s “The Work” or something along those lines (finishing up a big project and brain cells are fried … ah, to be 53 … some things go quicker than others :-D). She teaches you a process of questioning what you’re feeling. Asking yourself, “Is that true?” There are four steps. Anyway, it’s a good read, and when I’ve practiced it, it really helped. You are an AWESOME mom, and between you and Dan, I’m sure Cole is getting what he needs. Take care.

  50. #52

    Although tears came to my eyes, thanks for sharing. I have an 8-yr old who loves to cuddle. I dread the day he doesn’t want cuddle & hugs and you just made it even more real. We parents just need to continue to love and be there for our kids…and be ready with open arms to hug when they want & need it.

  51. #53

    My boy and I were lost for a while, but no more . He is 21 and been living at home. I get hugs and I love you every morning before work, we have breakfast and coffee together each day. My heart is so sad, because as of next week he is leaving home to live with his girlfriend because he has a wonderful job opportunity. He will be 3 hours away. We are going to have virtual coffee every so often and thankfully we will have the opportunity to see him quite regularly. My daughter, on the other hand, ummmm that is a whole different story, and all my mum friends tell me when she is around 20 it will all change. I live in hope for that day because I miss my independent, sassy, beautiful, loving, ( standoffish, and my friends are more important than you girl) xx I lovehim honest you are. I try not to delve too deep into how they feel because I used to drive myself crazy (control freak here) they know I love than and here for them, I need them to know that and they will come to me when they need me. I’m writing this my not is feeling vulnerable about moving away. Last night I got a huge hug, a back rub and an I love when asked if he was okay ( I saw he was sad) he said yeah I will be.

    1. #53.1

      Darn auto correct. My boy is feeling vulnerable. And I love how honest you are! Certainly makes me think a lot and I find myself nodding while reading your words

  52. #54

    I don’t have a son just a daughter so I have no insight on this only the girl perspective, which I assume is, or has been another post. But I just want to say I’ve been following you for AGES and I remember Cole when he was just this big … the little mascot at the local baseball games … and I’m sure that’s what you’re remembering and thinking of as just yesterday. And he’s rolling his eyes over and hoping everyone has forgotten. But things will come around and he’ll look at those scrapbook pages and laugh and look up at you and give you a little smile. Not today or tomorrow, but again. Just take a deep breath and be grateful that Dan’s got this, for now. He’s good people. So are you. And because of that … so are your kids.

  53. #56

    Not the voice of experience here. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have children. But I wanted to pipe in and say that you are CLEARLY a good mother. And I am basing this on the fact that this is something that you are concerned about, something you discuss with others, something you try to learn how to work through, and that you want to provide hugs and affection to your children.

    Endorphins DO help. Actually, I believe oxytocin gets released during hugs and touching, and that shit feels good. My husband and I even have it broken down to a phrase, “I need tocins”. And petting an animal releases tocins too, which is why they help lower blood pressure, etc. Science is real.

    So, keep on keeping on, being yourself. being selfless enough to know that you need to figure out how to raise good, loving, respectful, children. I think you’re doing a great job. (Because what I think matters, ha!)

    1. #56.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I really appreciate this comment, Lisa. I mean, I do care about this. I don’t want to sit back and bide my time and hope it all works out. 🙂

  54. #57
    Sue Treiber

    My son is also almost 16.

    There was a time when I remember thinking, “If he doesn’t stop talking, my ears are going to bleed.” He was non-stop, all the time. The questions. The remarks. The touching. The climbing on my lap. The wanting me to put down what I was doing so he could sit on me.
    Now, the rare touches are fake punches and holding me back from going somewhere. The conversations all one sided.
    Definitely not easy.
    Hopefully, not forever.

  55. #58
    Debbie in AZ

    Thank you for being honest and real about the changes and transitions of parenting. I can relate to your feelings and many of the commenters. My only child, daughter, is about to go off to college. As a middle-aged single Mom, it’s tough for me right now finding the balance between that of giving her space and biting my tongue as she is finding her way to adulthood and that of venturing a hug or opinion or request for her to spend some time with me before she goes. I do my best but I’m sometimes afraid it’s not enough. I guess I just need to keep showing up for her and trust it is enough to just be available.

  56. #59
    Heather H

    Ugh. This is gut wrenching to me. I am the mama to a nine year old snugly boy who says he never wants to move away from me. And I want two days for every one I get with him because as you know, these precious childhood years are blowing by. And I become a blubbering fool when I read your posts about Cole! I k ow someday soon my snuggle bug will be a teenager too.

  57. #60
    Lisa Russo

    Yup on the almost 16. Yup on the looks of disgust when I ask for a hug (unless he wants something, ahem). Yup on the sobbing in the car once (not my finest moment). And yup on my focusing on how it is affecting ME instead of celebrating HIM.

    We’re a work in progress, he and I. I think we’ll be ok, but I’m still sad much of the time – but working on it.

    I love what a previous poster said about recognizing and embracing each phase. There’s really not much else we can do. ❤️

  58. #61
    Sara S

    I’m dealing with this same thing with my son! It’s so hard for me. My teenage daughter is the complete opposite, she still wants to be touched and won’t stop talking. Which makes it worse because I know she will hold my hand, snuggle, whatever whenever but it makes it harder that my son isn’t the same so add guilt to the pile that I want more from him than his sister. Maybe I need therapy too….

  59. #62

    I’ve survived the adolescence of 3 sons, the youngest of whom is now a 22 year old U.S. Marine. I could sooooo relate to your story. They slip from childhood into this awkward boy-man stage during which mom becomes the most ridiculous idiot in the world – unless they need clean underwear or are sick. I wanted so desperately to stay connected, to have meaningful conversation, or even to hear a grunt now and then. My efforts were almost always wrong. But occasionally (usually around midnight) something would open up and my son would decide that he needed a deep and prolonged conversation. Nothing I did or didn’t do could make those moments happen, but when they did I just had to set aside whatever I had planned (sleep?) and be present. The next day he’d return his normal “I’m too cool for mom” self, but those moments were precious.

    1. #62.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh man, we’ve had the 1 a.m. conversations, too. And I’m so grateful for them when they come.

  60. #63
    Alana M.

    You know, I really needed to read this. I’m on the opposite side of life right now with two little ones under the age of three who are constantly touching and loving on me… It’s nice to be reminded in the moments I find myself “touched out” that it isn’t always going to be this way.

  61. #64

    Here’s the thing. We are all living our lives on the perceptions or feelings we have about something.hen, we apply those perceptions or feelings to our actual life and, voila! We’ve got this fake/real thing going on, but it’s really impossible to escape. We do the best we can, most of the time. Sometimes, it is just too much.

  62. #65

    Love your honesty in your post. A wise friend (and school counselor) once told me how important it is to “write” to your children. I had to think about it for a while but decided to give it a try! I am the mom of 3 grown children (2 boys and a girl) and I continue to “write” to them. They are adults now with adult joys and concerns, writing to them seems to allow them the space they have established but still a connection to mom. I know for a fact that they saved notes, cards and letters, letting me how much they appreciate them. I have gotten many a hug after a short note. I know for sure as my grandchildren grow and “move”away me (oh this breaks my heart as I think about it) I will be writing them too. Parenting is an ongoing learning process and you do have their best interest at heart. always. Thanks for sharing yourself with us!

  63. #66
    Helen High

    I can’t express to you how timely this post is Cathy. I have 3 teen-aged step children that I’ve been with the bulk of their lives. I long for the day when they were excited to see me. The youngest is 14 and he spent the weekend with us and the silence was maddening most of weekend. I struggle with them not liking me because I’m not part of their everyday world, but to hear these stories from full-time Moms, my heart is a little less broken because all of you have to deal with the quiet and all around disconnection every day. I take comfort that one day they will be thrilled to see me again.

    Keep your head up ladies. . .I agree that eventually they do come back.

  64. #68
    Jeanne W

    You are a brave and beautiful Mama! And your words move me. I have two teenage girls and mr hey shy away too. We do our best each day. ❤️

  65. #69

    Oh, I am so there with you!
    I have a newly 15 year old boy who doesn’t need contact/hugs/communication. He has learned however that *I* need a hug every now and then and will offer a limp variety.

    But I also have a 16 1/2 year old who still craves contact, hugs. He will bear hug me and lift me off the floor. Sit next to me on the couch and lean in. He is 6’2″ and 180 lbs. And it’s *me* who feels awkward, who looks at my lovely boy and thinks *he* should be moving past this…but it’s not who he is. He always was, always will be the gentle giant (his nickname as a 5 year old!). I have to remind myself to offer what he needs.

    Learning who each person is as they grow is so…interesting? difficult? bewildering? yup, that’s the word I think 😉

    (get a dog. it fills that spot of the child who won’t ever stop needing you.)
    (and you’ve read that “I used to have a child/dog who turned into a teen/cat but then went back to being a dog once they truly grew up…” parable, right?)

  66. #70

    Cathy, I had to wait to read your post so I wouldn’t tear up in front of my 151/2 yr old son. The part about sitting in the car in silence trying to think of the right question, the right comment to get more than just a nugget of info, I’m so there. I just forced him into a group hug, which he tolerated. I am enjoying his sense of humor, but finding it harder to be serious/reprimand him because he knows he can make me laugh. It sure ain’t easy!!

  67. #71
    Katie Jones

    My twins are 3 1/2 and I dread not being able to snuggle and nibble them loads! My boy adores his mummy, my girl adores her daddy, and they are both very huggy. But even they have hugs on their terms some days!
    As others have said, Cathy, just remind Cole that sometimes it’s you that need the hugs from your boy, and he’ll hopefully respond. My brother also went through a mega phase of not wanting anyone near him, but we now have a great relationship (especially now we don’t live in the same house!) and I actually got to have a good chat with him at the weekend and some big hugs, which was lovely. Just what we needed, I think, and it was good that the twins were being entertained in the other room to give us that chance of connection. He gets married in August, and I think that is helping (but also stressing them out right now!).
    Sending you hugs from acreoss the pond 🙂

  68. #72

    As a mom of 3 girls (2,5,8) I soooo appreciate hearing about this stuff. My world is all “little kids” but I love when you talk about the transition into ‘big kids’, it’s so good to see what I’ll be heading into.
    Thanks for sharing your life with us, real and all.

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