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Ask Rene: I Think I’m Losing My Son!


Hi Rene:

My son, Mike,  is 40-years-old, and we have always been extremely close–never had an argument. He’s always told me I was the best mother one could ever have. Suddenly, he stopped calling me and when I called him, he was irritated and said to “just trust him.” He finally wrote me an email saying he was re-evaluating all his friendships and deciding who he will let go. He said that our family (his step-father, he and I) did not have a healthy way of dealing/discussing problems and he’s not sure how he can interact with us in the future.

Rene, this was all news to me! We have always been great communicators and talked about everything! So, I asked him if he was sure he was talking to the right person! He called me one time after the email and nothing was ever mentioned about the note. I have not heard from him in over a month. Prior to this, I received a phone call at least every two weeks, and we had very long conversations. He said he is grappling with things that happened in his childhood.

So, Rene, my question is after we have been so close for 40 years, why would he decide I am no longer important to him, and he would prefer that I did not call him? My heart is broken. Thanks!

Perplexed Mom



Hi Perplexed Mom:

It’s not hard to feel and hear your pain through this letter. I have a son myself; I can attest to the special bond between mothers and their boys. So my heart is breaking right along with yours. I have a couple of ideas as to what might be happening so if I were you, here’s what I would do:

ASSESS THE SITUATION: What’s going on with Mike? He mentioned he’s dealing with some things from his childhood. Do you have any idea what those might be? Perhaps he’s seeing a therapist who’s helping him to sort it all out. Then there is the whole aspect of turning 40. I remember when I turned 40, feeling that the first half of the play was over and it was time to get going on the second. I was ready to live unapologetically and be honest about who I was. That may be the situation here. It could be any of these things but the fact is he’s decided to makes some changes and they’re not ones that make you particularly happy.

TAKE A HARD LOOK AT YOURSELF: This is going to be tough. Remember, so much of life is about perspective. I think the reason this comes as a shock to you is because you are not seeing it from Mike’s point of view. I’ve always said, Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, when you’re sitting up there next to the bird. But it sort of sucks when you’re at the kiddie table next to the green beans. Get it? Where you are determines how you view things. Your son may be right; perhaps you all do have a dysfunctional relationship (which by the way, all relationships are to a degree) but it was working fine for you so you weren’t hampered by it. He may have come to a point where it no longer worked for him and he’s decided to do something about it.

GIVE HIM SPACE: If I were you I would write him a note, telling him you understand (even if you don’t) and that you are going to give him the time and space he needs for clarity. Assure him that you’ll be right there for him should he decide he wants to have a relationship with you. Then ask if there’s anything he thinks you can do to help him. If he says no, then so be it. Do not beg, plead or cajole; just let it be. My prediction is he will be back; you shared a lot over the last four decades and I think a little absence will help him remember those things.

Now, the sobering part. There is a chance he will decide not to come back, that for whatever reason, what it takes to maintain a relationship with you and your husband is not worth the effort. Pray that doesn’t happen but be prepared in the event it does. And if it does go down that way, remember and cherish the 40 years you had together and be proud that you raised a man willing to stand up for himself, even if it’s to disagree with you.

I wish you the best of luck, mommy!

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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