I am my son's mirror. / by Carey

the wife is the husband's mirror
A man has two significant mirrors in his life: one is his work, the other is his wife. Looking into them, he asks important questions of identify, worth, and meaning. Both will reflect back to him strong messages about his manhood. Over time, what he receives from them will spell the difference between a life of satisfaction and a life of deep frustration.
— Robert Lewis (1)


It is said that as a wife, I am my husband's mirror.  I reflect back to him his successes or failures.  Through my responses and behaviors towards him, I am showing him the image of who he is, and how he is doing,  as a man.  I've known this for many years now and I've tried to live my role as a wife in light of this, serving my husband and encouraging him. However, just the other day I realized I was neglecting the other male presence in my home regarding this concept.  

I am also my son's mirror.

Does the man's search for a mirror to reflect back who he is just magically appear upon the wedding ceremony?  I don't think so.  As he grows and changes from baby to toddler to boy to man, while he lives in my home, as his mother, I am there.  I am present.  And I am a source of reflection back to him about his identity, worth and meaning, as a man, until he has a wife of his own some day.

I am reflecting back to him.  

I am giving him a gauge for how he is becoming and doing, as a little man.  I cannot give him masculinity. I cannot teach it to him. I most certainly cannot bestow it on him.  That is something that only his dad, as another man, can do.  However, as his mirror, I can let him get a glimpse of how he is coming along in his journey, with a feminine response.  Every day he will walk another step along the line of learning to be a man, and every day I must let go a little bit more.  I do believe that through that, however, I am reflecting back to him his steps.

Is my mother-mirror the only source of his gauge for his little manhood?  Certainly not.  He gets the majority portion from his chief example of manhood:  his father.  Every single day, I see my little guy engaging in the behavior of trying to prove he is a man.  Testing himself .  He loves to 'fight' with my husband. He will well up with tears -- huge tears of sorrow and disappointment that he fights mightily to withhold -- if there is not enough time in a day to fit in that physical exertion of fighting with his dad.  Every. Single. Day.   I watch as he beats the snot out of Shawn and wonder "what on earth makes this a pleasurable experience?"  This is why I am not a man.  They both seem to just eat it up.  I recognize the necessity of this process, and words are not adequate to express how thankful I am that my son has a Daddy who will do this with him.

Look at the stories boys love, the games they play. They are full of battle and adventure and danger. They love to build things .. then blow ‘em up. They love to jump off stuff. ... Every boy wants to be a hero. Every boy wants to be powerful, he wants to be dangerous, and he wants to know: Do I have what it takes?

That’s the question every boy is asking: “Do I have what it takes?”

And when he grows a bit older, it turns to fast cars (the louder the better), computer games of battle and adventure, and making the sports team. He wants to hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth. He wants to make a slam dunk just before the buzzer sounds. If he’s more academically inclined, well then, he wants to win at chess; he wants to ace the test; he wants to come out on top. He wants to prove himself. And all through those years, when he’s riding his bike with no hands or trying to look cool and doing all those other things that boys do, he is looking to impress you [the dad].

Because every boy shares the same basic question: “Do I have what it takes?” And every boy looks to his dad to answer it. (2)
— John Eldredge (2)

My son has entered the stage of transition between boy to man.  He was just born, it feels, and yet, we are on the path.  The trajectory is set.  And every day I need to let go a little bit more so that he can walk the path.

I grew up in a home that was rife with dysfunction and anger, and I was always fearful.   Fearful of the physical and emotional consequences of my behavior.  I knew I would never, ever have my children endure that.  In my home growing up, there were NO ACCIDENTS.  Period.  In my home, accidents were the result of your carelessness;  careless was not acceptable and careless was punished.  After becoming an adult, I realized this was soooooo wrong.  And I tried to change my responses when situations of accidents would arise.  However, becoming a parent has been the fire in my trial.  

I never realized before just how much my own upbringing had influenced my reactions and instincts.  Facing and controlling my anger has probably been my biggest parenting struggle.  I battle anger.  But also, responding to accidents with grace has been a struggle.  It is a conscious decision on my part.

Lately I've become aware of how in tune my son is to every tiny change in my facial expression.  His six year old self feels responsible for every shift in my mood, every expression in my eyes despite the set of my mouth, and every slight or heavy sigh from my lungs.

This discovery initially felt overwhelming.  How can I control something I cannot even SEE?   How can I possibly reduce my sighs?  I have my own entire language of sighs!  My sighs are my pressure relief valves, put in place to help me curb that pesky anger I'm tenuously holding onto. However, this is too big of a deal.  I must gain control over the body language and subconscious communications I'm sending to my children.   He watches me.  Always.  Wanting to know what I'm feeling.  Because he has internalized what "I" feel as HIS responsibility.  And that is not right.

I am my sons mirror

Just the other day... we all got into the van and they were buckling up.  However, he wasn't paying attention.  He accidentally buckled a tissue into the locking mechanism of the seat belt.  It wouldn't lock, and the tissue wouldn't come out.   So he hesitantly told me that he wasn't buckled.

I closed my eyes and sighed, because it was inconvenient to ME to have to stop the van, get out, open the sliding back door, climb in, and try to pull a tissue out of the seat belt locking mechanism.  I couldn't get it out with my fingers, so I ended up using a pair of tweezers (that happened to be in the van from the time he ran his hand down a wooden pole outside Chili's and got a splinter.  I wasn't there, but I'm sure I would have made some 'wonderful' facial expressions that day, as well, if I had been).  No big deal, but inconvenient.

"Are you mad at me?"

"NO!  NO, little man, no.  I am SOOOOO not mad at you.  It was totally an accident.  But sometimes accidents are still inconvenient.  My face is expressing that, but it isnt directed at YOU"

But actions speak louder than words, don't they?

What I have learned is... I've done a poor, poor job of controlling MYSELF.  Controlling my OWN responses in order to not reflect emotions that they cannot possibly comprehend at such young ages.   Because of my lack of control, my six year old has a complex that requires him to be perfect at all times, and collapses and withdraws when he cannot comply with his expectations of perfection.

He is such an awesome little guy.  I watch in utter wonder as he is taking those steps into masculinity, testing his limits, exerting himself against his daddy, asking "Do I have what it takes?"  It hurts to let go, and yet, there's such beauty in it and the way God designed it all.  I love watching Shawn begin the process of bestowing that masculinity.  Through all of this, I want to reflect to my son, when he looks to me as the feminine presence in his life right now, his true masculinity:  his little budding muscles.  His strength.  His perseverance.  His intelligence.   His capability.  With a good dose of tenderness, too.    I want to reflect his growth and changes as he becomes a man who can protect, provide and care for another woman some day.  I cannot give him his masculinity, but I can reflect back to him that a woman will one day find what he has to offer is of great value.

I pray that I haven't made irrevocable errors in my mothering to my son.  I pray that God will fill me with wisdom and strength as I tiptoe down the path behind my son, letting him find his way to masculinity.  I pray that God reveals to me those times when I'm not controlling my emotions, my responses, right down to my facial expressions and sighs.  I pray that the reflection I show my son in his mirror is real, authentic, and who he truly is.

(1) Robert Lewis and William Hendricks, 1998.  Rocking the Roles: Building a Win-Win Marriage, Navpress, p 120, chapter 15.

(2) John Eldredge, 2004.  You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know, p 2, chapter 1.