My minivan felt especially empty when I picked up my 12 year old son from school the other day. My younger one went with a friend, so it was just me and Jonah. Jonah is an introvert. He is also a Leo, so he can enjoy being wild and center-stage at times, but he rarely wants to hang out with people other than his family. He likes to be quiet.
When he got in the car, I started asking about his day. As a therapist, I am good at doing this - I know what to ask to get kids talking - but as a Mom, I was failing. I know my son. After being with others at school all day, he wants to get in the car, turn on the music, and be quiet. He does not want to talk. He needs this break to start recharging.
I asked another question or two, increasingly aware of my own underlying motivations: a desire to connect to someone after my own work day, asking "good" questions/trying to be a "good" Mom, trying to assess his current state -- developmentally/emotionally. Jonah reacted with his standard, "I just want to be quiet, Mom!" And reached over to turn up the volume on the radio.
I took a breath and had a realization. For him, being quiet in the car after school, listening to music, and having his mother, with whom he has a very close relationship, sitting near him, was soothing. It was helpful for him, good for him, even, for me to be near him, and to be perfectly quiet. I was being "there" for him; a soothing loving presence. And that was all he wanted. (And a little rock and roll on the radio.) Suddenly my experience of being quiet took on an entirely different flavor. Instead of being insecure and analytical, I was calm and content. By being quiet and respecting his needs and wishes, I was actually being a good Mom.
The transition from trying to be a good Mom to actually being a good Mom required one simple shift: paying attention to my child and his actual real-time needs.