“Oh, so now you’re mad?” I asked the Teenage Wonder also known as Son. I roll my eyes. Son is mad because I’ve laid down the law - again. Moodily he sulks over his morning cereal because I - the irritating, life ruining parental unit - have done yet another thing to supposedly ruin his youth. You name it, anything seems to do it these days.
Son and I have been on our own for fourteen years, and I am not saying that it’s been easy. Me, the single mom, am finding out everyday that raising a teenage son is not for the faint of heart. Son is not much of a conversationalist, the king of one word responses: yeah, no, and occasionally I don’t know. OK, well, that’s three words. Sometimes I feel that Son and I don’t have anything in common, that we are lurching our way through unchartered territory.
You know, I am beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that if more parents were privy to the fact that the teenage years would be so turbulent and raising said teenagers would be such a “joy”, there would be a much smaller human race population on the planet and hence by deduction, less global warming, but alas, that is another column.
But, back to my story, I have once again ruined Son’s life by refusing to let him have his way about one thing or another. Again. He prepares for school, giving me the silent treatment, dragging his backpack and his attitude behind him. I want to laugh, as I have seen this performance a time or two already before today’s episode, this little demonstration designed to “convince” me to change my mind.
You know, as I watch this little performance for what seems like the hundredth time, I am reminded of my own mother raising six moody teenagers of her own. As I raise my own moody teenager, I wonder how on earth the poor woman escaped with even a shred of sanity.
But something she said all of those years ago stuck in my mind. It’s funny the things you remember once you are raising a child of your own. My mother always said, “I’m your mother. I’m not your friend. I will love you, provide for you, take care of you. I will clothe and feed you. You don’t have to like me and you probably won’t. You don’t even have to fear me, but you probably should. But you will respect me.”
To be perfectly honest, I think I actually did fear her as well as respect her. Four feet eleven inches of parent seemed a lot bigger when it was hopping mad. Even now, when she gets going - and she still can - I am smart. I know what to do. Disengage and vacate the premises until the coast is clear.
You know, it all makes sense to me now as I navigate the Straits of Teenage Angst with Son. Sometimes I just cannot believe the things I’ve seen when Son and I go out to a mall or to one store or another and I witness how some teenagers speak to their parents.
No reverence. No respect. Parents too busy trying to earn their child’s “friendship” rather than earn their child’s respect. Daughters who tell their mothers to “shut up” because she “doesn’t have a clue” what she’s talking about. Or a son who mutters “bitch” when he’s out of his mother’s earshot.
When witnessing these interactions, Son looks at me and I look at him. Son shakes his head in disbelief. I do the same.
Son knows. He’s heard the speech a time or two. I am your mother, not your friend. You will respect me. Period. The end.
Fast forward to today. Son eventually gets over what it was that I’d done earlier that had ruined his life at that moment. Hours later, after a long day at school and he has returned home, Son calls just to check in. He’s in a good mood. Our morning rift is long forgotten and all is right in his world once again.
After all of the drama, the pouting, the sulking. I think that when it’s all said and done, once Son has left the teenage years behind and is maybe raising a “little darling” of his own, I think that Son and I will indeed be friends. He’ll finally understand the wisdom passed down to me from my mother and finally down to him.
And, I will have his respect. Not as a tyrant who would not let him have his way. But as a person. The same kind of respect that I give my mother, even to this day. And, I am happy to say that today, I can call her friend.
That’s worth it all in the end.
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This is 29
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