Fashioning a self-made man

I know. You can’t fashion a self-made man.

close up shot of human hand cookie cutter
close up shot of human hand cookie cutter

That’s the point of the self-making bit; he makes himself.

But, when that man is your son, you like to think you had a hand in the process.

I’m at an age where I have a teen, as do many of my friends.

As I watch the battles between generations—some big, some piddling—I marvel at why it is parents, who were once teens themselves, expect conformity.

I know some adults who never rebelled. Never tested their limits as a teen.

Between you and me, they’re kind of vanilla.

Milquetoast, in fact.

I am not saying I enjoy the battles. But I understand where they come from on the teen end—and it is a desire to find oneself. To say, “This is me. This is not.” With an authority that comes from deep within. Not from a voice that has been calling you to the dinner table for more than a decade.

It is natural for us to want our kids to adopt our values and our lifestyle. It is what we know. It is comforting. It is what we tested and found true.

Somewhere on the West Coast, there is a vegan who meditates and teaches yoga who is praying her son does not move to Texas, work on a ranch and learn to love barbecue.

I’m sure there is a couple on the East Coast who cannot figure out why their daughter did not take to one-piece bathing suits and the Young Republicans club. Who are stymied at their surfing, bikini-wearing progeny. Did I mention she recently introduced them to seitan?

It takes a lot of maturity and self-control to recognize that at a certain point, we do not make the choices anymore. What to have for dinner, who is an acceptable date, whether the lyrics to a song are appropriate.

But we are the parents. Our job description spells out maturity and self-control as prerequisites, no?

Ha. If only.

New man born from an egg shellMy teen will be a self-made man if for no other reason than he wants to completely and utterly distinguish himself and his choices from me and mine.

I learn acceptance as I go.

The military? As a mother, makes me shudder. Worry. Lose sleep. But he finds himself drawn to it.

Rap music that makes women sound like property? And stupid property, at that? Hate it. And he knows it. Which is why he likes it. I am counting on this being a phase. He has the smarts to know those lyrics do him no good. He likes them, in part, because I don’t.

Here is the secret I hold close: when my son makes himself over into who and what feels right in his own skin, I will have made my mark.

He may not ever like Sister Hazel’s music or broccoli, but he will have a voice inside him that tells him “People before things” and “Family matters.”

I got to have my say on the important stuff. Better yet, he got to see me live the important stuff.

Did I screw some of it up? Sure.

He has hopefully learned patience along with me, as it is a trait I had to work for later in life.

Truthfully, he has been one of my biggest teachers of patience. I had to learn it or be hurtful to him.

Just as I had a hand in the ingredients that go into this self-made man, he had a hand in shaping me to become who I am today.

I am a better person for it. And so is he.

I think that is what this self-making bit is supposed to be all about anyway.





20 Comments Add yours

  1. Teach my parents about the patience? They wouldn’t believe that i could grow up 😦
    BTW new theme?

  2. I got my glimpse into teenage boyhood the other day when picking up my just 9 year old from overnight soccer camp that has boys of all ages in attendance. This horde of awkward, taller-than-me, deep voiced + pimply faced boys passed by (all doing something with their ball!) and I flashed forward to life in a few years…thank goodness we get there organically, otherwise I would be completely clueless.

    Oh, and I totally agree that they make us better people…so it is a bit of a collaboration. 🙂

  3. Oh I had such battles with my mother as a teenager, but as you say, it’s all part of finding out who you are and later finding common ground.

  4. markbialczak says:

    This is said so well, Kay. Your sons have and will learn from you and go their own way, make their own mistakes, and be the best men they can be because of the blueprints they design with your pen and paper. Best to all of you, my friend. ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      What a great way to put it, Mark! Love the visual. Blueprints with my tools:). Thanks, as always, for reading and for the kind words.

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    Kristine I believe that if you are a good person, a good parent then it’s likely your children will be likewise. They may make alternative choices, ones that we may not necessarily approve of, but that’s OK because they will likely be good people with it.

    The problem is the same rule applies to bad parents, those without the same values and respect for themselves and others. Their children are headed the same way unless they come across better role models at a young age. Hopefully some will break the vicious cycle.

  6. Dale says:

    As the mom of not one but TWO teenaged boys (17 and 15) I was totally into this post. I have the added angst of them losing their father 7 months ago to add to the “fun”.

    I totally agree with you that I much prefer kids who butt heads with us rather than remain vanilla or milquetoast! I want to see some personality that will challenge me and, even if at times I feel I am speaking to the wall, I know that at least some of what I am saying is sneaking its way in… 😀

  7. Mom sounds like you are doing a wonderful job!! He is lucky

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! And thanks for stopping by:).

  8. Marie says:

    A wise and empowering perspective for a complicated phase. I love that in almost the same breath you accept the complicated pieces of conflict, you acknowledge the transference of beauty between mother and child. Lovely post, Kay.

  9. RuthsArc says:

    Lovely words to describe a difficult phase. But it is a phase, they do grow out of it. Be grateful that they are testing the limits within the safety of your family environment. Kids know how to push our buttons and they refine this skill even more as teens. One day you will suddenly realise that life is easier and the teenage angst is behind them. And you will hear them say something that totally reflects your values that have been quietly absorbed by them over the years. Hang in there 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      I do hope the sponge effect is at work. Some days, that seems unlikely but I have to trust it is. I hear him already come out with bits that sound like me and I realize he is listening whether he knows it or not:).

  10. It was the life-saving issues I stuck my neck out on and where we had the most arguments. By life-saving stuff I mean excess drinking, driving. (Thankfully, drugs never became an issue). We had ‘Mum you are the strictest parents at the school’ rules on driving – not being a passenger in a car until driver had 12 months experience, not being in car with more than two other people, not driving at night or rain for first six months, me picking up after parties weekend, after weekend. My eldest son, with whom we had the most arguments, became a doctor. A few years later he took me aside and thanked me for my strictness. He had by then seen the other side – in the emergency room – the five-kids-in-a- car-wrapped-around-a-tree side.

    Keep fashioning that man, in the way your heart knows is best.

    1. candidkay says:

      That thank you seems eons away but I must admit, I hope it comes! Glad you got one:).

  11. I loved this. My kids are pre-teen and teen and the battles have begun. Mostly with my husband who doesn’t have the same perspective. It is a constant battle. One that is worth it, but still frustrating. We, thankfully, don’t have the military talk to contend with.

  12. Anne says:

    Wow Kristine, sometimes your posts are spot on to what I am living; maybe because our boys are the same age!? We are trying to follow the logic of your words but have difficulties at times. I’ve come to terms with the (yuck!) music, the clothing & love for the military. Just wish he loved himself enough to see past the darkness that is consuming him. ❤️ Anne Christensen.

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Anne. Hold on tight. Hang in there. I am so sorry there is darkness at all. But you make a difference. You do. And you are a smart enough mom to get help when you need it. I know this with all of my heart. Sending you good vibes. And better music:).

    2. Your comment saddens me.
      Anne, please stick with your boy. It sounds like your son needs more self-making help from his family before you send him to defend his country.

  13. justme3362 says:

    Such a lovely post.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by. Glad this one struck you:).

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