My eldest is generally spared becoming a human caricature on my blog. Mainly because I think it’s hard enough to be a teen and get through the awkward years without your mom putting you under the bright lights.
But this instance. Oh, this one. This one small slice of life on a Sunday afternoon deserves a bit of limelight.
I’ve watched as three “girlfriends” in six months have trotted in and out of my son’s life. I’ve generally duct taped my own mouth and sat on my hands when tempted to preach, proselytize or point him in a direction. As the youngest of six strong-willed daughters and the mother of two stubborn boys, I have seen the merits of letting kids learn on their own. I’ve also seen the pain that can cause. Overall, however, it’s their rodeo. I have my own.
My eldest tends to share with me in a way he doesn’t with his dad. He talks girls, friendships—the human element. In between the bravado-filled statements meant to show me he is his own master, he craves some connection, some anchoring. In a two-household family, that anchoring is probably more sorely needed than in others.
So when he shared that his latest match was “out of the picture,” I pressed a bit. “Why?” I asked. “It’s no big deal, Mom. Really. Don’t make it a big deal,” he admonished me.
As we cleaned out the garage together, I let it drop. We spoke of other things. What kind of car I should get in the future. Whether he wanted his birthday adventure to involve kayaking the river or the lake. Then we settled into a comfortable silence as we swept.
“Ok, Mom. She isn’t a nice person. I broke up with her because she just isn’t a nice person.”
I cautiously asked, “How so?” while hoping the answer did not involve her breaking his heart.
“She is rude to waiters and waitresses. To shop clerks. To anyone she doesn’t count as ‘important.’ At work, she was always nice but in the real world, not so nice. She thinks her family’s money gives her the right to be crappy to people.”
I stopped sweeping and looked him in the eye. Nodded approval. Smiled. I said, “How about I go make those birthday brownies for you?” And then scurried off before I showed any of the emotion that would embarrass him.
In the kitchen, I smiled as a few tears came. Jesus, I thought. Something stuck.
For those of you who are not parents, this may not make sense. For those of you who are parents of kids who have not had their lives turned upside down, who have not had to best their worst selves as anger and confusion reigned, who have not put your head in your hands at the kitchen island and cried because “this” was not what you had in mind for your kids’ family life—again, my reaction may not make sense.
But for me, it made the ultimate sense. I blew a kiss toward the ceiling and whispered, “Thanks, Dad.” Because it was that man who taught me to treat everyone with respect. It was that man, who sold suits in a department store, who made me realize how very much the way we treat anyone that serves us matters.
My friend said to me, “Of course he broke up with her for that. You talk to everyone with respect, Kristine. You’re a chatter. You genuinely like people. He grew up watching that.”
I still marveled that the lesson had gotten through. Ask the average 17-year-old boy why he is attracted to a girl and you will hear, “She’s hot.” And according to my testosterone-laden boy, this girl was. To have a lesson in humanity trump teenage hormones is nothing short of a miracle to me.
As we head into my son’s last year before college, I wonder frantically where the years went. I ponder if I still have time to teach him how to better manage his money, properly utilize the myriad silverware at a formal dinner, change the furnace filter.
But tonight, it is enough that a lesson I never explicitly stated stuck.
I often joke with my boys that I am small but mighty.
So is this victory. Booyah for the mama.