Yeah, Whatever

My son is a teen.  Therefore, he has an answer for everything.  It usually begins with the word “but,” and it’s usually in response to some suggestion I’ve made that will make whatever he’s doing easier.  A suggestion he will tell me is impractical, impossible, or inconvenient.

The amount of circular logic he’ll use to reject common sense amazes me.   I want to stop him from talking and ask, “You don’t really believe that load of hooey you’re giving me, do you?”  But I don’t, because I know this is just part of the process.  He’s finding his own way.

Still, it’s difficult to be dismissed so easily.  I spent so many years being the answer to everything. Hungry?  Cookies coming right up. Hurt your knee?  In the boo-boo bunny bag..  Having trouble with story problems?  I’m all over that puppy.  It was reassuring as a parent to know that I could make his world better.  It’s my job, right?

To make matters worse, before I was a mother, I was in the fixing business.  Companies hire consultants to swoop in and make problems go away. We were machines designed to systematically crush obstacles with process. I was good at it. They even called me the wizard.

When my son comes to me with a problem, my instinct is to dissect it, turn it over, break it into components, put it in a Gantt chart and assign responsibilities.  All he wants me to do, however, is listen, so I bite my lip and sit on my hands. It’s all I can do not to draw him a map.  Then he could avoid this well-worn mistake and make a new, novel one instead.  But if he did, he wouldn’t learn from it.  Sometimes you’ve got to fail in order to grow, and I’d rather have him figure out how to deal with it now.  So I’ll offer advice when he asks for it, and only occasionally when he doesn’t.  I try to save the unsolicited advice for really special occasions.  Frankly, I’m not too good at receiving it myself.  Just ask my mother.

So instead of holding my son’s hand while he crosses the street, I let him go on his own. If he’s about to walk into a tar pit, I’ll calmly say “You might want to consider where you’re going“, and he’ll probably walk right in without looking back.  When he comes back, he’ll complain about the muck on his clothes, and leave them on the floor of his room.  It takes everything I have not to say I told you so, but in exchange for my silence he does his own laundry.

After my last unsuccessful attempt to counsel my son, I called my mother and apologized.  I was exactly the same way at his age–probably worse (see the above note regarding my inability to receive unsolicited advice).  I can only hope my son is a faster learner than I am.

I told her, “You are so much smarter now than you were when I was a teenager.”

Funny,” she said. “I was thinking exactly the same thing about you.”

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Robyn Kalda

9 comments on “Yeah, Whatever

  1. Lois Hoffman says:

    Letting go is hard. I have 2 teens both looking to make different mistakes. You hope that you did enough of a good job when they were younger that it will all stick someday. Thanks for the post.

  2. I see all the same characteristics in my 12 year-olds. This is going to be so hard to let them make mistakes. I just started my blog and I’m trying to find the humor in these kids torturing us. Hope you have time to stop by.

  3. […] things suck sometimes — look at the Sox–get used to it.  And he’ll say “Yeah, Whatever.”  At least he’s […]

  4. Anne Kimball says:

    It’s that sitting on your hands and letting go thing that’s so hard. Takes monumental effort sometimes to let them make their own mistakes. Whatever.

    Thanks for linking this up with the TALU, Jeannine!

  5. Awww, I love that ending. My son is still young yet, but I know from my experience with my dad that your son will come around. Daddy and I went through YEARS that I didn’t want him to tell me anything. I didn’t ask and I didn’t want unsolicited advice. My mom and I are best friends and talk about pretty much anything. But when I need solid advice, I go to my dad. I was probably about 27 when I started doing that.

  6. Just as a thought – IT DOESN’T STOP VERY FAST… Or at least if you are me… I try really hard not to say things and then just finally blurt it out. I was with my son (he was driving me somewhere) and he finally told me to just “bandaid it” This means just say it and get it over with – like just rip the bandaid off fast and move on. (my son is 26!) TALU

  7. Joell says:

    Great post! I struggle with this, as I have two teens. The letting go and letting them make their own mistakes is so hard to do. I know it is the only way they will learn, but it is still hard. I have told my mom many times, “I’m so sorry! I get it now!!” TALU

  8. My oldest just hit 12…I fear I’ll be waiting for his “aha” moment for quite some time :/

  9. Gerry Wilson says:

    Love this, Jeannine. I had four of ’em (all boys), and somehow we all survived. You’re wise to let him find his own way. That’s all we can do, really. TALU

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