My son was bemoaning my lack of sympathy for something or other. The fact that I can’t remember what it was demonstrates just how inconsequential whatever he was griping about was. I’m sure it was a hypothetical. My son loves hypotheticals, which after endless strings of “what ifs” I don’t address anymore. Something he can discuss in therapy.
Oh, that’s right, it was “Let’s say, someone did x. Are they a hypocrite?” At this point, I know it is not a hypothetical, but an actual, and ask him to lay out the situation. My response, as I recall was that the guy was being a jerk, but not a hypocrite. After much discussion of what constitutes hypocrisy, my son continued to argue the point, so I told him that I was unwilling to spend additional time on the topic, but would be happy to discuss anything else. He wasn’t pleased. I told him to add it to the list of things he could hash out in therapy.
He looked at me, puzzled. “What do you mean?”
I was kind of surprised. I started saving up for therapy when I was twelve. I knew I would need years to recover.
“Therapy is when you go see a doctor and talk about how your parents screwed up your life.” At least that’s what I did for two years.
He was nonplussed. “People do that? Pay money to complain about their parents? I can do that for free. That’s what texting is for.” We both laugh, any residual tension drained from the conversation.
“When you were my age, did you think your parents were screwing up your life?”
My snort said “every ‘effin day”, so I didn’t have to.
“Wow,” my son replied. “I don’t ever think that.”
Pour me a glass of wine, my work is done here.
But before I pat myself on the back however, I think about how different parenting is today than when I was a kid. We have a different set of expectations, a different understanding. Sometimes I love my son so much, I think my heart can’t stand it. That it should collapse in on itself, unable to sustain the squeezing in my chest when I see him laugh, or make an expression that looks so like my husband, or my own father. And I know. I know that my mother feels the same way about each and every one of us.
It’s easier for her to show it now. There was an enormous chasm between parents and children when I was his age. The differences in culture and technology created a divide so great, it really was difficult to cross. Value sets were turned on their heads, norms and expectations. Like most teens, we thought we invented it all, but there’s far less terrain for my son and I to cross in order to reach each other.
So instead, I wink at my son and say “You’re only 15. There’s still time, and I’m very inventive.”
“I better start keeping a list, so I don’t forget anything. ” He plops himself in my lap like a puppy. The only thing he has in common with a puppy is the smell. I hug him anyway and kiss the top of his head.
“Starting with that. Do you have to do that?” He rubs his hair as if I’ve spit on my hands to straighten it out.
“Yes.” I reply. “Yes I do.” I’ll start the therapy fund today. It will be worth every penny.
Words by J. B. Everett