I told you so – Every child’s nightmare

I committed one of the cardinal sins of parenthood. I said, “I told you so.”

My son was texting me from camp–his thrice-weekly gripe fest about how much he hates everything about where he is. The food is inedible, the kids are dweebs, the activities are lame and he has no time to shower. These, don’t faze me. I can rise above it. Teens complain. It’s their purpose. Camp merely provides a focal point for their ever-present dissatisfaction with the universe. What set me off was his complaint that he wasn’t trained for cross-country tryouts and it was all the camp’s fault.

If he’s not ready, it’s his own fault. My dearest son, there is this season called Spring. Three months of moderate temperature and snow-free roads.

I’m worried cuz they make it really hard to run

You have a week before training starts, you’ll catch up

And then I slip up. He didn’t even provoke me. It’s been a long, slow argument that has been brewing since March.

I will not say I told you to train in the spring.

This is me not saying that.

Only 5 runs total

That’s five more runs than you took this spring.

But I’m not saying that either.

We’re done with this topic

Went too far with that last one, I guess. He’s texting with his Dad, who is sitting next to me, about pre-ordering Call of Duty or Black Ops, or some such thing. Hubby is giving him a hard time about having to wait until Christmas. I can’t believe the child is still pining for home.

Saying “I told you so” was less rewarding than I would have thought.  Giving into this particular temptation is far less satisfying than other transgressions, say eating cake. Mostly because my son doesn’t get it.  “I told you so” is a deep and shaded construct, much more than an admonition. It’s more about the parent than the child.

“I told you so” is shorthand. It doesn’t mean “you’re wrong,” as much as my son may feel it does. It means “could you just listen to me next time? I could save us both a lot of grief.” “I told you so” is a plea to be heard and respected. “See, I’m not an idiot, so don’t talk to me like one.” It’s a desire not to see our own mistakes played out all over again. “Don’t make this mistake, make some novel one of your own creation.” But he’ll never see that because teen stubbornness is a Darwinian advantage.  If they make mistakes, they learn. If they make our mistakes, we can be patient, recognizing we are merely our children with love handles and gray hair. We lived through our mistakes, and they will too.

So I texted him some platitude about how if he wanted it, he could do it with work and perseverance, and that I had faith in him. And I promised him cheesesteaks. Hopefully he understood that getting there would still require him to actually run. If he doesn’t make the team, I promise I won’t say “I told you so.” At least not out loud. I’ll save it for here.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Robyn Kalda

2 comments on “I told you so – Every child’s nightmare

  1. Veronica Roth says:

    I remember once catching a piece of conversation between Jonathan and a friend. Jon said, “I know, I can’t believe I had to wait till Christmas either!” Kids! The good thing is he knows, and you know he knows, and he knows you know he knows! He’ll probably train and get on the team and then blame you for it anyway. 🙂

  2. Donna Muldoon Mastran says:

    Don’t fret! He will grow out of complaining or maybe not! We get it all the tme and even though we don’t admit to saying “I told you so!” we do look at one another and roll our eyes. Was it so hard when we were growing up or are parents more receptive to the angst of our children????
    My Mom and Dad won’t acknowledge our “can’t” or “oh poor me”–we would get a lecture on how tough they had it. Need I say more:-)

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