Monday, November 4, 2013

"Use Your Words"

So for the second time in the course of his adolescence my son sent me a text telling me to fuck off. This is upsetting not because of what he said but because he misspelled ‘off’ both times. He left off the second ‘f’ which kind of dilutes the impact and quite frankly the meaning of the insult. ‘Fuck of’ really just sounds like the beginning of the punch line for a dirty Irish joke.

Oh wait a minute…you thought I’d be more upset by what he said. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t thrilled about it. And, if I’m honest, I judged him a little bit, just as you are doing right now. “What kind of a son says that to his mother?” Unfortunately, probably a lot more than we’d all like to admit. And rest assured, there were consequences; I am not so cavalier or so far in denial as to not see the extremity of the moment. But when you come right down to it, he did use his words, like we’ve been telling them all to do for so many years. Not my favorite words; there were definitely more polite and respectful ways of communicating his sentiment at that moment, but few more succinct.

I was shocked (less shocked than the first time it happened), I doubted my parenting, I feared for his future, I sobbed by myself in the living room when no one else was home. And then I remembered, he is a teenager. And sometimes teenagers can be assholes, because being a teenager sucks. So I tried to remember a few things:

How lonely I felt.

How much I wanted everyone to like me, but I was too shy to let anyone see why they should.

How bad it felt to get in trouble.

How bad it felt to get a low grade on a test or a paper or a report card.

How my parents were suddenly strangers and the last people I wanted to talk to.

How hard I tried to look pretty or cool or awesome.

How stupid I felt most of the time.

How nobody understood me.

How badly I wanted a boyfriend.

How badly I just wanted it to be the future already.

I tried to remember all of that. And that helped but it wasn’t good enough, because he’s not me. There are other rocks in his Sisyphean backpack. So then I had to…

Imagine if all I had to do was login and scroll down to see how much more fun everyone else was having.

Imagine if I had to focus on a test while the girl sitting next to me is wearing tights that count as pants because they’re called “leggings.”

Imagine if I had to start up a non-profit by the time I’m a junior if I hope to get into college.

Imagine if I had to have a tutor when other people seemed to be fine without one.

Imagine if there were 3000 channels on TV, plus Youtube, plus vines to distract me from homework rather than 3 major networks, 2 syndicated channels and PBS.

Imagine if I felt all the teachers hated me because I wasn’t good at the things they wanted me to be good at.

Imagine if no matter how adults spin it or positively couch it, I know there is something wrong with me; I feel wrong…almost all the time.

I had to remember how hard it was for me, and then imagine how much harder it is for him before I assumed I had all the answers. I do not have many answers. I do know that saying ‘Fuck off’ is not okay, that is something I can handle. And when it happens again I will:

a)    Try to remember and imagine before I assume the worst.
b)    Point him to a dictionary if it is misspelled again.

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