Any parent of a teenager(s) knows the rest of this title…Our Kids. If there is karma in the world, I’m getting payback for the jerk I was (I’d use a stronger word if this were not a PG-rated column) to my parents for so many years. And, for all the incredible angst and sleepless nights I likely caused them. They only had me so I’m getting double since I have two boys, now 17 and 20. Payback is a b****.
Recently, one of my sons and I went to see our family therapist at the request of our family therapist due to some things he felt would be good for both of us. I thought we were going to discuss some future plans for my son, which we did, but it began with some “clearing the air.” That is in quotes because if anything the “air” was pretty dark, dank, and ugly after my son expressed his feelings.
I’ve been to enough therapy to understand the rules that we should be open and honest with our feelings and we need to do our best to hear the other person. And, that most everything should be allowed to be expressed. Nonetheless, the venom coming out of my offspring was pretty hard to hear. I think I’d rather have gone back to the dentist and had another root canal, which I just had a short while ago. The dentist was much gentler, even when he had to more or less re-do the whole thing because of a spot that didn’t show up in the first round of x-ray, post drilling.
The value of our therapist is invaluable because he knows when to let it go and when to stop it — “It” being the ranting/raving or “clearing the air” from either one of us. I was given an opportunity to reply and what followed was a release of emotions for both of us. I did try to temper my comments given the somewhat fragile state my son is in due to circumstances beyond our control, for which he nor I are largely not at fault.
The therapist moderated the hour and when we left both my son and I were silent. But, it was abundantly clear that we’d experienced a watershed moment that I hope lasts. He had to say what he had to say. The vitriolic nature of it was also necessary, I suppose, to help him get over and through his issues.
I got something very wonderful from my parents when it came to arguments and fights. We rarely carried a grudge. I also learned this lesson in a pre-marital “training” I attended at a Catholic church once. The lesson they taught was to NEVER go to bed angry. My sons and I don’t carry our anger for long and this son was quiet right after the session, but soon thereafter we made plans to go see a movie together.
Nonetheless, his words and their venom have hung with me and are still in the “air” on my psyche. There was truth in much of what he expressed though the scale and vehemence of his expression could certainly have been more judicious if it were up to me. Yet, I expect that that exact passion and heat was necessary for me to hear him LOUD and CLEAR.
A stranger can cuss me out, a driver on the road can flip me off, and it’s irritating. But, no one can get to us deeper and stronger than those we love and I assert no one has that power more than our kids.
While I believe that to be undeniable, I also hold that our attitude is about the only thing we control, so we can allow another person to affect us if we allow them to. I try to always gauge how much of anyone’s anger towards me is truly about me or about issues that the other person is struggling with. In my son’s case, it’s obviously both, in my opinion.
But, no matter how hard I try to adjust my attitude and get over it, those words are staying with me for the time being. My love for my son is undiminished and maybe the lessons I got from that attack will stick and the sting of it will fade, but it’s been a rough day or two.
Heck, I know it will fade. And, I hope the lessons learned will stick. We all hear, read, or know that teens and young adults are still going through brain growth and maturation on all levels. Much of what we “get” from our teens/young adults is part of this process so it’s incumbent upon us to try and be less sensitive. But, it’s not easy.
Follow-up note: It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote this column. My son has displayed more of his “moods.” Patience, patience. Now, it’s a couple more weeks and he actually seems normal. Sigh…