As we near the end of another school year, I am experiencing all the “where is the time going” and “things are going too fast” moments that most mothers of school aged kids do. It feels like my heart swells with pride and then breaks as each new chapter in this book starts and then ends.
My oldest is just finishing up his sophomore year. And truth be told, I could not be any more proud of him than I am. He is an amazing man of God. He is a strong man of character. He stands up for what is right and speaks out against what he believes is wrong.
I love this child so much, but he is the one I clash with a lot. My mom told me recently that she thinks that is because God wants to do mighty things in and through him, and the enemy uses me as a tool to try to break him. WOW! That breaks my heart every time I think of it.
But, it is most likely truth. Since he was in 3rd grade we have had issues with his grades. He is amazingly intelligent. He can hear something one time and know it. He can read something one time and have it memorized. Thus, his view of homework is that it is a waste of his time. He’s got “it” and does not see the point is doing it over and over again. Practice, or homework, is for chumps.
So, although he is incredibly intelligent (dyslexic and all the good things that go along with that), his grades seldom reflect it. We have struggled for years to get the homework turned in just so he would pass his classes. He feels like I am nagging. I feel like he is ignoring me and not doing his job.
I get frustrated out of my mind with him. We ground him. We take everything but fresh-air away, and it still does not faze him. There in lays the clash. It is a fine line of between me being overbearing and him not giving a crap and doing what he wants.
Then, when you add the liberal thoughts that are injected into high school kids by their teachers and friends at their huge high schools, it does not take long before you wonder who this kid is and what freak raised them to think and act like this.
And that is where I am this afternoon. Who is this kid and what freak raised him to think like this? I have already put out there that I am, in fact, that freak when I wrote Failing to Equip. And honestly, very little has changed. I want it to, but progress is slow.
On the way home from school this afternoon he shared with me his view on who our next POTUS should be. To say I was not happy with his point of view could be an understatement. Actually, to say I lost my mess would be an understatement.
From this conversation has grown my list of what NOT to do when your teenager shares their opinions with you.
Don’t Lose Your Religion
When Michael shared his opinion with me it was one of those moments when I was driving, in a construction zone no less, and my head turned a full 180 degrees and I heard myself say, “What did you just say?” Then when he tried answer me stuff just starts flying out of my mouth that would make a sailor blush. I totally lost my religion on this child.
It would have been a lot better, and safer, if I could have mustered up the ability to remain calm and ask him why he believed the way he did. I should have listened to his reasoning. I should have respected his opinion enough to tell him he was entitled to his opinions. I should have told him that I needed some time to process this and that I wanted to talk more about it with him.
As the ugly things I was saying flew out of my mouth, I felt my eyes bugle out of my head and heard my voice get big. I think I also felt my blood pressure escalate and the vein in my neck tighten. Remaining calm when someone says something so insane has never been my strong point.
Again, if I could have remained calm, the things that I was saying – like my opinion that completely shot down the validity of his opinion – probably would have been received a bit better. After all, what was I teaching him in that moment? His opinions doesn’t matter, and are wrong. And if you don’t agree with someone, yell at them about it. Not my proudest moment.
Don’t wave your hand in the air while swiveling your neck
We have all seen it happen. I spent several years growing up in East Texas and saw friends mom’s do it. I think the best one I have seen is Madea to it. I throw my hand in the air, index finger up so I can “shush” him if he tries to interrupt. My head is swiveling around like it is about to blow off my neck. Even if there was no sound coming out of my mouth, I would definitely be considered unapproachable.
Maybe being not so animated would make me more approachable. The poor child has lived with me for 16 years. He has been pushing my buttons for most of those. He knows this stance. So when he tries to speak, I easily shut him down. My mind is not open and I am yelling.
Honestly, if another woman spoke to him like this I would go nuts on her. It’s just so hard when they look like adults but they say and do some of the most ridiculous things. But this really can shut him down, and the last thing I want in these years where communication is crucial is to have him shut down.
Don’t tell him you should make him get out of the car
Ok. In the heat of the situation I told him that I didn’t know what he was thinking and that I was so mad at him I should make him get out of the car. I elaborated on why I thought his candidate was a moron. Then, he said something else. I don’t even remember what it was, but it clearly pushed me over the edge because I pulled the car over and told him to get out.
This is kind of our typical mode of operation. Not the get out of my car thing, but the pushing of my buttons with smart remarks. Even his brother told him, “you have got to learn to keep your mouth shut. I am tired of hearing her yell at you and when she is almost done you say something to send her off again.”
When I lose it I think it scares him and he gets defensive. I think that is a normal reaction. My actions do nothing helpful.
Don’t tell him you have failed
As I am wrapping up my rant, I tell him that I have obviously failed him as a mother. I tell him that I have enabled him to think in ways that are not ok, not realistic and potentially damaging to him and everyone else on the planet.
Yes, this was a feeble attempt at guilt. It was wrong. But by this point my thought process had come full circle and at that very moment it was very clear that I had failed at every aspect of being a mother to him.
For the record
When we got home, he did his chores and went upstairs as normal. A couple of hours later he came back down stairs and I apologized. I apologized for going off on him like I did. I apologized for not respecting his opinion. And I apologized for not listening to him and asking questions to find out what he thought were facts to base that opinion on.
But most importantly, I told him I love him. And I do love him. I see the amazing potential in him that I don’t want to be jaded by what is acceptable by society or popular opinion, or even me. I want him to form his own opinions based on facts and what is right in the sight of God.
Sometimes it feels like we will never get “there.” I am not even sure I know where “there” is or if I will recognize it when we finally do.
We work our whole lives to raise independent kids who make their own, good, decisions. Kids who can form their own opinions. We try to grow kids who love with their whole hearts and think with their whole brains. And then when they do, we have to calmly listen, ask them questions, and respond with what we believe to be the truth.
Daily, I doubt that I am doing this right. But at the end of every day, there is still no place I would rather be, so I say a prayer that they know my heart and that they know they are loved. Good luck my friends.
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