My mother was fond of saying, often in moments of exasperation, “wait ‘till you have kids of your own.” She was not wishing me any ill will. I am quite sure she didn’t mean, “I hope your kids treat you the same way you’re treating me.” I’m sure of it. It is only in retrospect, however, that I can even begin to feel her pain. I have kids of my own. They are good kids. They are a challenge. They have not even come close to the challenge that my siblings and I presented my parents. Different issues to be sure, but if only measuring magnitude, they’re miles apart.
Having said all that, my 18 year-old son is presenting me with challenges. I can hear my mom saying… It’s not the same though. Oh sure, the timing could not have been worse. When this most recent “emergency” popped up, I was in the middle of writing a term paper at the Sac State library when the phone call came. I was on a roll and quite likely would have completed it in the next two or three hours. It’s not done yet – the library is open tomorrow and the paper is due on Monday morning. Barring any more emergencies, it will be done. That solves one issue – the easy one – for my son, however, there are no easy answers.
His life is stagnant and he is going nowhere. It’s not that he is doing “bad” things; he’s doing nothing. It’s affecting his self-esteem and now his attitude. He’s pissed off much of the time and guess whose fault it is? He is starting to act out in ways that I cannot condone and currently we are at an impasse that could very well leave him homeless. It has come to a point where I want to help him – indeed, to make up for my past indiscretions… the poor decisions I made in my life that directly affected him. Unfortunately I can’t do some things for him, no matter how much I want to.
I am left with a choice that is the last thing I can do to help him but will not be viewed by him in the short term, if ever as anything more than his dad just messing his life up more. We’ll see what happens… all I know right now is that the “wait and see what happens” strategy I’ve been using is showing signs of wear. I had hoped he would get bored and do something. It is obviously not working and once again I am left with the conclusion that I can’t do it for him. Here is the humbling part: As bad as things are between my son and me, it hardly measures on the scale compared to the severity and length of the problems my own parents faced with me.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I am once again presented with an opportunity to reflect on my past and how it affected those whom I love and love me. I cannot even begin to express how sorry I am for my part of the chaos I caused in your lives. I am only getting to experience a mere pittance of what I put you through an honestly – I don’t know how you did it. I know I can’t just say “sorry” and make it all go away, but hopefully knowing that I acknowledge my part of the chaos and that, ultimately, your efforts were not in vain is of some value to you. I am truly sorry. As far as Timmy is concerned, don’t worry too much. It’s going to be OK. He has to walk his path and find his way just as I did mine. He’s a good boy.
The hope I see here is who you are today. Your son may have to endure "rough patches of road" ahead, but chances are he's going to be fine just like his old man - and someday write a similar one to you as you just wrote to your parents. I'm not minimizing what you are going through - I hear the pain in it. One moment at a time.
your parents raised a boy who became a good man. you had to find your own way, just as the same is true for your son. the best thing you can do for him is to cut the apron strings. hard for you, but who ever said being a good parent was easy.
hang tough, mike.
Being a parent is the most difficult job I have ever had.
That being said, I have to turn my children over, each and every day, along with everything else, and just do the very best I can. Otherwise, I will think I am running the show, and we know how that turns out!
One of my favourite quotes is "life is a journey and not a destination." If you weren't who you were back then....you wouldn't be the great guy that you are today. Your son will find his way, but it may take him longer than the norm.
I'm not one to give any advice on parenting skills, since I'm not one myself and don't plan to be one in the near future. Plus, it doesn't help that I don't know the extent of things over there. I wouldn't go all Dr Phil on you ;)
I hope all goes well, with your son and with your paper! :)
I think your gesture to write an apology to your parents is a great thing to do!
It shows an amazing epiphany of understanding of what they were all about during the time ya didn't get why they were treating you as they did during your "early rebel era."
It definately "takes one to know one!" Now ya know they were trying to help you, n fighting to survive you...
I have often thought of my mom as I have raise my two sons. She, like so many other mom's echoed your mom's saying. My eldest is 18 and getting ready to graduate from high school. I have to keep reminding him that he's still under my roof and hasn't moved out yet. I fear for that day, but I feel confident that he will do well. I did and my mom should have been bald with all I put her thru(lol).
Fear not the future, for it, too, will work out.
i no longer want to see you try to accept sympathy from the problems you forced me to face
Parenting... the best and worst job we will ever have. The best because of the sheer miracle of it all... and the fact that we help them make it to 18 with as little incident as possible. The worst because we, ourselves, are our own worst critics on our parenting skills. Too bad there wasn't a manual that came at birth!
Take heart.... the worry never, ever ends, and they will know exactly what you are talking about until they reach your age. My Mom used to say the very same thing to me (with good reason), and I never understood until I had my son.
It's the frustration of them not heeding your advise, especially when you know it from experience.
Somewhere down the line, you will live long enough to see the lightbulb over their head, then you'll know that they finally understand.
I join the line of people commending you for the open letter. It is a wonderful gesture, and one that parents don't necessarily recieve. Yours should be very proud you were able to figure it all out. I did something very similar with my Dad before he passed, but never had the chance to do it with my Mom... and that is a regret I'll live with all my life.
Barbara ~ You're probably right... the light is just so very dim at the moment.
mckay ~ I know, and I think he must too.
bfc ~ Ya, I know how that turns out!
oilf ~ Thanks - one paper left to go! YEH
snaggle ~ said "It takes one to know one"... That's what I'm afraid of!
BB ~ Thanks for stopping by. Come back again sometime - my posts are usually more upbeat!
anonymous ~ I'm not asking for sympathy and you, of all people, should know that. Someday you'll understand... hopefully sooner rather than later.
ellen ~ I don't know that I deserve any accolades - it felt like an obligation really.
I know absolutely nothing about parenting except I often can recognize Good Parenting, and Bad Parenting...sometimes...(lol)
I dearly hope your son does find his way and that you forgive yourself for your part in his struggles now, and I also hope he can get to the place where he can forgive you, too...Maybe it wil take him having his own children...Meanwhile, I hope things simmer down some for both of you...I know this truly sounds like Dr. Phil gone 'funny'...I don't mean it to, at all..I empathize with you and all parents who face these daunting things that it seems are inevitable...
Much Good Luck, dear Mike, to both you and your son.
Lovely that you wrote your parents...I'm sure it means a great deal to them...
Always good to visit you Mike, whatever the topic is, it is always written about with great understanding, including NOT understanding anything about the solutions involved.
here is the thing... there is a point when your parents are controlling your life and a point when you are. You are not the leader anymore Mike. You did your job and now just need to take a consultants role. It is really hard. Many people peek late in life ( take you for instance I am assuming that and you know what they say about assuming...) He will be fine because he has a good heart and lots of love. The rest is just life.
It'll give you grey hair, but he will be just fine.
Maybe your son just needs time to fiqure things out. It may seem like a long time to you but it doesn't to him. It can be a worry when you are eighteen and facing the reality that is just around the corner.
Perhaps the goal he was reaching for seemed to large and he needs to step back and regroup. A teenager is still growing in mind,body and soul and all of this can cause confusion and false starts for some. Did someone or something in his life move on? Did a friend catch a good break and he wonders "why wasn't it me?" Change can throw you off your feet.
Sometimes you just have to let things take there own course and not pick up all the pieces for them.
When I was eighteen I thought: "Hell, I'm young and have time to fiqure something out. I can take some time for me now."
I was in my late twenties before I fiqured out that where I was sucked.
Just let him know your there for him if he needs your support and leave it at that. After they move out it's their time to learn to sink or swim.
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