Earlier this week, Catherine asked, “what have been some of your parenting ah-ha’s around helping your young children learn how to initiate and maintain meaningful friendships?” Upon reading her post, I smiled a little at the fond memories of playgroups and playdates-I certainly felt a tinge of nostalgic longing, envy even for the simplicity of parenting young children. But my reflection was short-lived, interrupted by the reality of a new set of circumstances, my “a-ha moments”, these days seem to be mostly replaced by “oy vey moments” as I teeter the tenuous line of parenting a young adult.
At times I feel superfluous, other times my strident teachings are quite poignantly displayed as the sinews of our little family. There’s something far greater than anything I’ve consciously observed and/or absorbed which powers me to meet repeated rejection with resilience and even more love.(Thanks, Mother Teresa) Greater still, is the restraint displayed in not wavering, enabling or otherwise justifying unacceptable behaviors just to avoid said repeated rejection.
This weekend, our resident young adult behaved in a way that was unacceptable. He was not a good friend, and in turn he was called to answer for it both by the person he wronged, his girlfriend of two years, and by us. At eighteen, surely we handed down no punishment, we didn’t force the two to grimacingly serve up apologies and a handshake with all the willingness of handling a dead fish, but I did seize the opportunity to address sound judgment, character and propriety.
As difficult as it was for me to witness his fragility at the shameful recognizance of what he had done, I did not swoop in to coddle him. Instead, I looked upon him lovingly and acknowledged his pain as I encouraged him to be accountable and seek resolution even if reconciliation was not ultimately the outcome. Despite the criticism of well-meaning friends, I did become “involved”, just as I had in the playgroups, the playground and at recess. This time, I did so not only as his mother, but as a woman, and a trusted friend.
Admittedly, as the words and tears were streaming, I played those playgroup, playground, recess days over in my mind and wondered- if only for a moment- where we, where I missed an opportunity. Only to find, we hadn’t-the opportunity just hadn’t presented itself until now. Much like the other mothers cited, I hadn’t thought much about what he’d be like as a boyfriend any more than they thought of their barely autonomous children as friends. But now that I knew better, it was my responsibility-my duty even to do better, and that meant teaching. And, I did and we spoke and we spoke some more, and some more after that.
We exchanged war stories and he laughed at some of the antics of the far-less-refined-before-his-time versions of his dad and I. As he chortled in sympathetic embarrassment, I saw in him the makings of a great man, friend and partner with some experience and tweaking of his own. We then moved on to forgiveness and the the importance of being sorry and not just saying sorry. Of course not forgetting to touch upon egos, elephants, and the dreaded self-esteem. It was our moment, and it was nice, it was very nice. Although I still writhe en sodade for my little playground cherub, the look on the fuzzy-faced-raspy-voiced-tower-of-tan-skin-perfect-curls-and-gorgeous-teeth before me assured me, if just for a moment (Hell, who am I foolin’ y’all know the first real break-up can go on for days, weeks, months even!) that I was far more super than superfluous, and with that I too, once again, get to say, “a-ha”!