Last week my son visited with me for Spring Break. We had several [mind-blowing, cover your ears] conversations about life, love, school, coming of age, etc. There were times when I wanted to yell and other times when I wanted to hug him and shower him with kisses. And then there were those times when he made a statement that forced me to reflect on mothering a son who’s has uses those qualities that I taught him [at times when I don’t want him to do so].
Me: Hey, do you remember [Steven]?
Him: Of course I do, Mama. You mention him all the time.
Me: I do? What do I say? Oh about his training?
Him: Yes, you always talk about what he’s doing with training.
Me: Oh… [uncomfortable pause because I just received a message]
Him: Mama, I train, too. I lift weights and work at basketball.
Lesson 1: Don’t get so caught up in what other people’s children are doing that you forget to recognize the greatness in your own child. Our children are watching us as we watch others.
[As I’m making a point with which he does not agree…]
Me: Wait. Since when did you start trying to argue with me? Is that what you’re doing now?
Him: Mama, I wasn’t arguing. I was just saying…
Me: You were just arguing. That’s what you were doing. I don’t know where you get that from, but…
Him: Ugh. I haven’t changed. It’s nothing different about me. Remember, when I was little you used to tell all your friends that I should be an attorney when I grow up because I’m always trying to argue my point.
Me: [Clearly agitated because I feel duped.] That’s not what I’m talking about! There’s a big difference between making a point and trying to argue with me. I hope you don’t think that you’re supposed to argue with adults.
Him: I don’t argue, but if I think something is wrong, I’ll say so. Like when I’m at school…
Me: Oh wait a minute…so you think you can argue with adults? Your teachers?
Him: Sometimes I argue with teachers.
Me: You better not!
Him: But Mama, like if they have a math problem wrong or give us the wrong information, I tell them. That’s not arguing. That’s making a point that they’re wrong.
Lesson 2: Keep in mind the lessons you teach your children when they are younger. Don’t think that they’re not paying attention. They are, and they’re waiting for the right moment to use your words as fuel in their debates. And if they’re good – like he is – they’ll leave you proud and (possibly) annoyed.
These brief exchanges reminded me that mothering is an ever-evolving process that one rarely masters. I have always encouraged my son to talk to me about anything – even when the topic is one he approached with trepidation. After working as middle school teacher where making students stand in the “third block” from the wall and be silent in the hallway seem to have preference over encouraging them to be critical and analytical within a realm of respect, I also encouraged him to have voice and to use that voice. And he never ceases to amaze me. When I look at him, I see many aspects of who I am now – likely who I wanted to be as a youth but was often silent. He is exactly who I had hoped he would be. Yet, the question is: How do I handle a critical, analytical, intellectual personality…who is also a TEENAGER? 🙂