The hackles.. oye, the hackles. Just when I think I’m beyond this, it happens all over again.. and it’s never pleasant. However, tonight, the justification for my pointed and intense conversation with a teen aged son was too much to put aside. It had to be done–and it was.
A friend of his shared, with what I felt was great insensitivity, some of my son’s shortcomings. I know this because I was present. The ‘friend’ held nothing back in what I felt was a rude presentation involving his own opinion and what he called the opinions of others. I listened, incredulous, while my son, a young man dealing with his own awkward adolescence, soaked it all in. I could tell he was a bit embarrassed, disappointed, and yet anxious to learn social mores from his friend. Finally, I could no longer stay silent.
My first inclination was to turn around and slap the boy who was dispensing this vitriol with a sickening ‘I’m just trying to help,’ sweetness. Like hell, he was. I sensed his own bias and my blood boiled to a fever pitch. But, my son is a teenager, and mommy to the rescue is not the approach that will work in the long run. Instead I pointed out a few (not all) fallacies in the friend’s delivery. He backed off a bit, perhaps feeling he had overstepped a few bounds. Well, duh.
We dropped off the friend and my son was quiet, but not despondent. However, the damage had been done. A friend, someone he considers a good friend, didn’t shut up when he should have.
I felt hot tears behind my eyes.. and while my son seemed OK, I wasn’t. He heard things about himself, spoken under the guise of friendship, that should have never been said. I took a few moments alone and resolved to address this with him, even though he was on to something else.
I made him turn off the TV and look at me while I spoke. I wanted him to hear what I had to say and see me say it. I told him his friend had been rude and insensitive.. and that while there was a grain of truth to one aspect of his diatribe, most of it was bunk. I told him that if he never heard anything else I said to him as a teenager.. to hear this: there is nothing wrong with you. Don’t believe for a second you have to be like anyone else. Yes, you are quirky and individualistic. If people don’t get this about you and think you are weird, you don’t want to know them anyway. You will find your people and they’ll get you. Don’t think you have to be someone else–ever.
Somewhere in my venting, I used the wording of “not giving a rat’s ass about what someone else thinks.. but being true to yourself.” This made him smile. I rarely, if ever, use the word “ass”.. I made him look me in the eye and hear my tone. I wanted him to know I was deadly serious. I think he got it.
He will hear things others say about him.. all of us experience this. I can’t stop that. But I can teach him how to process them.. and provide him with tools to deal with criticism– warranted or not.
To me, tonight’s episode felt like an attack on my child. I can only imagine how it felt to him. Although, boys handle these situations with more detached indifference than girls. But I saw in his eyes what I saw.. and my heart would not allow it to just sit there and become worse, without some sort of parental intervention. He is, after all.. only 14.. hardly equipped to sluff off such things without at least some degree of consideration.
Someone attacking your young is so much worse than an assault on oneself. I hated this.. but after setting the record straight with my boy, it feels cleaner, better.. and more hopeful than just letting him sit in the sludge doled out earlier this evening.
He will see and associate with this friend.. but an adult he trusts has given him the truth about what was said. Maybe it will help. My heart can hope.