The teenager has had a rough 24 hours. He’s grounded for being defiant and pushing the boundaries, which is expected at his 17 year old juncture. I handle things better than Greg does because Greg just gets pissed and of course then the teenager gets pissed. I swear I feel like I could be in the middle of a damn bar fight sometimes. Needless to say, it can be exhausting. When I’m really exhausted, like I have been lately, I tend to handle things with calm because, well, that’s about as much as I can muster. Somehow, it works better because not only do I call Greg out for his bullshit [“Why are you glaring at me like you hate me? Seriously.”] but I let him know I am not affected. Then he stops. Miracle of miracles. Whatever.
Tonight I gave the teenager a blank journal with the title “People I want to punch in the face” on the front. It’s a joke between us that addresses the gap between how we feel vs. reality. The reality is that even though someone may feel like punching somebody else in the face, it’s probably ill advised because the reality is that the consequences could be bad. However, there’s value in knowing we feel that way and better yet, understanding the reason behind it all. [OK, unless they punch you first, then have at it. But uh, that’s not very peace-loving is it? Oh well. Being human is a weird gig, what can I say.]
I wrote in the front of the journal a little heartfelt piece about the journal being for anything he wants, good, bad, ugly, happy, sad; and told him he should put it in a place where nobody would intrude upon his thoughts. I told him life would challenge him in ways that he couldn’t foresee – none of us can – and that one of the reasons I really loved him was because I could see the light in him when he couldn’t. I’ve seen it since his beginning and I felt it long before that. I took the journal down to the finished basement, the cave, where he’s been dwelling since his dad rightly lowered the boom. He had his guitar on his lap and was looking surly, no doubt irritated with my interruption. I handed it to him and he said “what’s this?” I told him it was a blank journal and he abruptly put it aside saying he already had several and didn’t need it. His words stung but I didn’t let them pierce my shield. I knew he was upset and angry and I had no intention of invalidating that. I told him that maybe someday he’d need another one and I smiled and left.
I then went outside and had a smoke. And cried. I knew he didn’t mean to be hurtful and I just radiated compassion. I get it. I understand. Be human. Be yourself. And don’t apologize for being you. You can certainly apologize for being an ass, but never apologize for being you. [some of what I wrote in the book]
I came back in and he had texted me 5 minutes earlier with an apology for his mood, saying he loved the journal. I smiled, then teared up. I texted him back saying that I understood and no apology was necessary. I knew as I stood outside he was reading what I had written and, because I know my son’s heart, I knew he would feel badly about acting badly. It happens. The real litmus test of how he’s developing into a strong, respectable, compassionate adult would be whether or not he acknowledged his human-ness. And he did. I knew he would.
My son knows right from wrong. My son also knows that he has the power to make amends and value himself and others. Of course he’s going to act like an ass from time to time. It’s what they “do”. We all “do”. If we can’t forgive ourselves then how could we possibly forgive others?
It’s just part of the gig.