One day when I was maybe eleven, I was walking with my dad. Across the street, was a teenager, also walking with her dad. She looked, acted, and sounded like a typical teenager and as our paths crossed, the girl could be heard screaming and whining. I remember the vow I made; “I promise I will never EVER act like that when I’m a teenager.” My dad laughed.
He continues to laugh all these years later each time I call and apologize for EVER being a teenager. He also asks, “Isn’t karma a pain?”
My son, Dominic, will be 16 this month. He is, and has been for several years now, a teenager. Not unlike that girl years ago, he is the epitome of what everyone thinks of when they hear the word teenager. He is polite, kind, and well-spoken, with a need to make people laugh, feel good about themselves. He is one of the most selfless people you will ever meet, OUTSIDE of the home.
INSIDE our home, he is rude, disrespectful and if I’m not mistaken, has some sort of eyeball disorder judging by the way they seem to roll to the back of his head each time I speak. There may also be a respiratory situation considering when I ask him to do chores he huffs and puffs; his hearing is definitely shot because he often walks away from me as though I am not still speaking to him.
Several people have assured me the cure for these potentially life threatening situations is for me to climb him like a tree and knock the severe chip from his shoulder. Though it sounds like an instant cure all, I have my own personal issues with this. Dominic was old enough to witness some of the domestic violence I experienced before my escape. Therefore, in my own mind, it is difficult to reconcile giving him the walloping he so deserves, while at the same time teaching him that it is NOT okay to lay his hands on another person.
I’m a words person. So before trying to tackle (literally) my almost 16-year-old, I found myself giving one last attempt at a lecture when he stated the cell phone I saved for and bought him two years ago was now ‘crap’ and I should just buy him something better. What came out shocked even me (besides the fact that I did not pull the car over and leave him on the side of the road).
I explained that life is like a bank. All the good things you do are deposits, all the bad, withdrawals. Using examples from my own life, I shared the ones that didn’t necessarily put me in the best light, to show even parents are human.
A friend and I had plans to go on a movie marathon-dinner date. It wasn’t until the last second after I had decided to do something else that I even remembered the dinner date. I called and apologized for double booking myself. She had every right to curse me out, demand I keep my original plans with her, never talk to me again. Instead she, with well wishes, told me to make the drive to California, visit old friends, and to be safe.
I explained to Dominic, I had a lot in the bank with her. Through same jobs and different, big paychecks and unemployment, kid emergencies and dead pets, I had been a good friend. I had enough to my bank for her to let me go to California with no hurt feelings.
In her account was the fact that she had been there for us over the years, I had no problem giving her my last $20 even knowing that it meant my car payment would be a few bucks short that month putting us in the negative with the real bank. She needed it more than we did, and she had so much credit in her friendship bank, I didn’t mind taking the hit.
Dominic turned to me, and with a very solemn look, came to his own conclusion. He admitted he likes being at his friend’s house because he gets treated really well there. Of course, they treat him really well because he treats THEM really well. On the same token, he doesn’t like being at home because he’s always getting in trouble for his attitude and actions but that he and he alone controls that attitude and those actions.
Now I am even more aware of my own personal bank and those who have accounts with me. I have my own hissy fits and witch-like meltdowns but I also have the ability to own up to them, apologize for them, and make amends to those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end.
I’ve been asked to, and had a hard time explaining a certain friend choice to others in recent weeks. That person at one time had a huge friendship balance. Only recently have I decided to let that friendship go; using the banking method, it was easy to see that their withdrawals far outweighed their deposits.
So back to my boy; a deal was struck that Dominic could have a new cell phone, if he literally charted and proved that for 21 days straight, his account had to have more deposits than withdrawals.
Since the talk, the attitude has calmed a little, he is a tiny bit more helpful, and he has made a genuine effort not to be in his brother’s face. Don’t get me wrong; I have no illusions that this banking method is a short-term fix with Dominic. I may have to learn to act taller than my five foot five compared to his five foot eleven. Until then, it’s been an interesting way to examine my own friend choices, my own actions, while teaching him the consequences of his.
What about you? Do you believe in karma bank balances? Are yours in check or is there someone in your life that is seriously overdrawn? What do you plan to do about it, if anything?
Wendy Syler Woodward, 37, has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and is preparing to go back to college before the end of the year.