Single Mom Slice Of Life:
Teaching The Good Choice Of ‘Good Enough’
Author’s Note: This piece was written two days after Mother’s Day. I have held off publishing it in fear that it would seem unkind, callous, and rude. Nearly a month later, after re-reading it, I still feel the fear now that I felt then. Sometimes the point, is the raw emotion that bleeds through. If you do feel it is harsh, uncaring, or lacking sympathy, know that it was not my intention.
I cannot begin to count the number of lectures I have given on making good choices involving friends, decisions, safety; but, I won’t lie… why hide it? My kids have done some pretty stupid things.
Nick (not that long ago) shorted out the house’s circuit box when he dropped a pair of tweezers into an extension cord outlet because he “didn’t know what would happen.” There was the time he told his teacher that I couldn’t attend parent teacher night because I would be in Florida on a business trip. Of course, he tried to justify it by saying, “If it helps, I sent you to Florida because you got a promotion…”
Justin purposely wore tennis shoes without socks for two days so that he could walk over his brother’s pillow as payback for being called a runt, which was nothing compared to the time that he tied the 90 pound dog to the front of his scooter figuring, “If he’s the size of a horse, he should have horse power to take me around the block.”
I like to pretend that my kids are better than that, make better choices, but in reality, when I found myself having to explain to my teenager why sticking tweezers in an electrical outlet is a bad idea, I had to face reality. Kids can be dumb, they sometimes make bad choices.
It’s funny to laugh about stinky feet and dog-driven scooters, but when you’re holding your 17-year-old son because he found out Mother’s Day morning that a friend of his (the 3rd in two years) had passed away and it was 100% preventable, you begin to wonder: Does my kid really know how to make good choices?
The first friend he lost was a suicide due to grades, depression, and loneliness. It was the hardest hug I ever had to give my son, especially during an already confusing time like his freshman year of high school. The second death just a few short months later involved a friend who was shot by another teen who had been showing off that he knew how to use a gun.
And then, the night before Mother’s Day, a teenager, who was standing in the bed of a pick up truck playing a live-action version of cops and robbers, fell to his death after hitting his head on the curb when the truck turned a corner.
As I held my 6’1” baby, I realized that I didn’t want to be good enough – I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to explain in a calm and rational voice that this was a lesson to be learned, that he would remember his friend for the good and not the bad, that he would carry on his friend’s drive to make others laugh. I wanted to, in the most comforting of ways, explain that this too would pass. I wanted to give the speech to end all speeches and prevent my child from ever being touched by harm again.
Instead, I was panicked. Sugar-coating and tip-toeing wouldn’t make sure my son outlives me. Knowing that danger and death had yet again touched my child’s world, I refused to speak, choosing instead to just hold him. I knew already that if I were to try and talk, my words would be harsh, my tone would be fierce, my fear would be tangible.
I had no more answers that morning than I had when his first friend died two years ago. The pain he felt was still as raw now as it was then and my ability to comfort him felt subpar. It was all I could do to hold him.
There would be no lectures that day. No demand to list five people, not immediately related, he knew he could call if he ever felt depressed or overwhelmed by life. There was no promise to trust himself or his feelings in any particular situation with any particular person or group. There was no lecture on using common sense where seatbelts and moving vehciles were involved.
That is not to say that these lectures/questions/forced promises weren’t discussed at a later date. Please believe they were, and in great detail. But in that exact moment in time, my son needed my shoulder, not my life lesson, not my fear… he had plenty of his own.
In that moment, I had to be good enough, not just for him, but for myself as well. It was one of those times it was okay to just hold him, love him, and trust that being a good enough parent really was good enough to comfort him and help him try and deal with life lessons none of us are ever ready for – no matter how old we are.
Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent since 2002, with two boys ages 13 and 18. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and has returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler .