handwriting blackboard writings - Manners make the man

Single Mom Slice of Life:
Of Manners And Teenagers

Unconditional love – ok, I’ll give you that. It’s a fact, a real thing, a way of letting your kids know that no matter what happens you will be there for them. Forever. In good times and bad. 

Unconditional like… well… that’s something completely different.

My 18 year old had surgery over Christmas break. After his birthday party went horrifically wrong and required surgery to recreate his ACL, my son was for the second time in as many months, back on crutches. In the beginning, he had it all – doting, catering, his every want and need tended to before he could even ask.

Over and over in my mind was the look on his face when they wheeled him away into surgery, the completely dazed and tortured look in recovery, his tears at trying to get him out of the car while still pretty doped up. Oh yeah, without a doubt this kid was in pain, and as his mom, I was there for him.

For… about… a week.

Then, not unlike when he first injured himself, we were quickly over each other. He was as tired of me as I was of him. Suddenly his requests for help/food/water/pain meds seemed to be timed to happen only seconds after I sat down from the last request. My “are you okay?”, “do you need anything?” questions seemed to only irritate him. Just about everyone we knew had left for Christmas out of state. So it was us. Only us.

I won’t lie – this is after all, an honest column about single parenthood. I left him. As soon as family friends returned (with Justin, who I had sent off so that I could focus on one kid at a time), I left. He had a bed set up in their living room, and someone in the house to change out ice packs and pain pills. Finally – my dream of running away from home had become a reality.

Related: Single Mom Slice Of Life: Teaching My Teens The Greatness Of Good Enough

Ok, fine. In reality, I ran away to my home which is only two minutes away. But still, it was a break we both needed. For two weeks I slept at home, went to work, spent the afternoon/evenings with Nick until I could no longer keep my eyes open, drove home, and started again the next day.

After a bit, requests had become demands. Offers were now expected. Injured turned into lazy.  “Please” and “thank you” sounded an awful lot like “now” and “hurry up.” How do you tell your kid who is no longer a kid that after two weeks, his needy nature had become… motive for a severe beating with one of his crutches? 

Like this: we (meaning I) packed up the car and began the process of moving him from our friend’s living room back to his own bedroom and started the short drive home. While waiting at the red light, I turned towards the backseat and said the following:

“I love you. I love you so much sometimes I can’t stand life. But if you think I’m anywhere near okay with the fact that you have stopped respecting me and started taking me for granted, I will smother your crutches with dog poo and lock your bathroom door so you can’t clean them. I taught you better, I expect more than this from you and if I ever hear that you’ve treated another human being the way you’ve treated me this last week – no matter the reason – I will dedicate the rest of my life to reminding you why you’re wrong. Deal?”

Related: 5 Conversations You MUST Have With Your Kid… Including THIS ONE! (VIDEO)

Ok, now, admittedly, it wasn’t my most mature moment in my parental life, but on the other hand, sleep deprived, mentally and emotionally exhausted, and supremely disappointed, it was all I could do to get it out without crying.

It might have been the partial parental break, or the threat of dog poo covered crutches, but everything changed after that. That’s not to say we haven’t had setbacks, but his attitude has changed. Not just toward me, but his brother as well. “Please” and “thank you” have made a comeback. He asks for help – and only after he’s attempted something on his own. I even got a hug and an unsolicited “I love you.” Twice.

He’s frustrated. His injury has pretty much decimated his senior year of high school. He’s in a pain I have never experienced, and he’s suffered through the majority of this with great strength. He’s not, however, old enough to forget how to treat people.

What about you? Have you ever had to put your kid(s) in place even while they maybe weren’t at their best? How did you do it? Did they learn because of it?


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.

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