Single Mom Slice of life:
A Tough Choice – I Love You Son, But I Don’t Respect You
“I love you, but I don’t like you, I don’t respect you, and I don’t think I want you to come back home.”
As of this posting, those are the last words I spoke to my 18-year-old son. I hung up the phone with a quiet click, on the sound of his tears from 1900 miles away. I had been cursed at, ignored, talked down to, hung up on and disrespected officially one too many times. I was forced to admit that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with my son.
I won’t lie. Within seconds I was ready to call him back, take it all back, beg him to come home. Instead, I took a deep breath, told myself I was doing the right thing. Tough love. What other option did I have?
Well, if you ask parents with young children, the general response is, “I don’t know – I just hope this doesn’t happen to my kid.” Yeah… I thought that once too.
Parents with older children say, “It happens. In time, he’ll come around and realize what he has.” Hopeful, but not helpful to me today.
People without children are more than willing to impart their two cents stating, “Cut him loose.” You just have to love people who don’t have kids.
Yet, as unhelpful as each of these pieces of advice are – they’re in a way – all correct. I had never thought that I would end up with a kid who told me that his absentee father was his family and that was who he wanted to celebrate his graduation with. Though I’m hoping one day my hard work will be recognized (and appreciated), it doesn’t ease the heartache today. As for cutting him loose – as cold and unfair as it sounds – it’s equally cold and unfair to share my home with someone who clearly doesn’t appreciate it.
While they’ve been on vacation, I’ve realized a few things. First, I have more than one child. As I’ve driven to and from this place and that, I’ve realized that nearly every time I’m in the car, I’m fighting with Nick… while Justin sits quietly in the back. I wasn’t the only one fighting in the battle of parenthood – I had made my youngest son a victim.
Secondly, I am happier without the constant stress. It sounds selfish, but hang with me. I’m not talking about he didn’t clean his room, or didn’t make curfew. I mean, he lies. He cheats. He blames everyone else for everything that happens. He is disrespectful. He is cruel… to only one person. Me.
Third – and most importantly – I’m doing him no favors by looking the other way. I was a young mom and did the best I could. Sadly, hindsight being 20/20 I realize I had been more of a friend than a parent for a long time. This has hurt us both. He needs a chance to experience life without me there to catch him when he falls. And trust me, this hurts to say, he needs to fall.
Not because I want him to hurt, but because he needs to learn that his actions have reactions – and how he will be judged based on his reputation. Here at home, his actions have tarnished his reputation. I understand how this post can seem cold, like I’m throwing my first-born son to the wolves. But friend or parent, the basics were the same. The difference between right and wrong – showing respect – appreciation and family… those are the foundations I raised both of my kids with.
Sink or swim. Fall or fly. Rise to the occasion or get knocked to the ground. These are choices only he can make now. Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To newbie parents, you can hope all you want, but you’re raising free will – there are no guarantees. To parents who have been there, thank you for giving me a light to look for. To non-parents, it’s never that simple. Yes, becoming a parent was my choice, and it’s a choice I don’t regret… even in these hard times. Can you tell me something or someone you’ve committed to for 18 years with complete and total perfection?
So there you go. My confession: I wasn’t a perfect parent, he’s not a perfect child, and not only doesn’t parenting end at age 18, it seems to get harder.
What about you? So far – what is the hardest parenting obstacle you’ve faced? How did you handle it? What would you have done differently?