By Julie Hoag of juliehoagwriter.com
I called my teen son a jerk. Many people would call this my mom fail. I do admit I felt a tinge of guilt calling him that on his birthday. However, calling my son a jerk wasn’t a parent fail because it opened his eyes to family time, and I would do it again to help him realize he is throwing away something precious.
As a mom, each year I enjoy celebrating my son’s birthday, but that evening he didn’t want a family birthday. It didn’t fit his idea for his schedule.
I was hurt by his reaction after all the time I had spent planning our family party, but I understood where he was coming from because being a teenager is hard. After a long day at school, plus a rigorous football practice, all he wanted to do was lounge in his bed and relax. Alone. I get it. I’m an introvert, too.
But skip his birthday? Nope. Not happening.
I understood his exhaustion. I remember being a tired and overwhelmed teen. It was years ago, but it’s fresh in my brain as if it were yesterday. Teen angst leaves a lifelong stain.
But ours was a simple and expected request as his family to celebrate another year of his life, eat cake, and give him presents. Yet all he could do was complain and resist family time.
So I did it. I called him a jerk, right to his face, on his birthday.
I’ll tell you why I did it. It’s because I’m alive and able to talk to him.
I didn’t want him to realize he was being a teenage jerk the way I realized I was being a teenage jerk when I was his age. I painfully understood I was being a jerk after my mom died suddenly and I was left with zero opportunity for family time.
The time was just gone. Vanished.
I had foolishly wasted my chance for family time because it hadn’t fit into my teenage day. I recall several instances of leaving my mom when she tried to hang out with me. Thinking back now, it makes my broken heart ache that I didn’t just spend a few more minutes with her. Of course, I didn’t know she was going to die. I didn’t expect that to ever happen to me.
I wanted to prevent my son from suffering regret like the kind that haunted me after my mom died. It was agonizing for me to realize those mistakes of mine as a teen. I had to hit rock bottom before I came back out to the light. I didn’t want my son to go through the painful regret I went through. I wouldn’t wish that on any child.
My teen son is still a child. He will still make mistakes. As his mom, I need to help my son make good choices and forgive him for his mistakes.
I may not be able to stop loss for my son, but I can try to help him realize the importance of family time. I can, maybe, help him cherish and enjoy some family life while he still has opportunities to have it.
When I called him a jerk, I could see it shocked him. As the words flew from my mouth, I rather shocked myself. But he needed that wake-up call.
I wanted him to make another birthday memory while we were all still here to make it together. I didn’t want any of our memories of this year’s birthday to be of him alone in his room. If I didn’t try to get him to understand, then I would have lost a parenting moment I may never get back.
Some might still say my calling him a jerk was my parenting fail, but it worked as a benefit, so I refuse to call it a fail.
He ate pizza and cake with us. After a few minutes of eating and talking, he smiled and began to relax.
Then I saw it. I saw joy in his eyes because he felt he was wanted and loved. All my mom guilt of calling him a jerk disappeared.
At bedtime, I tucked him and told him I loved him. I apologized for calling him a jerk. I talked with him about how he will look back on this birthday and cherish the family time. He will value the short fifteen minutes he took to eat pizza with his family. He will remember he had parents who wanted to spend time with him, who loved him and sought out his favorite pizza and cake for his birthday.
And you know what? He agreed with me.
I do all this because I can. Because I am still alive to be his mom. I am his parent, and I will never stop loving him, nor will I ever stop teaching his stubborn, belligerent self that I will love him always. No matter what. Even if it takes a bit of a parent fail on my part to make it happen.
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