At a certain point when my 14-year-old son was knee-deep in boy years (5-11), I wondered if he and I would ever have anything in common. I would continue to build Legos and watch Superhero movies but I didn’t love them in the way he did. We agreed on a love of science, but when he geeked out on me with equations, I went AWOL.
Eventually, it became obvious what we have in common, our hearts. A splinter of me is in every molecule of him (OK it’s called genetics, but go with me, I’m a woman). I don’t remember the first time I recognized myself in him but it was in an angry moment; his, not mine. I saw it light up in his eyes and it was eerily familiar. I witnessed him tense his jaw, cross his arms, lean his weight on one side of his body and his nostrils flared.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I said and he harrumphed. It will be years before he realizes how awesome and modest I am.
“No you don’t,” he mumbled.
“You’re thinking, ‘fuck-you, fuck-you, fuck-you!’”
He looked at me shocked; it wasn’t the first time he heard me use the F-word but maybe the first time I used it in conversation with him. He rolled his eyes as I could have predicted. I explained,
“I remember this vague memory of a fight with my mother. She yelled at me about something illogical I can’t recall and as she continued yelling I zoned out, staring at her and repeating, ‘fuck-you, fuck-you, fuck-you’ in my head until she released me from her scold hold.”
He smiled at me because he doesn’t hold grudges like I do and because he realized his mother was a lunatic who wasn’t afraid to drop the F-bomb fireworks from her mouth. He wanted to mouth back at me, but he didn’t.
I thought I knew it all at 14 and at 41 I see how much more I have to learn. I’m just beginning. I preach to my son incessantly, just like any mother, but I don’t think he’s ready to hear what I have to say yet.
So instead, here’s what I would say to the 14-year old me (who wouldn’t listen to me either):
Value every painless breath and the sun shining. Value little things which bring a smile to your face: a purring cat, sweet ripe strawberries, a magnolia tree. Value kindness to yourself as much as you value kindness to others. Remember compromise is an important relationship communication tool, but do not cross the line to martyrdom. Value yourself. Do not fall down a rabbit hole of insecurity. Feelings of “not good enough” or comparing yourself with others is a waste of time. Stop fidgeting and refocus this energy. Celebrate your uniqueness, don’t let it embarrass you.
Most importantly, value your happiness; no one else is responsible for it. Don’t follow someone down an easier path, blaze your own trail. Think about how you want to spend your days and create a life which will allow you to do that. It will make the journey much smoother if you make the choices which fuel joy. You’re the one who holds the power to shift the compass in your favor.