Many of the Yellow House readers followed me via my early blog where tried to make my cock-ups as a mother funny. But parenting teenage boys — diametrically opposed in nature, talents, and interests as two siblings could be–threatened to make me crazy (er). They are 24 and 20 now and I’m so proud of both of them I find myself smiling as I type this. Such dear and strong young men I’m humbled to call my sons.
My oldest was posed for disaster from the tender age of 15 until he finally got it together at 23. I did everything wrong you could possibly do for a troubled, directionless kid who was in the shadow of his scholastic Super Star Brother. Most of my oldest’ childhood I felt helpless to his learning disabilities in a public school system that didn’t recognize Sensory Integration Issues as “real”; and his father who was in deep denial. His father and I also felt the best way to help our oldest was to rescue him. I finally stopped rescuing him a few years ago. I had countless sleepless nights praying he wouldn’t die in the streets or end up in prison. I took a lot of guff from my co-dependent coworkers who chided me for “abandoning” him and openly referred to me as a poor excuse of a mother. By the time that happened, I had some Al a Non meetings under my belt and I could shrug off their comments. It amazes me in hindsight how we step away from our babies when they take their first steps, knowing they will fall; but why is it so difficult to step away from our young adults and allow them to fall as they grow? It seems so simple now. I’m not sure why I couldn’t let go sooner.
My tenderhearted and slightly awkward troubled son did not end up “locked up or covered up” but has grown into a capable young man with a great fulltime job, an apartment, and a lovely girlfriend. After my accident this winter, he offered over and over again to help me but of course I wouldn’t allow it until moving day. Most important, he has owned his actions and foibles. He isn’t a Rhodes scholar but he is smart in his own right and has overcome more adversity than many people do in a lifetime. I adore how he makes me laugh and how he checks on me because I am hopeless at keeping in touch with him. Plus he works tons of hours every week at night and I don’t want to bother him. This doesn’t mean I don’t think of him; he’s never far from thoughts. When my monkey mind lands on him I say a prayer to the Universe: “Thank you for doing a better job parenting him than I ever did.”
Our spare heir was “easier” on paper as a teenager. I have the PTSD induced tick from his third year so there’s that. But as a teenager he was easy. No doubt due to watching his brother’s hijinks and the ensuing drama. Except for the usual sullen, mumbling, crap attitude towards the family, he was “the easy one”. But I worried about him going away to school with absolutely no clue how to study. High school was easy for him even with an academically rigorous load of classes.
He left us for university and is in a top-notch architecture program. It’s academically rigorous and fortunately he has maintained a great GPA and is having fun. It’s all about balance; both parents talked to him about this. He is the type of kid who would go away to school and never leave his dorm room unless he had class or an assignment in a lab or library. I’m relieved he is having fun. I wasn’t relieved to read an essay he wrote for English Comp that described his struggles with learning how to study and how to cope with less than stellar grades. The mama Bear in me wept because I somehow missed how exquisitely hard his struggle was learning to study and “speak design”. Every question I asked him about the program was answered with “fine”. But he kept it together freshman year. He even kept it together during midterms when one of his best life long friends committed suicide while she was away at school. A heartbreaking loss for anyone especially for a 19 year old away from home the first time. I was terrified he would be despondent and slip into a depression.
He possesses a work ethic that was handed down to him by my father and his dad’s father. But he is more than his drive. He is thoughtful and intuitive. Unfortunately, he not only looks like me but he has his mother’s penchant for worry. He worries too much and I hope he doesn’t let it rule his life like I once did. The youngest is a caretaker and always asks how he can help when he comes to The Yellow House, knowing Mr. C is away for a few months. Over spring break he was home and sick with a raging sinus infection but managed to help me move from Denver to my new home. I sent him home after an hour.
My approach to mothering was haphazard. My own mother did her “best” through a haze of depression and anger. My sister felt it was necessary to have terrible boundaries with her son and perpetuated emotional incest. I didn’t have much of a legacy to follow.
Our relationships with one another have not always been easy. Both sons have raged at me about my mistakes. I have raged at them. We are human and fallible. I’m just relieved my fallibility didn’t break these two beautiful humans who humble me every time they call me Mom.