This is the text my son sent me this weekend. “WTH?” It wasn’t WTF, so I was mildly happy about that. But it still made my heart stop for just 1 second. I mean, hell isn’t a bad word. He didn’t even spell it out. But he thought it. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. A swearing fire.
I remember the one and only time I hit Riley. He was about 4. I was just around the corner from him, he didn’t know I was there. I heard him say “God damn-it.” I spun around like I was a roller derby queen and slapped his face. I screamed at him, don’t you ever say that! He cried, I cried, it was a disaster. It was an out of body experience. I was so angry because when he said, it sounded like he knew exactly what he was saying. Like he said it with purpose. I don’t know if he did or not. Probably not. But it stung my ears like I had just touched a hot stove. (Disclaimer #1: I’m not proud of hitting him, it still makes me cringe to think I did that.) He probably heard it from me or his Dad when we thought he wasn’t listening. (Disclaimer #2: I banned that word combination from my vocabulary ever since that day, and I hate even hearing it). In that moment though, my parenting life flashed before my eyes. What have I done? Where did I go wrong? I’m a child abuser! My son is going to prison, he’s obviously a serial killer in his early years.
He never said a bad word in front of me again. And Alex and Matthew haven’t ever said anything in front of me either. The key words here being “in front of me.” I heard him swear at the PS3 when he didn’t know I was on the other side of the basement. I yelled back at him “watch your mouth when Mom is around!” He’s 16. I was swearing at 16 (sorry, Mom). He’s a boy. He’s in high school. He’s heard it from TV shows, movies, soccer coaches, video games, friends and Dad, and myriad other places probably. But he won’t hear it from me. He’s still my almost-17-year-old-baby. And the truth is, I don’t want him cursing around me. At least not yet. I think I was well into my 30’s before I started using “shit” in front of my parents. My Mom still doesn’t like it.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I was a truck driver in a previous life. Swearing is part of my ADULT vernacular. I am standing on a very unstable, rickety soap box here, I know that. I’m not looking for affirmation or sympathy. Just pondering that ever moving line in the sand of my children becoming adults. Riley texting me “WTH” is just a blip on the growing up radar. I guess I just tend to (purposefully try and) forget that not everything about becoming an adult is rainbows and unicorns. And that text was a quick reminder. Driver’s licence? Cool. Drinking alcohol at 21? Scary. Graduating high school? Sweet. Paying thousands of dollars for college with no guarantee of a payoff or success? Terrifying. First date? Charming. Long term teen relationship? Oh dear God in Heaven, please give me strength.
Cursing is not a big deal in the scheme of things. But it’s symbolic. And I don’t like it. Even though that makes me a total and complete hypocrite here, I know that. Not the first time, won’t be the last. Regardless, I think I tend to take this growing up thing in stride. I am scared, but I truly TRY and stay in the moment and not freak out about what lies ahead. Worry never solved anything, right? When Matthew was still sucking his thumb later than he should, I didn’t worry, I knew he wouldn’t do it in his middle school math class. When Alex didn’t seem concerned that his pants didn’t match his shirts at age 9, I knew one day he’d give a crap about what he looked like in public. And Riley who once thought deodorant was optional, now uses more face creams and hair products than I do. These are good things, or at least “not a big deal” things.
It’s the “not so good things,’ the “really not ok things,” and the “big consequence things” that I have yet to come to terms with in a lot of areas. Only because they haven’t reared their ugly heads thus far. And they are hard to talk about with your kids. They don’t have to be. But they are. Let’s just say teenagers are not always receptive to a Mom talk. Who wants to talk about the tough stuff when other little stuff is going so well? With teens, it seems like you are always walking a tightrope, walking on proverbial eggshells, not sure where the next breakdown will come from. You want to hold that balance, not upset the apple cart. When it seems like the next argument or lecture is always just under the surface, you don’t want to broach the hard subjects. Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, drinking, college, failure, jobs, future, responsibility, career, moving out, girlfriends, disappointment. The non-black and white, super gray, list is endless. I wish I had a happy ending for this, but I don’t. I’m still stuck in the thick of it. Some days it feels like quicksand, other days like quicksand in a tornado watching a tidal wave approach on the horizon. And some days it feels like the blessing that it is.
So for today, I’ll take my WTH text, a deep breath, and go on my merry way.
“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” -Stacia Taucher