Last Friday, I ruined my son’s life. I didn’t do it intentionally. There was no premeditation. In fact, I thought I had been – right up until the fateful moment when his life was ruined – a very supportive mom.
So here, in an easy step-by-step formulation that is adaptable to many situations, is how I did it (and how you can do it too).
STEP ONE: Help Him Reach A Goal. In this case, the goal was the purchase of a longboard. On Tuesday, my son came home from school and announced, “I want a longboard, I want it now and I will buy it with my own money.” This was not a surprise, as we had previously had several conversations concerning longboards and the lack of longboards in our lives. My solution was “add longboard to your Christmas list.” His thinking was more clear than mine however. He looked outside, saw the sun, the perfect fall days, the clear roads with no snow or ice and thought to himself, “If I get it now, I can use it now. If I get it at Christmas, I can’t use it until March.” I was convinced. So I called some friends, The Designers and Manufacturers of Honey Skateboards. We set up a time on Thursday for my son to try out several of their models and choose his favorite.
STEP TWO: Reorganize Your Schedule to Meet His Needs. I think this is called enabling, I do it all the time and it is one of my shortcomings as a parent. I am, unfortunately, willing to do almost anything to keep everyone happy and to be “supportive.” In any case, the try-out session in the Mahoney’s driveway went well and my son and I went off to purchase a long board. We got one just as the store was closing and came straight home and begin riding (well he did, our younger son did and my husband did – I made dinner). We got home later than we meant to, so I missed my Spanish class. The next day, being Friday, my husband and I had plans to meet an out-of-town friend in the evening. I was just getting ready to go, when my son came in and asked if I would take him and his brother to another boy’s home to longboard for the evening. Oh, and would I also pick up another friend and take him too? Sure! Why would I care if it makes me late for my “big night out” (well…a big night out until I turn into a pumpkin at 10:00)? Oh, and did I mention, I had bought a second longboard earlier that day. Santa came early for son number two.
STEP THREE: Love Him Enough to Protect Him. So now everyone is loaded up. We’ve picked up the friend, we’ve arrived in the other neighborhood. The boys put on their helmets, start down a hill and one of the friends goes directly in front of an F250. Yes, the truck was pulling up to a stop sign. BUT, boys on longboards, riding down a hill, into an intersection controlled only by a stop sign. Un-huh. No way. One driver on a cell phone, looking west into the sun and my night would really be ruined.
I looked at the situation, audibly said “I am so not comfortable with this situation” and yelled “Boys! Stop!” It was completely instinctual. It was a mama bear moment. The other parents and my husband looked at me like I was stark-raving mad. But my boys calmly got off their boards and walked directly to the car. Now I was confused. I was just going to clarify the “safety rules.” I was going to find out more clearly where they intended to ride. I wasn’t going to take them home. No matter. I had ruined the elder’s life and he wasn’t ever going to be able to face his friends again. Frankly, my younger son felt similarly, although only until we got home. Then he told me, “I was kind of scared. I’m glad I came home. But mom, that was REALLY embarrassing.”
STEP FOUR: All Things Will Pass. Twenty four hours goes by. My son will NOT call his friends. He is still too humiliated. He tells me I overreacted. I’m still full of righteous, protective adrenaline, so I try to explain him that actually, I reacted rationally. I had the normal reaction of a formerly brave mom who was scared out of her wits and acted to save her precious children’s lives. A primal reaction, but still a rational reaction. He is not buying it, so I up the ante and tell him “This won’t be the last time. When you’re driving, if I see you do something stupid or one of your friends do something stupid, I will pull you out of the car.” That helped him understand the situation better. Now he understood that I would continue ruining his life up until the moment he leaves for college.
By Sunday, phone calls had been made, and my younger son explained to the older son’s buddies that “our mom really hates cars.” Truces were brokered, friendships rekindled. Two hours later, my husband and son were in the E.R. following a longboarding accident. This time, the boys were on a quiet downhill road, no cars, no external danger. My son picked up a lot of speed, jumped off his board and got his feet tangled up. It turns out he was okay. He still can’t fully raise his arm and he is covered with road rash. But he understands me a bit better. He knows that if boys and roads don’t mix, the mix is even worse with boys and cars. In this instance, I didn’t freak out, I didn’t panic, I wasn’t afraid. Road rash happens. I can accept road rash, even a broken bone, as part of the normal progression toward independent adulthood. And I will do anything, no matter how humiliating, to ensure that they make it to independent adulthood. Sorry guys, I love you too much…and I’m your mother. Deal with it.
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