My standards are out of whack and my rules are dumb. It took a teenager, my 16-year-old son, to raise awareness of these flaws in my construction.
I am indebted to my child. He has shed doubt on all that I hold to be inalienable truths of parenthood. He has opened my eyes to my shortcomings as a mother and a person. Without his voice of reason easing my bewilderment, I would be bereft of self-knowledge.
The idiocy of my hat rule is only one issue on which he has enlightened me. Errantly, I outlawed the wearing of hats at the table, in the house, in restaurants and in any public building at any time. When he questioned the sanity of my decree and criticized the intelligence of my steadfastness, I pointed out that it was not my rule at all, but rather a norm of polite society.
To make his point and prove me wrong, he counts the number of males wearing hats in stores and restaurants and reports his calculations to me. “That’s the number of people whose mamas didn’t love them enough to teach them how to do right,” I say. He tells me that someday, when he’s on his own, he’s going to wear his hat everywhere and someone will say that about me.
“For now, take off your hat,” I say.
“You’re ridiculous, Mama,” he says. “No one cares.” He scourges me with this statement to bring me to my senses. He puts his hat on as soon as I’m not looking.
My child has also alerted me that I make his love interests feel “awkward.” He assures me that this is not the coup that I suppose it is. It’s why he doesn’t date anyone he says, because I insist on knowing the girl’s name – first and last – and her parents’ names and phone numbers and where the girl lives in terms of her exact address. In the modern, hat-wearing world, this is an intrusion on scale with NSA breaches of citizens’ privacy.
“Do you know how awkward you’re making this for her?” he complains.
“Do you know how awkward it is for me to not know who you’re with, where you are or whether a parent is home?” I retort.
He rolls his eyes and corrects me. “There you go, lecturing me. You’re going to take my hat and take my phone and tell me not to use bad language,” he accuses. “This is why I don’t tell you anything. You think all my friends are doing something wrong.”
Correction and redirection duly noted. He refutes my feeble excuse that it’s my job to torture him and to embarrass him in front of other teenagers and to know his business. He informs me, “You’re the only mama doing this stuff. No one else’s mama cares about the dumb stuff you care about.”
It’s kind of him to gently tell me that I’m not fitting in with my peers. I’m sure he’s right. I’m blessed that my well-being is important to him and that he isn’t afraid to say so. His compassion, as evidenced by his attitude, is overwhelming.
My hat is off to my son, whose hat should also be off, as ignorant as it is for me to expect it. I do worry that someday someone will say, “There’s a man whose mama didn’t love him enough.” What if she’s right? Well, my diligent 16-year-old son has set me straight. I owe him so much for his concern. Thus, I pledge to redouble my parenting efforts. I’m sure he’ll let me know when I’m getting off track again.