Sunday, September 12, 2010

I had known it was coming; I just didn't expect it to hurt

Well, I’m understanding Sharlee’s fabulous essay (the title essay in Segullah’s latest, Dance With Them) a little more now. I got the first “you’re standing too close” attitude from my teenager today. I had been braced for it—really, I swear!—but it still blindsided me somehow. He explained that though he enjoys my coming to his meets, I don’t need to stand right by him the whole time.

Of course.

And two things smashed into me at once: first, memories of my own teenage years, the yearning to be separate from my parents and feeling so justified in that yearning—duh, it’s what’s supposed to be happening during these years; I’m trying to be a person here!—all mixed in with discovering my parents were sorta cool and feeling very close to them at times.

And second, the feeling, which probably peaked during my own junior high years, of being a misfit, a leper, the person people don’t want to be seen with, possibly contagious in my nerdiness. The feeling that kept me from associating much with my younger sister in school hallways lest I doom her to contamination.

A feeling of shame.

When I was in high school, I was matched up for ten minutes at a seminary mixer with a guy I had a crush on. It was a great success: I was vivacious and charming, and we had a great conversation. But later the (oh so sweet) boys in my ward told me that they had heard from this boy how disgusting his time with me had been because of the food in my braces.

The horrible, sickening shame, made worse because I had so confidently thought I was succeeding when all along I had been failing miserably—that’s what I felt when my son told me I had stood to close to him during that last meet. I had been so thrilled to be there with him, meeting his friends (and their parents), so happy to show him support. But . . . well, of course.

Stupid, stupid me! I had told myself I had a thick skin and sharp memory, that I wouldn’t take it personally when my son went through this very healthy phase. How stupid for it to hurt!

And so I begin Sharlee’s dance, the push and pull, the holding close but not too close. The showing up at the meet but cheering from a ways back. How I adore that boy—but more than that, I love his whole soul and what it can become. I will let my love and trust give me the strength to stand back a little more. I will be so mature about this.

But, darn it, while he’s at school today I’m going to go have me a good cry.


Kathleen said...

Oh, dear. I feel so deeply for you. And I hesitate to warn you that just when you think you've conquered the pain, it hurts all over again.

This is where I learned that when you love someone this much, you are willing to forgive them over and over again, that patience is possible when you love, and maybe that's why we're told to develop charity, because we're also told to have patience with and to forgive everyone.

Maybe we have to learn that as our children learn to grow apart from us, and we learn to help them do that.

But it's still so hard, and it only stops hurting when they finally feel confidence in their separateness and can turn back and welcome your closeness again.

Marj said...

Meet? What kind of meet?

I recently got in a big argument with my daughter when she told me how embarrassing I was and all I did was say something to one of her friends in an attempt to be friendly. I made her feel bad for making me feel bad but I think it helped her realize that parents are human and have feelings too.

Th. said...


I darn near left a comment here yesterday but then the lunch bell rang and it was back to work.

I have a very clear memory of when I first pushed my mother away, inadvertently humiliating her in front of my entire sixth-grade class. And yet if my dad hadn't explained to me later that night what had happened, I never would have known and would not remember that day today.

Anyway, I wanted to ask when you were in Berkeley. Wm told me you were here once, but I don't know when. And do you remember the cookoff/newmeberdinner?

Darlene Young said...

We were there 1996-2000 for my husband's optometry school. It's so strange to talk about, since I feel like I was the one who really became sort of Berkeley-ized(culturally, intellectually), although I wasn't the one in school. Boy, did I wish I was, though. Major academia envy. A very difficult, but growing, time in my life.

Yes, I remember the newmember/cook-off night. I can't remember anything I ever brought, but I still remember the amazing macaroni that the Asplunds made for it one year. Mmmmm--now I want some.