The thing about being a single mom living with an only child is that my son and I are day-to-day feedback monitors to each other. I reflect back to him who he is at any given moment – good, great, not so good and everything in between – and he reflects back to me. I call him on his stuff, he calls me on mine. But the key to making this work – to making any relationship work, really – is that the feedback, the conversation, the critiques and the compliments need to come from the heart. And that takes constant vigilance!
If I want to teach my son something, I try to take a moment to make sure I am saying it from my heart. My goal is to be real, and to say what I have to say with as much kindness and softness as I can. (Believe me, I don’t always succeed, but this is my goal.) Even when I have to reprimand him or remind him, I try to do it from love.
Because raising a child (and maybe especially a teenager) seems to all comes down to love. If we didn’t love our children so much, we wouldn’t say no – we’d let them grow up with no rules and no boundaries and they would ultimately turn into adults that they themselves couldn’t stand. If they didn’t mean the world to us, we’d let them get away with everything. And if they didn’t carry little pieces of our hearts and souls within them, they surely could not push our buttons with such precision.
That’s exactly what I told my son today: I love you enough to say no. To sometimes get mad at you. To give you boundaries even if it might be easier to give in and give up. And you will just have to live with that, I said – the knowledge that your mother loves you enough to take a stand and sometimes lose it in front of you. Because even with all that love and my lofty goals, I make mistakes. And one of the things I have learned to embrace and even enjoy (sometimes) is apologizing to my son. It’s like role-modeling a great lesson – owning our mistakes and saying you’re sorry. Learning that two people who love each other are still going to get mad at each other and need to ask for forgiveness. Unfortunately, I’m much harder at forgiving myself than anyone else … more work ahead for me, I guess.
So forget that Ali McGraw line about “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That’s bull. Love is saying you’re sorry, sometimes more than once a day, then forgiving each other and moving on.