Several years ago I joined some other parents to watch our sons play a lacrosse game. We were so busy chatting that we didn’t notice that we’d chosen seats in the midst of the other team’s parents. As we continued talking to each other, one of the parents noticed that we “didn’t belong.”
“Hey everybody, it looks like the enemy is among us” he said to the crowd.
Wow – that seemed a bit aggressive – it’s not like we were there to spy on them. Perhaps it came out in a more adversarial tone then he’d intended but now all eyes were upon us. As I was trying to come up with some snappy comeback, my friend kindly said “No, we’re not enemies.”
Then she said this “We’re parents just like you – trying to do our best raising teenage sons.”
My friend’s statement shut down any further confrontation better than any snarky comment I would have blurted out. The change in the atmosphere around us instantly calmed. Someone nodded and chuckled in acknowledgement. Another asked “So which ones are your sons?”
And soon we had a group of new friends laughing, talking and sharing crazy teenage boy stories. We were rooting for each other’s sons and when the game ended, we lingered as we said our heartfelt goodbyes.
In a world where so many are taking sides, voicing strong opinions and divisiveness is rampant, aren’t we all the same at the most basic levels? As parents we can vastly disagree about the way we raise our children, we can be on opposing teams, and we can not even begin to see the other person’s point of view but we’re all parents trying to do our best and trying to survive all the ups and downs of raising children who are old enough to have their own opinions, their own beliefs and they aren’t afraid to voice them. They’re living in adult bodies without the benefit of fully developed frontal lobes - making them willing to take risks that make us shiver and keep us up at night.
Yes, we’re just like you.
Like you, we’ve worried about the relationship they’re in, the decisions they make, the challenges they face, their fragile (and sometimes over inflated) egos, their futures, their lives.
We’ve laughed at their crazy antics, their self-deprecating sense of humor, and their loving imitations of us when we’re mad. We’ve sat through a million games, meets and performances – we’re their biggest fans. We’ve disciplined, taken privileges and tried to instill values.
We’re just like you.
We are trying to raise our teenage sons to be good people in the world.
We’ve seen them through victories and heartbreaks - just like you - and we’ll root for your children just like we root for ours. We’re trying to raise “gentlemen” in a not so gentle world.
I still remember talking to the mom of my son’s high school girlfriend one afternoon when she causally said “He’s raised the bar high for her.” I must have given her a quizzical look so she went on to say “He treats her so well – he’s kind, does thoughtful things for her and is such a gentleman. She knows what it’s like to be treated well so she won’t let future boyfriends treat her poorly because he has raised the bar high.” I’d never thought about it that way but she was right – this relationship wasn’t going to last forever (it didn’t) but all our relationships form who we are and what we want in future relationships.
As a girl, I didn’t always choose guys who “set the bar high,” so I was overjoyed to think that she will walk through the world with her head held high not settling for anything less than being treated well. We’d certainly instilled this behavior at home but when your children walk out that door, who knows how they show up in the world.
To hear about him from her point of view meant so much to me.
I thanked her and said “That is the highest compliment you could have ever given him. Thank you so much for sharing that with me.”
I relayed this story to my son who appreciated it at the time – those things she mentioned took effort and were intentional on my son’s part – but I think it will be years (maybe when he has his own children) before he’ll fully understand the magnitude. I’d like to think all his intentions and gestures were honorable but at that age it would be perfectly normal if they were also a bit self-serving.
Who really knows…but I know this, he does treat people well and enjoys doing thoughtful things and that’s all that really matters. And if this girl, who is now a woman, has made good choices about who she dates because her self-worth was fostered as a teenage girl then all the better!
We all know our children face obstacles we never had to endure…the relentless trappings of social media – the parties they missed, the ex who posts humiliating comments or god forbid – photos – mistakes they’ve made that are forever captured for the world (including colleges and employers) to see.
The constant contact through their phones – texting and talking; the readily available information – unfiltered, unabridged and unrated; the pressure to be perfect – to get the highest grades so they get into the perfect college so they can have the perfect job so they can live the perfect life.
Perfect. Perfect. Perfect!
Wow, it’s no wonder they are anxious, have breakdowns and fits of anger – when did their lives start depending on making and executing every decision perfectly?
Sometimes they just need to be boys running on a field, playing pickup hoop, goofing off with their friends, listening to music, reading quietly, laughing at stupid videos, and letting off steam when nothing is urgent or life impacting.
So, we may meet as opponents but we’re parents just like you trying to do our best raising teenage sons.