Lately, I've felt like I'm failing with the boy.
Parenting is hard. You never know if you're really doing a good job. Every stage brings it's own set of challenges that give you one more opportunity to ultimately screw the kid up. And you really won't know if you've successfully guided them through each stage for decades. Even then, they could one day start making choices that reveal that, yes, you did in fact mess them up for life. It's a pretty awesome and rewarding job. It's a good thing unconditional love and devotion kicks in at birth, otherwise you might give up about the time the terrible twos hit.
The boy has been challenging lately. He's a pre-teen displaying all of the hormonal emotions that come with that. Including the kick of testosterone that makes him want to fight with all of his pre-teen friends who want to fight with him. He's challenging my authority. He's been making fun of his sisters and ignoring them in the hallways at school. He's angry with his dad for leaving. Of the three, he's taken the separation the hardest. His mouth has been moving at break neck pace with one negative statement after the next. He's just plain moody.
It's hard to watch and it feels like everything I try to say or do to help him through this stage is falling flat.
But the thing about parenting is, just when you think you've screwed them up beyond repair they surprise you with some incredibly thoughtful act. And instantly your hope in raising a kind and responsible adult is restored.
Today, the boy surprised me.
He went on a field trip with his class to the state capital. He went to the government building, the science museum, and the history museum. His teacher had told them that they could bring money for the gift shops. So I gave him some money so that he could get a little souvenir from his trip. When I picked him up I asked him about the day. He told me about all of the fun he had with friends and the interesting things he learned. Then he pulled out the little bag of what he had bought at the gift shop. First, he pulled out an arrowhead key chain he had bought for himself. Then, the boy who ignores his sisters in the hallway and calls them annoying, pulled out two rings that he had bought, in front of his friends, just for them. Then he gave me a beautiful stone and showed me the one he had bought for his dad. I was shocked by the thoughtfulness of it all. I couldn't believe he had spent his money on us. Especially when he told me that there had been something else he had wanted to buy but couldn't get it because he wouldn't have been able to get the gifts for us. I've couldn't quit telling him thank you and that I was proud of him.
The gifts were little things. But they meant the world because he did it completely on his own.
Maybe we'll make it through this stage after all. Maybe it doesn't matter as much if I'm not perfect at this job or that I fail occasionally. Maybe it has a lot more to do with the fact that underneath the pre-teen emotions and mouthiness is a good heart.
He's my boy. He has the potential to completely break my heart and to completely warm it. Either way I love him more than life.