Recently, I dropped-off my 17-yr-old at Merriweather for a progressive electronica show that he’d excitedly bought a ticket for — the very first ticket he’s ever purchased using his very own money (from last year’s summer job).
He went to the show alone, because no one he knows listens to the same music as he. (I offered to join him, but he was unenthused about his 43-year-old mom hanging with him on a Saturday night. Whatev.)
Unlike the drug and alcohol talk which I received in the late 80’s, the one which I gave to Josh wasn’t so much, “just say no” as it was: “There’ll probably be some pot or psychedelics being passed around; don’t be (too) surprised by that. But if something makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to a security person. Since you’ll be alone, this is probably not the best time to experiment…but if anything goes sideways, just text me. We’ll figure it out together.”
Saying that scared the hell out of me.
But thinking about him having a problem, feeling isolated and fearful of a judgmental reaction from me…well, that scared me even more.
Which reminded me of the driving talk we had recently (or rather, that I lectured at him): “Listen. You’re going to have an accident at some point, some day. I have insurance to put the car back together. I have insurance to put you back together. I sometimes get anxious about what might happen, but I won’t be surprised when it does happen…because I was once a teenager, too. Whatever you do: don’t flee the scene. Stay present. And talk to me about it. We’ll figure it out together.”
I’m learning that parenting is more about acknowledging that our kids are going to fuck up — repeatedly — than it is about expecting them to have an unscathed journey. Our task isn’t to prop them up, but to teach them how to get back up. How to fall down, without falling apart. To show how much we love them, when they show us their scars.
And also to be gentle with myself when I fuck up, fall down, and get hurt from my own imperfect parenting.
I think maybe our task is simply to stay present. To them. To ourselves.
To love as is.