Right now you are thirteen, but you tower over me like a sixteen year old.
I tease Dad that your muscles will be bigger than his in a few years time. He gets defensive and says it’ll never happen.
Your voice is a so low now that sometimes when I hear you talk from another room I forget that it’s you.
But the reason I’m writing this letter is because of tonight.
Tonight your father and I had to sit you down and address a few issues that have come to light since you’ve become a teenager. Mainly about attitude and behaviour, typical teenage angst. Because you are our first born, some of these are issues we’ve never had to deal with on a level like this, so you can say we are all still on our learners license on this journey!
I’ve noticed since you’ve become a teen, how rampant your emotions are. You instantly become defensive when interrogated about certain things. I know it’s because of the way I tend to handle certain situations; flying off the handle when I should approach you in a mature way. Sometimes I forget I’m the parent and my emotions get the better of me.
Sometimes I think I become emotional and defensive myself because I want to shut out the fact that you are a teenager now. I guess that’s my way of refusing to acknowledge that the issues at hand are a bit more serious.
I want to go back to “easy”. When you were a toddler throwing a tantrum or acting out in normal toddler behaviour, I used to close my eyes and long for the day when I didn’t have to deal with toddler tantrums and wiping snotty noses and changing nappies and feeding all day. Now, I would give anything to go back to dealing with your toddler tantrums. They only lasted a few minutes and it was over like that. But this. This teenage thing is a whole new ball game.
Tonight, I looked at you as you wiped the tears streaming down your face with the back of your sleeve. Your father asked you why you were crying and you said, “I feel sad.”
I asked you why were you feeling sad and you choked back more tears as you said, “I feel like I’ve failed you…”.
My son. At that moment I instantly saw you as my sweet little boy, the one who I would hold in my arms when he was crying from hurting himself, or crying for a cookie before dinnertime. Or the little bundle I wrapped up so protectively on our way home from hospital thirteen years ago…
Son, I feel like I’ve failed YOU.
I’m so busy with your siblings (especially the youngest two), and trying to make sure our household is in order, or too distracted with my phone that I neglect to give you the attention you need. Before you were a teenager you used to come into my room before bedtime and sit on the side of my bed and talk to me about anything and everything. Why don’t we do that anymore? Have I become so busy with life? Or have you outgrown it?
I feel like I’ve failed you everytime I shout at you or blame you for things when an argument between you and your siblings break out….
I feel like I’ve failed you whenever you show any slight signs of anger; and instead of trying to see what’s really going on behind all that emotion, I immediately think you’re showing attitude or disrespect….
I feel like I’ve failed you everytime I say, “You’re the oldest, you should know better,” – placing a whole heap of responsibility upon your shoulders when sometimes you still just feel like a child… I should be teaching you to KNOW how to carry that responsibility instead of condemning you while you’re still learning….
Tonight I looked you in the eye and told you that WE DON’T EXPECT YOU TO BE PERFECT. No one is perfect, son. But as a family, we all have so much to work on, not just you.
There was something that your father did tonight that touched me. There was a point in our conversation when your tears wouldn’t stop, and your sleeve was getting soaked from constantly wiping at your face. Your Dad, the big tough guy he is, went to the living room and emerged with a box of tissues to give to you. He didn’t say anything, he just put the box of tissues infront of you.
This melted my heart, and I’m getting tears just writing about it. As big and as strong as he is, through his actions he let you know that it’s ok to cry, son. No matter how big and manly and old you get: IT’S OK TO CRY. It’s ok to express your sorrow, don’t ever feel like you have to be “a man” and hold back your tears.
So many things were shared amongst us tonight, and I hope you don’t forget the counsel that your father and I have shared with you. We’ve been through those teenage years, son. We know what it’s like. We are not perfect, too. I’ve done things I’m not proud of. And I’m working on myself. Let’s continue to work together.
When we finished up our talk, your Dad reached his hand out to you, giving you a manly handshake, then pulled you into his arms for a bear hug, at which you smiled your huge smile. It was so cute to watch.
Then you came towards me for a hug. When I wrapped my arms around you I whispered into your ear, “You’ll always be my baby boy.” And I felt all the weight of the world leave you as your whole body relaxed and your shoulders dropped, and you melted into tears, your whole body wracked with sobs. You clung onto me at that moment, and I held you tightly with tears in my eyes, reminding you that I’m here for you always.
And that I love you.
And that no matter how big and manly and old you get, you‘ll always be my baby boy.