My 19-year-old son has been tattooing his arm with artwork since he became an adult. Each piece has meaning to him and it’s been a joy to hear him share the why behind each new ink print on his arm.
And. There are also other emotions that come with having your son make such a permanent decision that is displayed so openly for others to make judgements on. Worry. Concern. Perhaps a little heartache that your little boy is no longer just little. Mothering protection, comes to mind.
My father came to visit us recently. My son, with two pieces added to his arm, was greeted by his grandfather who looked directly at this new display of Self. He picked up his arm, pressed on the newest tattoo, and looked at him sternly saying:
“You don’t put a bumper sticker on a porch.”
My stomach dropped. I stood there beside two people I dearly loved who obviously held different beliefs. I wanted to rescue them both. Mostly my son. My anxiety flooded my heart as I imagined my son feeling unaccepted, misunderstood, poorly judged. Then my father, whom I imagined felt confused and worried. Perhaps there were beliefs from his generation clouding his acceptance?
The tingling and discomfort nagged at me to quickly intervene. These seconds of time often feel like minutes, if not hours. I breathed slowly, and held my tongue. This was theirs. My response was mine.
My son stood there thinking for a second as his grandpa held his arm. His face expressionless.
“But, Grandpa,” he began, “I’m not a Porsche.”
My heart pounded.
My son began to smile. His mischievous grin grew on his face. His shoulders broadened. He looked right in his grandfather’s face and said: “I’m a Tesla!”
I laughed. My dad grinned a little, a similarly sly smile that I now recognized my son and he might share as the same.
“Well, okay,” was my father’s reply. “I like it.”
And that was that.
I’ve thought about that exchange and my response to it, and wonder how much of what I was feeling was actually what they were feeling as well. Was my anxiety and worry more about me? Regardless, the only thing in my control was my response to it all. The anxiety and emotions I felt were mine. And that’s what I could sift through, breathe through, and control.
As our children are becoming, it is so hard not to want to rescue them from what we perceive as their pain. Perhaps it is pain. Yet to allow them to become, we must let them drive their own road. Test drive the life they want to live and figure out which vehicles bring them to their best self.
How do we do that? I’m not always sure. I do believe it comes if we continue to figure out which car we are. Do our own work. Get comfortable in the seat of our own emotions. Fill up our own gas tank of joy. Get regular checkups. Check our emotional engines.
I believe when we do that, the more likely it is that we get to ride alongside our kids on the roads of life, instead of crash into them. Maybe even sometimes follow them. I know that this station wagon life of mine is barely keeping up with the Tesla of my boy. And yet. It sure is making for a beautiful drive. Especially with all those bumper stickers.
Posted by Michelle Reedy
You must have been reading my mind this morning! In some ways it's harder to parent an (almost) adult child than when they are little and it's okay to "fix" what hurts. Love this. Thank you.
Posted by Robin Greene
Posted by Kelly Dunbar
Posted by Melanie Prager
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