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Thursday, June 5, 2014

On Boundaries and Rejection

Today I sat in a final meeting at the high school with Chris. We were learning the last minute details about his mission trip to Costa Rica that he embarks on tomorrow.
It sounded so fun. Their lodging sounded decent, their activities fun (kids! water balloons!) and the recreational activities even more fun (white water rafting! zip lines!)

After the meeting, we went to Walmart to pick up some crayons and such for him to give to the kids on the trip. I was buoyant with excitement for him.

"You are going to have so much fun.. I'm kind of jealous! I wish I were the one going! It would be fun to go white water rafting and zip lining with Mrs. K!"

"I don't think the parents get to do those things, Mom" Chris responded quietly.

"Oh, sure they do! So what do you think? Maybe I'll go some time! You'd be okay with that, right?"


"Um, yeah, maybe after I graduate."


I misstep, momentarily confused. What did he just say? Did he just say 'after I graduate?' As in, 'Mom, I don't want you there with me?'

I had a string of instant reactions, one after the other.

1) WTF?!

2) Oh NO YOU DIDN'T. After you three kids have embarrassed me periodically for 19 years, you are now embarrassed by me? You have got to be kidding.

3) I'm NOT embarrassing.

4) Am I embarrassing?

At this point, I engaged in a mental 'sniffing of the armpits,' in which I calculated all the ways in which I might be embarrassing.

I guess I am kind of brash.
And unpredictable.
And impulsive.
And I dress really crappy. ;)

So here we are in Walmart and I am alternating between being absolutely crushed and furious.

I had promised a stop at the McDonalds at the Walmart after we checked out, to celebrate the last day of school. The boys and I ordered and I stood there, waiting for the food, in a furious, self-righteous silence. Trey roamed between us, aware that something had happened but unsure what.

"Are you mad at me?" Chris sidled up and asked plaintively.
"My feelings are really hurt" I muttered, staring straight ahead.
"Why? What'd I say?"
I gave him a long, hard stare. "Really, Chris? Really?"
Then I turned and walked away.

After a quiet and stony meal, we headed home.
I raced upstairs and changed quickly, then headed out to mow the lawn.

I know myself well enough to know that strong feelings = physical activity and lots of it, lest I say something I will regret. I need time to process this and it is best done alone. I marched up and down the rows, sarcastic retorts and scathing diatribes streaming through my brain with every step.

Yet as I continued to mow the lawn, sweat pouring from my brow and steam blowing from my ears, rational thought began to penetrate the anger.

I constantly rejected my Mom's presence during my childhood and teen years. While I loved her, I needed my space, needed to keep my social life separate from my home life. Her presence at times drove me NUTS.
As I did this, growing up, I seldom remember considering my Mom's feelings. I don't think I necessarily did much of considering her as a person at all, really. It was about me and what I wanted or needed, and not at all about her.

It was not about her.
So, perhaps, this is not about me, but about Chris and about what he needs.

I always thought that when my kid would one day say he didn't want me with him, or sidestepped away from me in public, that I would be totally cool with it. As always in parenting, it is harder to be on the inside looking out, than the outside looking in.

It's also easier to be the one doing the rejecting than the one being rejected.
(So sorry, Mom. I feel like this should just be a permanent tattoo on my body.)

So Chris, now that I have had some time to think, I apologize. My response was to take what you said very personally and as a rejection from you of me as a parent.
I realize now that what you need is what you need, just as when I was a teenager.
You need your space and want to have your own experiences in your own social group, and that is your right.
It is my job to understand and respect the boundary that have set.

That boundary may change at some point in high school, or it may not. I'll wait for your signal or invitation regarding school stuff.

Meanwhile, I'll wait here on the sidelines as my own Mom did, and I will quietly watch and applaud your accomplishments.

(Well, as quietly as I can. It's not my strong suit.)

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