I have a parenting confession. Sometimes, I ignore my teenagers by walking in the opposite direction and not answering them. It angers them, I know, and I want to explain: “No, really, honey, by walking away from you I’m saving you from getting grounded for LIFE. My motherly instinct tells me you are going to say things you will wish you could take back, but can’t.”
Am I passing up a teaching moment by walking away? Quite possibly, although sometimes it’s better to pick up a conversation after all parties involved have had a chance to breathe deeply and count to 10. Sometimes I count to 1,000 and sometimes I decide it’s best to sleep on it.
Deep down, I know in heated discussions even I risk saying something to my teenagers I may wish I could take back, but can’t.
Everyone knows it’s more dangerous for parents to have a slip of the tongue with their teenagers than the other way around. As parents, we’re programmed to forgive, forget and move on. Not so with teenagers.
Although my kids have never said they hate me to my face, they’ve come close and made some pretty stinging comments about my parenting, my sense of humor, and even my fashion choices. Still, I know they love me to the moon, and while they may feel my wrath as a consequence for their rudeness, I bear no grudges.
Teenagers, on the other hand, are programmed to take a morsel of something – a word, a phrase, an observation – and chew on it for days, months, even years.
A slip of the tongue nearly guarantees your child will enter therapy in his or her 20s, recounting the one and only time you slipped and mumbled something completely childish, like, “Kiss my a**,” or maybe they saw you flip them the bird behind their backs.
You’re assuming I said or did that to one of my teenagers. Maybe I did, when I was in a really bad, frustrating parenting place. I take the fifth.
That’s the thing about parenting. Although experts say children are resilient, forgiving individuals, sometimes they just aren’t. They remember everything. Every mistake, every miscalculation, every embarrassing moment and every bad judgment call (not to mention every time you borrowed a buck or two to cover the tip when you were short on cash) has the potential to haunt you.
When you feel your transgressions are forgotten, one will haunt you when you least expect it. “Don’t you remember two years ago when you said that maybe one day I could drive to the Keys with my friends?” “Don’t you remember you still owe me three dollars for the tip that day at the restaurant?”
Um, no, I don’t.
Forgiveness for our parental sins doesn’t begin until our kids become parents themselves. Then, perhaps, they’ll do what I did, and pick up the phone when they’re 32 years-old and say, “Mom, I’m sorry, now I understand. Now I get it.”
Of course, by then we’ll have already forgiven them for not forgiving us.