My son is very bright and handsome. But instead of using all his gifts to shine, instead he slumps when he walks. He coasts in school. Hisgrades drop, then he studies a bit to catch up, then again his grades drop because he gets bored.
He is constantly entangled with his teachers, who he says are stupid.
At times, my son’s scorn turns on me, too.
When we first went to the shelter where we now live, he was upset and tried to get us kicked out by being late for curfew. I told him, “I have to stay in the shelter to try to heal. I feel safe here. After all, I was a victim of domestic violence.”
“You called it upon yourself,” my kind son said. But then they installed cable TV and he was always home early.
I Blame Myself
At times I blame myself for my son’s poor grades, for the hours of video games he plays, and for the fact that he isn’t living up to his potential. I think about all the times I was not a good mother.
Once, when he was 6 or 7 and we were still living in my homeland of Hungary, we went away for the weekend. Our hosts had said they’d be home in the evening, and I made plans to bathe in gold with the next love of my life, actually another loser.
But when our hosts didn’t show up on time for me to go on my date, I decided to leave anyway. My son cried that he didn’t want to stay alone. I said, “Oh, shut up. Our friends will show up in a minute.”
He cried more. He said he would die if I left him alone. “What about me? You’ll grow up and leave me behind,” I said and I left.
There was no bathing in gold. Just my guilt and listening to my date whining.
I Blame Our Neighborhood
Other times I blame our neighborhood when my son doesn’t live up to his potential. Just recently, my son was robbed right around the corner from our shelter for the second time.
The first time a big kid got his phone, his money. All I could think was, “My son is a martial arts champion. I don’t understand.” He just handed the robber his cell phone and wallet.
Then, before he had time to get over his shock, he was robbed a second time. That day when he came home, he opened the door and said smiling, “I have great news!” and I thought, “Let’s hear it! Maybe he got a summer job.”
“I was robbed again,” he told me, this time by a gang of five kids.
Now when my son walks the streets he puts on his street face, his doberman face. I tell him, maybe he should get a mohawk, maybe he should get spikes and chains, maybe he should have blue hair, like his girlfriend. “Oh, no,” he declines softly.
My Angry Words
At times when I am too frustrated with my son I go at him like this: “Why did you lie to me about failing summer school? This is such bullshit! All you do is play videogames. This is a mass addiction. You are all zombies pushing buttons killing ugly creatures in your dark corners on your TV screens. You don’t read. You don’t watch movies. You don’t do anything. You’ll end up like your uncle who died of alcoholism. I swear you get out of my house when you turn 18!”
Recently, in one of my domestic violence groups, I was asked to remember how I realized I was a girl, and what I was told I could or could not do. I remembered how I was told, “Stay with your legs closed. Don’t let people see your panties. Be careful, it is dangerous. Watch, they might rape you.”
I realized that I talk to my son in the same terms: “Don’t sprawl your legs when you sit. It is ugly, rude. Don’t stay out late! You have a curfew. And watch. If anyone touches you inappropriately, what will you do?”
When I hear myself saying the same damned things my mother said to me, it enrages me.
My son gets annoyed and says, “Mom, bad things happened to you, but I’m not you. If someone is inappropriate to me I just get the f- out of there.”
“Well done, my son,” I think. But I also think about how helpless he was when he was robbed, and I worry for him.
Remembering the Good
There are times when I am able to see all my son’s beauty.
When I was growing up, I was told to cook and clean and to this day I am a lousy cook. But, funny, my son is so talented. He can cook wonderful Thai food! Unbelievable how he slices the garlic, paper thin! He has such patience.
Seeing my son’s talents helps me remember that I have also been a good mother.
My parents quarreled all the time because of my father’s drinking and womanizing, and my mother often humiliated me. But I often laugh with my son as well as yell at him, and we share our struggles. I teach in a college in New Jersey and we laugh together about my funny students, my 55 other sons and daughters. I am nice to my son’s girlfriend, and I tell my son that he is smart and beautiful.
When my son doesn’t live up to his potential, I get down about my decision to come to America. I get down about the neighborhood we live in. I get down on myself as a mother. I get down on my son, too. But when I stop long enough to see all my son’s good qualities, I hold out hope that eventually all the good in him, and all the good I helped to put in him, will come shining through.