Recently I struck up a conversation with a stranger. The topic migrated to kids graduating high-school and the woman shared with me that her son had worn shorts to his graduation ceremony. This caused her great stress as she had to race to the mall to purchase a pair of pants for him. She ended the story by saying, “how could he do this to me.”
I don’t know this woman. We were strangers passing. But her comment caused me to reflect on why her son would have made the choice to wear shorts on a day when others were wearing suits and dresses. Clearly he wanted to make a statement. He wanted to express his individuality. And maybe some of that teenage rebellion was a direct response to his mother. Maybe he felt she pushed him too hard to conform. But my guess is that his choice was only partially motivated by his relationship with his mother. My guess is that his choice was more about him than her.
Yet his mother took it personally enough to say “how could he do this to me.” She made it about her. And in doing so she may have pushed her rebelling son just a little further away. As parents, we should always remember that after we give our children life, they are separate human beings. We can teach them. Mentor them. Share our knowledge, wisdom and values. But ultimately, they are distinct individuals and the choices they make are more about themselves, than about their moms and dads.
Who knows what was going through this boy’s mind when he put on those shorts. It was a small statement; harmless in the scheme of things. But his mother would have drawn closer to her son had she asked him why he made the choice to wear shorts, than had she made it about her.