Lately, my son questions every word out of my mouth. It’s driving me batshit.
Which is what led me to write my essay “Why I’m Learning to Let My Son Correct Me” for The Good Men Project.
I wrote the first draft after a particularly difficult day. My son is a warm, funny 10 year old who’d rather read books and build Legos and hang out with family than do pretty much anything else in the world. But we argue a lot. He’s hit an age where he needs to assert his own opinions. He needs to correct me. It’s part of growing up.
Even so, his constant corrections can be infuriating. On the day I first drafted this new essay, we’d been arguing about his continued insistence that studying for a test isn’t homework–it’s optional, he told me. Lots of yelling and slamming of doors and sulking behind said closed doors ensued.
By me, not him.
I was feeling frustrated and sorry for myself when I started writing, and I wanted to make light of the situation.
I took the essay through several more drafts and thought I’d maintained a sense of humor, poking fun at myself and my kid and the way we go at each other. I entitled the piece “How I’m Learning to Accept That My Son Thinks I’m Stupid” and sent it off to my wonderful editor, Jenny Kanevsky.
She gave me thoughtful, spot-on notes. The tone was off, she said. It didn’t feel right for me and my son to call me stupid so often in the essay, which wasn’t really about anyone’s stupidity. Shift the perspective from me to him. He’s the one growing and changing. Try to see the situation the way he does, as a kid who’s realizing his mother isn’t omnipotent.
So I rewrote the piece, re-envisioning it from his perspective, and as I did, I started thinking about how I relate to my son in real life, not just on the page: how I’m so quick to anger when he incorrectly corrects me; how my knee-jerk is to yell instead of to figure out what he’s really trying to share with me. The more I revised the piece, the better I understood the underpinnings of my anger and the more I started thinking through different choices I could make when I find myself getting angry at him.
I haven’t been pitch perfect in implementing the conclusions I reached in the essay. But the mere act of rewriting it has clarified what it feels like to be a 10-year-old boy who’s questioning what his mother has taught him in order to test his own theories of the world. My son is stepping toward maturity, which I have to accept and embrace, even when it makes me crazy.[bctt tweet=”When my son questions me, he’s stepping toward maturity, which I have to accept & embrace.”]
I wouldn’t have consciously realized any of this without the generous input of Jenny Kanevsky on an essay I thought was just going to be a sarcastic riff on “Kids these days think they know everything” and wound up being an essay that taught me to think more deeply about who my child is and who he is becoming.
Thank you, Jenny.
Here’s an excerpt:
…Often, when my son corrects me for the thousandth time that day, I find myself snarling, “Dammit, I’m not stupid!” Or I try ten different ways to convince him I’m right before I storm off, leaving in my wake a sobbing, frustrated little kid who’s mystified by my fury.
I’m always ashamed afterward. My son isn’t the mouthy know-it-all I was as a teen. He’s happy-go-lucky and kind, a kid who offers me bites of his favorite desserts and craves family nights where we all play cards or board games or watch movies. When he corrects me, he’s simply testing the boundaries of his own knowledge, trying to separate what he’s learned about the world on his own from what I’ve taught him. Trying to separate from me.
To read the entire essay, please visit The Good Men Project: “Why I’m Learning to Let My Son Correct Me.”
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