Irreverent Mama

Monday, May 29, 2006

My son, who is seventeen, is going through a crisis. Yes, I'm quite aware that to a teen, much of their adolescence is one crisis after another, self-aggrandizing and lacking the big picture as they are.

This, however, is a genuine crisis. My boy messed around (by which, I gather, he did some necking and mid-range petting) with not-his-girlfriend. "How did your girlfriend find out?" I asked. He looks at me in some surprise. "I told her, of course." He looked at me in greater surprise when I winced and said, "Why did you do that?"

Let me back up a bit here. His father, to whom I am no longer married for many more reasons than mere infidelity, messed around on me with several different women. Each and every time, he confessed. Thus, I have some experience being the recipient of such news, and I will tell you, it makes the tellor feel a whole lot better than it does the tellee.

I tried to convey to Daniel(my son) that honesty has gray areas, spoke of the balance beween honesty and kindness. I asked him if he wanted to get together with this other girl again - "absolutely not". I asked if he regretted it instantly - "yes". In that situation, I just don't see what is gained by knee-jerk honesty. If he wanted to keep seeing the other girl, adn/or if he'd messed around more than the once, then yes, the girlfriend deserves the truth. But a one-off? Once, and never again, with anyone? I absolutely cannot see what is gained by such honesty.

In fact, this kind of "honesty" often masks a greater dishonesty, I think, because the confessor doesn't tend to understand their motivations. They grasp at the moral high ground: "At least I'm being honest." As if for some reason the other party should be less hurt, less angry. As if they should somehow be grateful for the hurt, on top of the injury.

Confession is good for the soul, they say. Perhaps it is, for the confessor's soul. I say, if you want to confess a one-time fling, do it to a friend, do it to a priest, do it to your mother, I don't care, but don't tell the injured party - and then expect her to comfort YOU! To forgive you, because you're so fucking honest. Puh-leeze.

Anyway. I didn't give my boy all this emotional heaviness. Only a calm pointing out that simplistic spill-the-facts honesty isn't always so clearly the best or right thing in these situations. He didn't say much at the time. About a week later, I found myself overhearing him in conversation with a friend. (Not intentionally, but, I confess, once I realised what I'd stumbled into, yes, I wanted to know what he was thinking. It's opportunistic, but not too morally bankrupt.)

Turns out I offended him horribly. I know, I know. Teen morality is very black-and-white, and I was introducing him to an area of gray that is probably beyond his capabilities, particularly his male capabilities. Apparently, he’s entering into a new era of "honesty and openness", despite the advice of his mother, who “favours lies and deceit. My MOTHER for fuck’s sake.” Yes, well.

That’s not what I said, of course, but he’s evidently not ready to hear it. I don’t know whether I’ll bother taking another run at it, because, probably just like last time, that much-vaunted “honesty” he’s supposedly all about won’t extend to telling his mother what he thinks about what she says, or, for that matter, giving her any feedback whatsoever. Besides, I'm his "MOTHER, for fuck's sake". Mothers are supposed to be proponents of all that's pure and repressed. Mothers are not supposed to suggest that moral gray areas exist, and that perhaps honesty isn't always the best policy, that, moreover, "facts" are a shallow imitation of "truth", and may have very little to do with "honesty", anyway. All far beyond him.

Does it not occur to him that I have some experience - far more than his ex-girlfriend - with being cheated on? That my perspective is not the self-justification of the one in the wrong, but the clear sight of the one first wronged, then further punished by being expected to be comforting, reassuring, healing to the wounder?

Of course it doesn’t. He’s seventeen, and everything is black and white, reality is what he feels. Sigh.

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  • I think you are right to some extent. Perhaps putting it as - think about your motivation for telling first. If you really think she needs to know because its going to be an ongoing problem between you, then yes, tell. If it's just so you can get it off your chest, suck it up. That can be your punishment, having to live with it.

    By Blogger kittenpie, at 9:07 p.m.  

  • I agree with you on this one. It's hard to tell that to a 17 year old who knows everything though. I thought my Mom was all wrong when I was his age.

    Even Dr Laura (whom I cannot stand!) agrees. I heard her say the very same thing to a caller once. :)

    By Blogger Chantal, at 9:54 p.m.  

  • Although it would be better to find out from him than finding out hrough gossip, which is also a likley scenario in highschool...

    By Blogger krista, at 11:35 p.m.  

  • kittenpie- I like that way of putting it. "Think of your motivation first". I also like the summing up - having to live with it can be your punishment. That's my point exactly: don't make the victim of your error the one who has to grant you absolution. That's just not fair.

    chantal - Oh, I agree. Having teens has given me much more empathy for my own mother. Looking back through my current window as a mother of teens, I must have been insufferable!

    Oh, well. If Dr. Laura agrees, then I know I'm on solid ground... (Snort. We share the same opinion of the woman, Chantal.)

    Krista - That was an aspect of it I hadn't considered at the time, but it did come out later, and you're quite right. Even though they don't go to the same high school, they do have friends in common, and NOBODY gossips like teens! So, yes, if it's inevitable she find out, she'd far better find out from him.

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 1:14 p.m.  

  • Oh yes. As teenagers, they know everything, and they think we're horrible nerds who couldn't possibly relate...

    By Blogger Suburban Turmoil, at 2:03 p.m.  

  • ahh..teenagers. If it helps, he probably will, eventually, take what you said to heart, or, at least, it will resurface and he will revisit the issue.

    Teenagers are very self centered, but not stupid. They do hear, even if they don't let on!

    By Blogger Urban Mummy, at 10:02 p.m.  

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