Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What's One Word That Describes You?

The other day, my teenage son and I were chatting. (This sentence blows me away in that I can actually “chat” with my teenager.) Every once in a while, he poses some pretty interesting questions. This time, the question was, “What one word would you use to describe me?” Now, being a wordsmith, this made me pause, because I really wanted to find the right word. So I said, “Hmmm … that’s a great question. I’ll have to think about that. Let me get back to you.” To which he replied, “Do you know what word I would use to describe you?” I waited nervously. What would he say? “Stressed?“ “Overprotective?“ "Meddling?"

“Resilient,” he said.

Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. Resilient. He explained, “Because you’ve been through a lot of stuff and you’ve gotten through it.”

This really made me think. Yes, a lot has happened over the years that my son has been old enough to be aware of, and in some cases, go through with me. But it made me wonder – should he have been privy to all of this? I never really knew when my parents were going through something. First of all, that was usually kept between them, and second, I was too selfish to even notice. I suppose when you’re a single parent and don’t have that “Plus One” to bounce things off of, maybe you take advantage of your “too mature for his age” 15-year-old son.

Then I thought, because I’m resilient, maybe I’m showing him how to be resilient. We talk a LOT, this kid and me. I never expected that at age 15 he would have the compassion, empathy and maturity well beyond his years that he possesses. He’s the one who asks me how my day was – every day. He’s the one who actually asks me for advice, and even wants to know how it was for me when I was his age. He asks questions that make me know he’s thinking of the future – questions about college, working, relationships … even having kids (OK slow down, Son).

I wonder how much of this is because he’s been right here with me through my ups and downs. He was the one who was there when I got the call that my mother had passed away. I’ll never forget what he did – at age 13. He sat down next to me, put his arms around me, and didn’t say a word – just sat there as I sobbed.

He’s seen me struggle with my older son and the intense feelings that have emerged through that - frustration, anger, worry, fear and extreme sadness. It’s hard to keep it from the one person who lives with you – even if he is only 15.

Though the “stuff I’ve been through” may be a bit unique in some ways, it’s no more than many go through – and much less than some. Yeah, every once in awhile I throw a pity party for myself and selfishly think I’m the only one in the world having a bad day, but then I get over it and pull myself up by my bootstraps and remember the good I have in my life.

That must be where the resilience comes in.

A little later on, I finally found the word to describe him. “Authentic,” I told him. “What do you mean?” he asked. I said, “How you act is who you are. You are compassionate, and you act compassionate. You are kind, and you act kind. You are thoughtful, and you act thoughtful. You don’t put on airs. You are simply a genuinely good person.”

That made him smile, and at that moment, I think we both felt that together, between my resiliency and his authenticity, we could conquer anything that life may throw at us.

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