I called my mother today to apologize for my “atrocious behavior.” (Those quotation marks are properly attributed as those were the words I used.)
I caught her off guard.
“What are you talking about?” she asked with genuine curiosity.
I reminded her that several decades ago, I was 14 and a half.
(I let this statement settle for a moment and then continued.)
I assured my mother that I routinely behaved in grossly embarrassing and wildly disrespectful ways. I told her that I felt badly for ever having put her in the role of parenting such a challenging teenager.
Though she tried for a minute, she couldn’t pinpoint any particular transgression of mine from the mid 1980s. And she forgave me nevertheless.
My mother’s inability to cite an offensive instance of mine leads to these possible reasons:
- There were so few that they weren’t worth storing away,
- There were so many that she couldn’t cull out one to use as an example, or
- Her mental acuity is failing
Knowing how she continues to read books, play word games, and would defeat her opponents were she ever to be on Jeopardy rules out #3 as a viable choice.
So that leaves #1 or #2.
Although I’d like to think it’s #1, I am worried that it was #2. Not only is my concern steeped in regret but also it teems with anxiety.
My apology, three decades hence, came from a place of understanding: generations had changed hands.
Testing limits and pushing boundaries are considered rites of passage. “It’s totally normal for them to hate you” and “Teenage girls are horror stories” are notions I’ve heard for years. My daughter, by her words and by her behavior, has yet to convince me of any hate she harbors. And, I’m not getting on the broad-brush, bash-teenage-girl bandwagon.
What I will say is that my perennial naivety about how life could/should unfold has left me wondering how my daughter didn’t end up the exception to the cultural claims of hate and horror. My inexperience in this realm makes me question whether to “shut it down” now before the “atrocious behavior” becomes, in the language of teens nowadays, “a thing.”
Because that sort of “thing” is as emotionally painful as it is intolerable.
While there’s a risk of backlash were I to assert, “I’m not going to tolerate that sort of behavior,” (the atrocious sort) I believe that there is more to lose by complacency.
In the end, maybe I’ll be on the receiving end of an apologetic phone call in 30 years. Here’s hoping that I’m still around to accept her apology with the same graciousness that mine was received earlier today.