Sooner or later, no matter how much you pretend to love your children, they will hate you. Even if you are completely sincere in your affections, your children will hate you. My wife had a hard time with this notion, since she spends most of every waking day trying to be the best possible parent she can be, and my son does everything that he can to be a loving and devoted child. Today after the fifth grade track meet, she tried desperately to comfort him after he lost two different heats of the fifty meter dash. "You just don't understand!" he sobbed. She tried to connect by telling him about all the races she had lost when she was in elementary school. He didn't want to hear it. She didn't understand. She may, at one time, have been ten. But she isn't now.
I was relieved that I didn't have that particular duty, since my response would have been quite similar, choosing to describe the many and various ways in which I had come up short in my life - especially in my youth. Kids don't want to hear about that. They don't want to know that you can triumph over adversity. They want to revel in their own tragedy. The pain they feel is real first and foremost to them, and anybody else will never comprehend the full scope and seriousness of their torment. This is expressly true if it happens in front of your peers.
I have been blessed with one of the most compassionate and caring mothers of all time. I know this because she put up with me and my two brothers for our entire collective youth, and still entertains us periodically long enough to hear how we've suffered or achieved. But I know that I did everything I could to push her away for about ten years. All of the love in the world could not keep me from trying to break those bonds. I needed to be free, and if I was truly alone in the world, then I would no longer be tethered to her apron strings.
Instead, I find myself still connected to my mother some thirty years later. A couple of years ago, I saw a warning on the television advising me to watch only under parental supervision. I felt compelled to call my mother in another time zone to ask her if she thought I could handle it. She told me that she believed that I would be fine. Turns out, she was right. How did she turn out to know so very much, when I was convinced that she didn't understand me at all?
Tonight, my son is smiling again. There are plenty of hugs to go around. The storm has passed and I am proud to say that the forecast for the future is generally sunny. But that doesn't keep me from knowing where my galoshes are.