The other day my eldest son, who is rarely critical, told me that I always wanted to be right about everything. It wasn’t said in an accusatory or confrontational way but in passing, as part of a natural conversation—which made me sit up and take notice all the more. Not a vehement rebuttal to one of my requests, not a rebellious slur against my authority, but a weighty observance that he had obviously reflected on and thought would be helpful if brought to my attention. I don’t think he intended for it to sting—but it did.
His comment caused me to pause and take inventory of myself, the mother of this young man sitting at my table, and long to see myself through his teenage eyes.
There was a time, not so long ago, when I knew everything he did, approved every cartoon he watched and prepared every bite that went into his mouth. There was a time, only a few years ago, when I knew the exact hour he slept and when he woke because I was there to say goodnight and open the shades the next morning. Thanks to my curated homeschooling world, all that he learned was a direct result of what I read or taught. And I like it like that.
Now he is much more on his own. He has started school and other authorities have been blessedly brought into his life along with new ideas, new paradigms, and new doors of freedom. So many invisible, intangible strings are being cut—some by me, some by him, and some by the natural passing of time and the growth of facial hair. He is taller than me and plays the piano better than I do. He knows more Latin and math and when I tell him something exciting and new I have discovered this week in my studies of Jerome, the lion, and the skull, he just shrugs and says he already knew it. In doctrine and theology issues at school I hear him speak and analyze what a teacher has said and I am just on the verge of telling him what to think and how to respond only to realize that what he said and how he has already responded was a better answer than I had to give.
But there is something in which I still want to influence him—and that is how he perceives me. I do not care if he approves of the way I dress or my take on the Marvel Mecca of today… but I care very much about how he interprets the true me, and I do not want him to think I always have the need to be right.
Even if it is true.
That is not the impression I most want to leave him with when he journeys out into the world. I am a person, a mother, a creative apprentice seeking to emulate the Master’s great work in my children, my canvas of these past sixteen years. I am a garden in which my son has been planted to grow and, now that he appears to be ripening, this and that come to pluck him off and enjoy the fruit and flavor of who he is… often without my knowledge or consent.
I want him to keep thinking back and keep coming back. I want him to remember and be challenged. I want to create something beautiful and send it out into the world. Every brush stroke matters, every color choice is key. They have to be just right.
And so, my son, let me correct you once more and tell you what is right about me being right:
I do not always need to be right but I do always want to DO right—for you. I want to make the right choices and point out the right way. I want to lead right, speak right, live right and love right. As much as possible, I want to always have the right answer for you. Perhaps that is a romanticized, motherly way of wanting to be right, after all. But I think that’s alright.