An Exasperated Mother

THE BACKSTORY

My son became a legal adult last summer. Yep. He turned 18 just before he entered his last year of high-school. So that means I have a dependent child (still a student) living under my roof (which I love) and living by our rules (which he does). It also means that I have a fiercely independent new adult flexing his “I’m an adult now” muscles at us at every corner, and this week he sucker-punched me right in the face with those muscles.

As a show of good faith in his ability to be responsibile, and wanting him to have a safe, reliable vehicle, my husband and I offered to sell our very nice 2008 Chrysler 300 to our son at a discounted price. The deal (which he graciously and enthusiastically accepted) was to pay a certain amount every paycheck (he works after school each day) until the car was paid off – about 18 months of payments. It’s been six months to date, and there have been several times that I have had to front him money until payday just to make sure he had gas in his car. I figured he is still learning to budget, and even though I complained about it each time he asked, I loaned him the few dollars and tacked it onto his “bill”.

After Christmas, he bagan his final semester in high school. He had enough credits to be able to move any remaining classes to mornings, so he could start working full-time at his job, starting earlier each day. Well,this semester has been the beginning of my nightmare as a mother.

THE PHONE CALL

I’m in Florida right now on a self-imposed writing retreat – nothing special, just spending time at my Dad’s putting all of my focus into honing my craft. This was to be three weeks set aside for me to clear my head of all the daily distractions and get my head into my writing. I wasn’t off the plane for three hours before getting a call from my husband saying that my son was at a car dealership working out a deal to purchase a much newer, much more expensive, and much faster 2014 Ford Mustang. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and it’s been there ever since. Did I mention that I came to sunny Florida from the notoriously cold and snowy Alberta, Canada? A Mustang? In the middle of winter in Alberta? OMG!

MY ARGUMENT

I immediately got on the phone with my son and explained to him ALL of the very valid, logical, reasonable arguments as to why he should NOT buy a vehicle. In a nutshell, here they are:

  • – You already have a very nice, cool-looking vehicle.
  • – You only have another year of payments and it will be completely paid off.
  • – Muscle cars are not reliable vehicles in the snow.
  • – You’re still a new driver. Your insurance is high enough on the 300. It’s going to be rediculous on a Mustang.
  • – You still owe us money on the 300. You won’t be able to manage payments for two vehicles.
  • – You also have insurance, phone, martial arts and gas expenses every month. You won’t be able to afford a hamburger by the time your bills are paid. Oh, and don’t think you’re going to be living scott-free in our basement for the next six years while you pay off a Mustang. Room and board will be added to that list of expenses once you’re done school.
  • – The Mustang doesn’t include new winter tires. If you drive this car in the winter without winter tires, and you happen to have an accident, I don’t think your insurance will cover you. Winter tires are now mandatory. You don’t have enough money set aside for winter tires, do you?
  • – The economy in Alberta is expected to take a dive because we are an “oil” province. What if you happen to get laid off? You won’t be able to make payments and the car will be repossessed and you’ll have no transportation.

All valid arguments, correct? Of course!

You would think that would be the end of the story, right? You are so wrong…

HIS ARGUMENT

–  “I’m an adult now, and I thought about this carefully. I know I can afford it. I want to be independent and prove I can do this on my own. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the car I already have, I just want to be a mature, responsibly, independent adult and do this myself. You raised me to be that way.”

He also said he will be getting enough cash back on the trade in to pay us the remainder of what he owes us for the 300, so he’ll only have one (larger) monthly car payment.

Oh, and that winter tire problem…not a problem at all. He’s putting some cinder-blocks in the trunk to give the seasonal tires more traction.

This blog post could be about a mother who is so proud of the way she raised her children to be independent, focused, and determined young adults (all of which my son is, obviously). But, no – it’s about a mother who is furious and frustrated by the stupidity, selfishness and stubbornness being displayed by her child, who is trying desperately to disguise these qualities as something great “she instilled in him”.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

My son ignored all of our arguments and advice. He made the deal with the devi…um…salesman. Car salesmen, by the way, do not have the heart of a mother when they are selling a dangerous vehicle to a brand new driver who just started receiving a full-time income in an unsure economy. Car salesmen will not lose sleep everynight knowing that the person to whom they just sold said vehicle has just tied a two-tonne financial noose around his neck. Car salesmen do not love the young man to whom they sold this vehicle so much so that they are knowingly going to be, once again, unfriended on Facebook for pulling a “d-bag move” by posting this blog post on Facebook for all to see. But this car salesman isn’t my son’s mother, who loves her son more than life itself. I know he’ll hate me. I’ll no longer be considered a friend. His real friends will be riding in the passenger seats of his new car. I’ll now just be a mean mom. But if that means doing everything in my power to ensure my son makes the best decisions for his overall well-being, then that’s the chance I must take. Just call me “Mean Mom”, I guess.

I considered not posting this to my Facebook page, but I want there to be NO misunderstandings about this when everyone notices my son driving around in his new car…I did NOT condone the purchase, and I DID do everything in my power to dis-sway him from getting it. I don’t want his decision to reflect on me…as an indifferent, uncaring mother.

That said, I hope to God he proves me wrong. Now that the deal is done, I have no choice but to keep my fingers crossed and to hope with cautious optimism that my son can get through the next six years “proving me wrong”. I will gladly eat my words if that can be the case.

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Bullying – A Parent’s Perspective

A Facebook friend just asked advice about how to handle a bullying situation. His young teenage son has been experiencing relentless bullying from three boys in school and he is to the point where he is going to instruct his son to “handle it”, meaning, physically put them in their places.

That’s not good news for the bullies. My friend (and his son) have grown up in a very well known martial arts family and can most definitely put this issue to an end.

They have gone through all the proper steps and channels but nobody is handling it. It can be handled with physical retalliation, but that’s an ethical issue that isn’t popular with a lot of people.

So many of you may not agree with the advice I gave him; I told him to intice the bullies to throw the first punch and then take care of business. And that’s because I was never one to walk away from these situations in my own life.

I had some sensitive family issues when I was going through school. I didn’t have the time to be hanging with all the popular kids…I was at home most of the time taking care of my family. So when I would be embarrassed, humiliated, and chastized by anyone, I took it very personally as an attack on my whole family, so I handled the situation. Back then, in the 80’s, it was easier to get away with fighting; I only got in trouble with the school once. BUT, my bullies NEVER bothered me again.

As a parent of a now 18 year old son, I’ve only had to contend with this situation once in his life. And they worked it out. They both agreed that they would duke it out to settle the situation. My stepson video taped the three minute scuffle. It was hard for me to watch, but I wanted to see for myself how they handled it. A few punches were thrown. A fat lip and a couple of bruises later, they both ended it and shook hands. This wasn’t a bullying situation, but a disagreement among friends. Not the same, I know. But they both thought they were handling things like men. It may be primitive, but in a weird way, it was very respectful.

I do not agree with walking away from a threat with my tail between my legs. It will settle nothing with bullies. Bullies are looking for a confrontation, and it seems to me at least, when they get what they are looking for, they respect their opponent and it is settled. It’s a sport to them; and they are looking for worthy opponents.

Now, all of this is easy for me to say, because my perspective is formed from my experiences as a school-age girl in the 80’s. We didn’t have the threat of sharp weapons, or even firearms, at school. Standing up for one’s self these days could mean literally taking your own life in your hands. And as a mom, that scares the shit out of me. So if a bully is a known gangster who is believed to be packing…my advice is to walk… RUN…and report the harassment to authorities. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Where do you stand when it comes to bullies harassing your children? What would you advise them to do?