It Was Never About Today

Maureen Stiles
Written by Maureen Stiles

I yelled.

And once I started I couldn’t stop. My voice ricocheted like bullets all over the room. I had tripped the safety and that trigger was hot.  Normally so measured and careful with my words, it was liberating to just let the fur fly.

Lost in my heated release, I never focused on your face.  My anger blurred the edges, obscuring the hurt and astonishment. That is, until I stopped and took a breath.

I saw the full force of my assault and over reaction reflected in your flushed cheeks and wide eyes.  In that moment, all the swagger of your seventeen years dissipated.

“Just stop yelling,” you implored. “I’ll do anything if you just stop yelling.” 

Your words stunned me and I immediately collapsed on your bed. Defeated, remorseful and without ammunition to defend my weakened position.

But I attempted to explain anyway.

I know you think it is ridiculous that I went on a rampage because your bags, clothes and shoes litter every room despite multiple requests to pick them up.  I know you see this as a gross, irrational response to a normal situation.  So sure that I am making mountains out of the molehills of daily life.

What you don’t know is that I yelled because I am scared.  The waters of parental fear run deep and the weight of the teen years anchor us far from the safety of our emotional shoreline.  We second guess every turn, sure that we are going to run aground in our efforts to chart your course.  

I know the stakes are high every time you walk out the door. Gone are the days of worrying about potty-training and developing fine motor skills which all seemed so overwhelming at the time.

Teetering on the edge of adulthood and anxious to bid childhood goodbye, you make decisions without me every day.  You navigate small things and large; driving responsibly, social situations with drugs and alcohol, college applications, a job and school work.

There is a spring in your step as you leave the house, flush with freedom.  But on the other side of that door, I lean against the wood grasping the deadbolt willing myself not to fling it open and call you back to the safety within our walls.

I remember too well the bad choices I made as a teen. Some were inconsequential and others could have had serious ramifications. Because we were not nearly as informed as your generation, our sense of glorious immortality made us plunge where we should have waded. Today, many a conversation among my peers centers on the fact that we are lucky to be alive.

And I want you to live. To rise and fall. To hurt and feel so raw you will struggle to stem the bleeding. To learn what and whom fortifies your soul. To mature but never lose the ability to laugh at yourself. I want it all for you. Yet, the reality of you slipping away to attain it drowns me some days.  

Like today.

I panicked and flailed and clung to anger like a life preserver. 

I yelled because the dam of fear broke wide open and debris swirled to the surface. Because I know too much about life’s journey. I yelled because I remember your first day of kindergarten and how hesitant you were to release my hand. Sadly, I know that time is a temptress, seducing us with dreams of forever and mocking our protests as she advances without our consent.

You see, son, it was never about today; it was about all the uncertainty of the tomorrows.

About the author

Maureen Stiles

Maureen Stiles

Maureen lives outside Washington DC with her husband, 3 boys and her dog, the only one who really understands her. She shamelessly exploits the chaos of her everyday life for enjoyment and profit. She loves 80’s music, Miller Lite and reality TV. She is rarely without a koozie in case someone is kind enough to offer a beverage. Maureen can be found blogging at Montgomery Community Media, in her column for the Town Courier Newspapers as well as online at Scary Mommy, the Mid and more.

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21 Comments

        • Going through it now with my 16 yr old, tantrums and back talk. Yet he’s wonderful outside the house! Scared to death sometimes to let him out the door thinking back on the things I did when I was his age and the way the world is now. I know screaming isn’t the answer just cant get through to him. He knows EVERYTHING! Yet has so much to learn. The greatest part is that he does tells me everything he does both good and bad. Which can sometimes be bad and cause screaming matches when I know he’s oh well you get the picture. All in all good job, thank you for writing a great article. I look forward to reading more. Sorry to babble.

  • This touched my heart. My son’s are almost 26 and 24 and I still remember feeling this way. I never really yelled at them but I remember asking them constantly to text me whenever they got to the locations they were driving to or calling me along the way if they were on the road for too long. I was scared about the world…not about them. I am sure they thought I was trying to just keep the apron strings tight – when in reality the world is so different now than when I was their age I always wondered if I had given them enough ammunition to take the world on without me. I don’t think they will totally ‘get it’ until they have their own children and have the same feelings that I do. Thank you for writing this.

    • Well, you did it mama! They are 26 and 24. I don’t want to hit fast forward but I often take the leap in my head to when they will be a little more world wise and older! Thank you for reading!

    • it is bittersweet, isn’t it? And scary. I don’t freak out over the little things except when I’m trying to cover up the big things–of which there are so many. Thank you for reading!

  • Yes, yes, yes. I’m right there right now. Older boy is 14, younger boy is 11. I have done this too often, and been like, “What the hell WAS that?” as my boys look at me as if my head just spun around five times and smoke came out of my ears. Thank you for this. This is a gem.

  • This article was just brilliant for me to read as my son is 17 today and I thought that I was going mad . I am normally calm, but the worry of all their planned trips out is driving me mad with worry and your article was like it was about me this last week. So thank you – I am not alone.
    So there is no book that tells you how to let them go and survive the worry and not drive them mad in the process and yourself. Just say a prayer and keep busy, I think seems to the best solution and keep communicating as best as we can. Thank You .

  • This was haunting. The image of your child waking out the door and you fighting to not open it up and call him back to you brought tears to my eyes and made my heart ache as I envision myself in that same place in a few years whe my toddlers are grown. Beautiful piece.