Parenting #101: Teenage boys and their emotions

My son texted me from school yesterday. He was having a problem, and he was in the counseling office. Immediately, I panicked.

“What’s wrong?” I texted back.

He answered that his ex-girlfriend had finally moved on and had started a relationship with someone else, and he just felt really sad. He told me he went to counseling because he just couldn’t deal with school at that moment.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and I told him I understood. I told him it made sense that seeing his ex-girlfriend with someone else could be painful. I thanked him for still getting a handle on his missed work. A part of me felt good that my teenage son could recognize his difficult emotions, admit to his inability to handle them, and then find a safe space to go to work things out.

“I am just working on my Spanish stuff down here,” he texted back. How many times had we talked about strong emotions and the right way and wrong way to handle them? How many times have I told him his feelings matter and it’s important that he acknowledge them and process them in ways that made sense? So why did I feel so torn?

The other part of me, the creeping part, started to question his manhood. The little voice questioned the strength of a parent when their son just ran to guidance over something so silly and so minor. What would he do when something serious happens? Was I raising a wimp?

“You tell him all of the time about how important it is to you that he talk about how he feels. You say all of the time how you are worried he keeps his emotions too much to himself,” my husband said to me after dinner. I was questioning him about it. I was asking him if he thought this was bad. “Of course I don’t agree with it,” he responded, “but you are always talking about my toxic masculinity. Now you’re going to fault him for expressing his emotions? You definitely made it clear at dinner that you weren’t okay with how he dealt with it.”

“What do you mean?” I asked innocently.

“Kelly, you made it very clear in your tone about his missing class that you were not okay with it,” he answered.

And my husband is right, but I really don’t know what to feel. All I know if that the feelings of uncertainty are still here. Perhaps it is my own feelings of being viewed as a weak parent or even an ineffective one that are truly standing in my way. My ego feels somehow wronged by my son’s sadness. I think this is part of it, but I also think there is more.

Later that night, my son apologized again for missing class and being overcome by his feelings of sadness. I felt terrible that I had said something that caused my son to apologize for his actions because I think what he did was right.

“You don’t have to apologize,” I answered. “You did the right thing, baby.” But it was too late. I could tell from his face and I could tell from his demeanor the opportunity passed and I did not.

Love and Light, all.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on