It’s a while since I have mentioned Young Donald – a couple of years probably. He left home some years ago and lives in another state. This was a strange adjustment for me to make. One moment, I was excitedly anticipating the arrival of a baby, one that I’d gone to considerable effort and expense to conceive and in the blink of an eye, eighteen years had passed and he was off to face the world on his own.
There was a brief period where he returned home from a few months, but then he was gone again, and our contact was limited to very occasional visits – either me to Perth or him to Adelaide. He always worked over Christmas so that special time was not shared anymore, nor his birthday which followed a few days later. I was always sad that we were apart at this time, but had to accept it.
One of the important lessons in becoming a parent is that we don’t create clones of ourselves; rather we give birth to separate human beings, with their own views, personalities, attitudes, hopes and dreams. As Gibran said, ‘You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts’. While we are alike in many ways, we are also different in so many others. That, I had to learn to accept.
There have been frequent phone calls over the period of separation. Sometimes it has been to ask advice – how to cook something, what to buy, or some such. The calls that I liked best were those that were simply to have a chat. Not that they were frequent. Usually he was in the car and calling to fill in the time until he reached a destination.
I couldn’t escape from the feeling though that there was a growing distance between us; a separation over which I had no control and couldn’t breach. What caused me the most angst was that it seemed to be an indifference. He was moving onto his new life, one which didn’t really involve me to any great degree.
Gradually, I could see that his ideas and perceptions of the world were changing. Although I’d tried to bring him up with an appreciation of social justice issues, and values which reflected a fair go for all, his interpretations on events around us were developing differently to mine. This meant that we frequently fell into arguments, and when I spoke to him on the phone, I needed to have other topics up my sleeve so that I could quickly move us onto safer ground when it seemed that we were reaching an emotional impasse.
I was dismayed to see these views evolve, but could only surmise that they arose from his current circumstances. He has been living with other young men in shared households and most of them are online gamers. Their interaction is with others of their ilk, and I suspect that many of the views perpetuated in the online forums are conservative and misogynist. His work environment is likewise a manual and male-dominated environment, not known for intellectual debate.
Now we have reached not a point of no-return, but are currently estranged. Part of the problem lies in communicating electronically, where issues and meanings can become distorted. I don’t wish to detail the issue that gave rise to this breakdown in our relationship, but what I thought was a discussion he interpreted differently and responded with astonishing vitriol and hatefulness. He also told me to f*ck off and not speak to him again. So I haven’t.
It was such an inappropriate response to what I had disclosed to him. If it hadn’t been for those final words, I would have attempted to salvage the situation but my heart is shattered into a thousand little pieces. I can’t let the situation remain indefinitely, but am not at the point of mending bridges either. I’m not sure if he even understands how totally inappropriate his response was, but there is another thing that worries me. He has little emotional support. Whatever differences we had, I was still at the end of the phone for him, and now he has no one. I worry about his emotional resilience and ability to cope on his own. Young men don’t always do well with emotionally negotiating their way through life and when you have a person who habitually sees the negative rather than the positive in a situation, that scenario is magnified.
Although he should apologise, I am not sure that he will or will fully understand why he should. I still need to resolve what I will do and when, but until that time, the night hides my tears. He is still my son.