I Need You
“Mom, I think I need you tomorrow.”
Those were the words my 16 year old son approached me with last night before bed. For parents of teenagers, those are words that make your heart jump with sweet nostalgia, and then quickly turn to concern that maybe they're in big trouble.
I stammered some sort of surprised “OK,” and he explained he had high school registration mid-afternoon and I probably needed to be along to write a check. (apparently public schools are now conditioning us for the future shock of college registration fees.)
Of course, showing up at a mid-afternoon high school registration is not convenient for me because I have a little thing called a full-time job. So I offered to give him a blank check and send him alone.
“No, I think I need you there.”
That’s all the words any mama needs to hear, especially from a teenager who rarely offers any reassurance that my physical presence is desired. I need you. The words echoed into my head and heart all night and into the next day, as I frantically rearranged my work schedule for an hour window and savored the feeling. I still needed him to need me.
We drove to the school separately, and he waited for me outside the door.
He waited for me. He needed me.
And then I saw the line.
In a dark, un-airconditioned hallway stood approximately 500 students in a line that seemed to be unmoving. We wandered through an endless sea of sweaty teenagers and I noticed there were hardly any other parents. We took our place at the end of the line and were joined by his buddies, all clutching their blank checks.
I waited eagerly for him to ask for a blank check and dismiss me. But he didn’t. And I opted not to offer.
In the awkwardness of hanging out in line with a bunch of his friends, I searched my purse for my phone, and realized I’d left it behind. Now I couldn’t even make use of the hour-long line by answering emails or checking Facebook. I told him I had to run to the car for a minute, and when I realized the phone was not in the car, I battled the urge to drive the 20 minute round trip and get it.
But he needed me. He had reached out and expected me to be there, and I couldn’t just disappear for awhile. But I really wanted to. Because this was such a pointless, uncomfortable, sheer waste of my time.
He needed me, so I stayed. I rejoined him in line, which turned out to move much faster than expected. After 15 minutes, we got to the first registration station which required the payment, and as I paid, he darted off with his buddies for the rest of the registration process.
I paused to watch him go, thankful I’d stayed. He needed me.
“You can go home now!” he yelled obnoxiously, when he turned around and noticed I was still standing there watching him like a sappy dork.
I walked back to the parking lot and realized if I’d gone to get my phone, I would have missed the chance to be there when he asked me to be there. Leaving would have communicated that my phone was more important than he was, and it would’ve been so easy to make that simple mistake.
I’m grateful for the moments that I actually don’t mess up, because there are far more times when I do. Sometimes it’s nice to learn the lesson without wincing at the pain in hindsight.
What are the moments you’ve learned what matters most without learning the hard way?