The other day I was unloading groceries from my car and my neighbor walked by with her dog and started to chat. She lives a few doors down and her dog is friends with my dog Winston.
We chatted about our dogs and the recent rumblings about the neighbor down the block that always makes trouble. Then out of no where she said to me, “My boyfriend is moving in with me next week. We’ve been together for a year and a half and it’s time.” What should have been a “That’s great news” response from me instead came out as “Good luck with that.”
She scrunched up her face and gave me a silent look as her reply. Oh crap. Did that just come out of my mouth? I could have sworn it was thought bubble. I backpedaled and played it off like a joke about my ex-husband.
I was more than thankful when my next door neighbor came out and joined us. I let them talk a few minutes and excused myself to get the rest of my groceries into the house before the frozen yogurt melted.
Am I becoming cynical?
Now when I see my neighbor walking her dog, all I can think about is that look on her face. I’m sure she moved past it because her boyfriend moved in last weekend. She’s happy and I should have been happy for her too. But it came out as sarcastic with a touch of cynicism.
I’d like to think that my latest in a string of failed relationships and all this legal stuff with my ex hasn’t affected the way I look at love. I’d like to think that I still carry hope in my heart and a belief that everything is happening as it should be.
Most days I can convince myself that I do believe. I believe in the hope and happiness and all that warm fuzzy stuff we told ourselves when we were little girls. But some days, my snarl slips and my past comes out of my mouth.
I let that one marinate in my head for awhile and said to myself, “Self … what can you do to help your son Jake with his future relationships? With all my relationship experience, what can you teach your son?”
1. Put the seat down
Yes, some days it’s really just that simple. Put the seat down and change out the toilet paper roll. Come on ladies admit it … we all secretly wish for our man to have good bathroom behavior. I figured that if I could teach Jake this one, he’d learn one of the best kept secrets to make a woman happy.
2. Have good manners
Jake thinks I’m picking on him during dinnertime when I repeat the same things over and over: close your mouth when you eat, don’t put your elbows on the table, don’t reach across the table – ask me to pass the plate.
The day will come when he takes a girl out to eat and her parents will be there. I want my son to make a good impression with the new potential woman in his life. I can see it now, her parents will say, “I like that Jake. Did you see the way he asked me to pass the rolls? He has such good manners.”
And one more thing about this manners stuff he’ll learn – you’re never too old to say please, thank you, yes ma’am and no sir.
3. There’s a time and place for everything
One of my favorite lines from South Park goes like this:
There’s a time and a place for everything — and it’s called college.
Chef said that to the boys in an old episode from 1998. It still cracks me up today and brings me to my next lesson for Jake.
By now, I realize that I can’t stop Jake from acting silly, telling jokes and doing weird things anymore than my parents could stop me. I get that I’m raising a little version of me.
I know I can’t stop his behavior but at least I can teach him when and where it’s appropriate to behave like this. Right now, it’s only OK at recess or when he’s hanging out with his friends. Hopefully he’ll learn this lesson when he’s older. He’ll know that the way he acts in the private with his friends is not a good idea when you’re at work party with your girlfriend or wife.
4. What you can control
It’s taken me WAY too many years to learn that you can’t control anyone around you. All you can really control is your choices: how you decide to react to someone, how you choose to behave and how to make a decision when it’s time to walk away.
That’s going to be a tough one to teach him. It’s easier to just go with our first impulse and act without thinking.
But I think I’ll try to teach him this way – what’s easy isn’t always what’s right. Sometimes doing the right thing takes courage, strength and a belief in yourself that you can stand alone if you have to. It’s not always easy doing what’s right.
5. Be a man not a guy
When the day comes to have that horrible conversation with the woman is his life – either a breakup or I hate to even think this, a divorce – be a man about it. Don’t act like a guy and send her a text and change your relationship status on Facebook. Have a conversation with her in person or at least on the phone.
And don’t be that guy who cheats on her or gets into another relationship while she’s still packing up her stuff from your home. So many people jump into another relationship even before the old one hasn’t even officially ended.
I get it when a relationship doesn’t work. I’ve had more than my share of bad romances. I know what it’s like to be on the other end of something that goes wrong. One person is unhappy and instead of having the decency and respect to talk to the person they claim to have loved, they start looking for their next relationship fix.
As I’m reading through all my life lessons I’m going to teach my son, I think this is the biggest one of them all. Don’t be THAT guy Jake. Be a man.
Photo credit: Single rose in trash