Though it took place over 20 years ago, I remember it vividly. It was late on a Monday night when my mother walked through the door. You could tell by the slow cadence of the door hinges as she opened and closed the door that it had been a rough night.
I had been deep in the thralls of a video game, Final Fantasy 7 if my memory serves me, having been able to get an extra hour or two of playing time in her absence knowing full well I would have already received an earful about my homework had she been home. But that night she didn’t even bother to come down and scold me, as she only uttered one phrase to my dad before they retreated upstairs to talk in private. “I feel like I just had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life…”
It has been a difficult week to say the least. As I’m writing this, I am in route back to the United States for 6 weeks of training, which will be the longest time I’ve been away from my wife and son. I had been preparing for my departure for the last month and though I was physically and mentally ready for my trip, or so I thought…
On Wednesday, I learned that my stock trading coach had suddenly passed away, his body succumbing to a brain tumor that had rapidly grown out of nowhere. We were chatting on a zoom call like we usually did on Wednesday evenings, and two weeks later, he was gone. All of us in our trading group were shocked and saddened by the news, but at least we had some solace that he had lived an eventful life, and he had the stories to back it up.
Then on Friday, I received some news that absolutely slayed me. I learned that a coworker’s child had passed, and though I don’t know the details, it looks to be a suicide. I couldn’t quite figure out why this struck me so hard, for I’m usually able to keep stoic in these situations, but knowing who this man was, humble and kind-hearted through and through, my heart broke for him. “How could something like this happen to him, of all people?” I couldn’t imagine the pain he was feeling right at that moment, knowing he wouldn’t see his child again, knowing he didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye. As I was thinking of this, I could see my son in the living room, a beautiful, innocent 2-year-old, laughing, playing, still oblivious to the horrors of this world. It was only natural that my mind went to a dark place after that.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a kid these days. Social media has destroyed any perceptions of reality as they’re perpetually connected to others who are sharing only the very best of their filtered, fantasized lives, as if they never deal with the struggles of being a teenager, or a human being for that matter. A place where anonymous bullies can tear them down and make them feel worthless without any repercussions. A place you can’t escape from, where one bad post or simple mistake is forever a stain on their record and can destroy their reputation.
Coupled with that is our culture’s growing obsession with sex. Most of the sitcoms on network TV are littered with it, and that’s not even counting what’s on Netflix or HBO Max (Game of Thrones, anyone?). And it was difficult enough already growing up in the dawn of the internet where pornography became easily accessible. At least we were given some indication that what we say wasn’t normal, and that it took some effort to obtain it, let alone conceal your degenerate behavior. Now with unfettered access to the most hardcore pornography imaginable with a few clicks of a mouse, we’re stripping them of any imagination, anticipation, and innocence of sex, of knowing the importance of having an emotional relationship with a woman, and of the drive of seeking a worthy mate.
The obsessions don’t stop there, as there’s the push to teach kids about sex and transgenderism, with some encouraging them to embrace it without the consent of their parents. And how confusing must this be to a child, telling them they can be something that they inherently aren’t, that they can take hormones, go through surgery, and make life-altering decisions, as if that’s the answer to their problems, that if they mutilate their bodies, then they will become full, normal and accepted? It wasn’t long ago that we called this crazy, but now this is being widely supported by politicians and academics alike. There are even some in the medical field that are promoting it. How cruel can we be, and how lost have we become to tolerate this?
I say we for a reason, for as these thoughts and several more ran through my head, I was filled with terror, fear, and hopelessness. For most of my adult life, I could barely restrain myself from the temptations that came with social media and the digital age. If we as adults can so easily succumb to the evils of this world, how do we expect our children to do the same? “They don’t stand a chance,” was all I could think to myself. “None of them do.”
That night and the next day, I prayed to God for my coworker, for my son, and our nation. Eventually, my prayer turned into a desperate cry, pure vulnerability on display, pouring out my soul until I just repeated, “I don’t want to fail my son,” over and over again between sobs. It was the only thing I could say. “I don’t want to fail my son…”
Years later, I found out what my mom had been so stressed out about that fateful night. As the president of the school board at our school, she was forced to make a decision in opposition to her best friend, to go against a policy they had created and renege on a promise she had made that involved hiring teachers who did not yet have their teaching certificate. Knowing how it could damage her relationship with her friend and make her look lie a fool in front of the community if she was wrong, deep down she knew what the correct decision was. So that night, she decided to give a young, new teacher a chance.
That teacher, Mr. Healy, ended up becoming one of the best teachers I ever had. Through him, I developed a love for storytelling and actually began to enjoy reading for the first time in my life. He taught us how to analyze themes and think for ourselves the meanings and interpretations of classic literature. His Research Writing Class was one of the toughest, yet best courses I took in high-school, and even marked the first time I had to pull an all-nighter to finish a paper. But it paid dividends in college, for every time I had a writing assignment, I could pull out my old class notes as the foundation for each of my papers. And each time, my professors were impressed. One particular paper on affirmative action, a theme I had written about in high school, my professor essentially told me after a single draft that my paper was nearly perfect, all because I applied what I learned from his class.
I tell this story for a few reasons. One is that through the darkness I’ve felt during this week, with all the evil we face in this world, it gives me hope. It gives me hope that a little courage and willingness to stand up for what is right can make a world of difference. Without Mr. Healy in my life, I may have never developed my love for writing, but without my mother’s conviction, he may have never been a part of my life. And unbeknownst to her, her one vote ended up making a huge impact on my life.
The second is to apologize. I apologize to my mother, and my father for that matter for all the times I acted like a turd, for not telling them where I was at night, for making them worry when a quick phone call would’ve sufficed, and for all the other stupid, selfish stuff I pulled as a kid, including all the Jackass stunts and that one time I fell off a rock and almost died. I had no idea the emotional toll that comes with being a parent and how all the things I did as a kid could cause so much stress. I had no idea the amount of sacrifice it takes being a parent and how much mine were willing to sacrifice for me. Growing up, it baffled me why my parents seemingly gave up their dreams, why my dad worked a 9-5 that was much more stressful and much less gratifying that it should’ve been, and why my mom chose to stay at home and take care of us instead of being a fashion designer. Now, I understand completely. There’s no amount of corporate success or personal dreams that comes close to the joy of being a parent, and the sacrifices you make are well worth it.
And lastly, it’s to say thank you. Thank you for being a mother, for caring, and for making decisions in my best interest. And even when it wasn’t the right choice, for making it because you loved me and wanted what was best for me.
Thank you for being a role model, an example of how I can be a good parent. For giving your son and grandson a chance in this world. Your love gives me hope, even in the darkest of times.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Your favorite son