My son fell in love his freshman year of high school. I mean really in love, no holding back, no cautious safeguards, full surrender. And two weeks later, she dumped him. I was not fully briefed on the romance, I knew he liked her and had even bought a necklace for her, but I wasn’t aware how much he had “loved” her until one night.
I went downstairs to check on the boys and tell them goodnight. Max was texting on his phone. “Max, put the phone away. It is time for bed.”
“Mom, I need to talk to this person.”
“Who is it?” I asked.
“It’s a girl. Just let me finish.”
“No, Max, it’s late and you need to go to bed. It’s not appropriate for you to be talking to anyone this late anyway.”
“Mom, she wants to talk to me.”
“Turn the phone off.”
He turned off his phone and said, “Why are you ruining my life! I hate you!”
I was stunned. Seventeen years as a parent and none of my children had ever said that. I knew he wasn’t talking to me, so it was more surprising than hurtful. “I’m ruining your life?” I walked out of his room in a sober silence and went upstairs. Huh, what was that about? I ask him to turn off his phone regularly, what was up with him?
I tiptoed downstairs, I heard Max sobbing and his older brother in the room talking to him. I could hear their voices, but they were too low for me to hear the words. I was grateful that Lucas had left his homework to talk and console his brother. I went back upstairs and read my book.
Twenty minutes later, Max appeared in my room. “I’m sorry Mama.” He cried. “I don’t hate you. I’m just so sad that she doesn’t like me anymore.” My 200 pound son curled into a ball on my bed and sobbed. I held him, and rocked him, and spoke to him, and accepted his apology. I asked him if there was anything I could do, and he assured me that Lucas had helped him. Lucas had told him how much he still hurt from his first break up years earlier. Something he had never spoken to any of us about.
Max’s broken heart mended and he has had subsequent girlfriends. Now in his Senior year, his football coach asked the team to write a love letter to their mothers, to be read aloud. Max wrote me a beautiful letter, but then at the end of the letter he told a short story. He relayed the Freshman year incident when he had said, “I hate you!” He told his team and their mothers that this had been the low point of his life, and although he had apologized at the time, he never felt that he could apologize enough. He said, “Nothing has weighed on my heart more. I love you more than anything.”
The apology Freshman year had been enough for me, but I think the apology Senior year had been for himself. I hope his heart is no longer heavy and that he can allow himself to be vulnerable again.