When the young man came over to where his mother and I were talking, I turned my attention from her to him. He had taken the time to put on a coat and tie and was much more composed than his mother at the moment.
After he joined our conversation, I looked directly at him and told him, “you know that this is your problem, not your mom’s, right?”
He almost smiled as he responded, “yes.”
This wasn’t a particularly unique conversation between myself, a young man facing charges, and his mother. I am engaged in these types of conversations with the same three actors relatively frequently. There is consistently a tendency for the mother to speak for her son, be more upset than him and generally take charge despite the fact that the son is legally an adult.
When this dynamic is confronted and the reality of who owns responsibility for the situation is explained, the reactions are noteworthy. The mother struggles to acknowledge that this is not her baby boy who she can protect or shelter any longer. In fact, due to attorney-client privilege she can’t even participate in certain parts of the conversation leading up to trial.
The young man, on the other hand, locks in with his eyes. When challenged with the opportunity to step out from under his mother’s wing and step into the responsibility of manhood, there is consistently a knowing nod. The man wants to be recognized and called out so badly but the boy has maintained priority by invitation of his mother.
Now another man is sitting across from him telling him that today is the day. Today is the day that he is invited into the adventure of manhood, consequences and all. This invitation calls to the soul of the boy and everything about his body posture, the look in his eyes and the words of his response cries out, “yes . . . it’s my time!”
When that happens, the mother may not even realize it. She can’t realize what she can’t experience and she can’t give away what she doesn’t have. She can’t impart manhood or invite someone to a place she has never been. That’s alright, though, because the investment of nurturing and care that she has made for all these years can serve as security and affirmation for the journey her son is stepping into.