My twelve-year-old son was watching the morning news programs while stowing his schoolwork in his backpack this morning.
"What is all this crap about Tiger Woods?" he asked me. "Most of it’s lies, I’ll bet."
How does one respond, after years of watching the media systematically under-report, pointedly omit, or misrepresent the truth on much bigger issues?
"There’s some amount of truth here," I told him. "Tiger’s made some bad decisions which are dogging him."
On cue, the boy gave me the shoulder shrug and the monosyllabic grunt which is supposed to pass for some form of acknowledgment, combining acceptance and rejection at the same time.
"I feel really let down, though; I really looked up to Tiger. He was one of the people I really admired."
I could hear the hurt in his voice, a little like a sharp stick jabbed into my solar plexus.
"Hon, you can still admire him. He’s still the best golfer in the world; admire his golf game. But he’s not just a golfer, he’s human; he’s made mistakes and bad choices, like all humans do, and you’ll have to come to grips with the truth that there are no perfect super-humans."
Blessedly, the news program changed the topic to some other fluffy piece of crap which is supposed to pass for news. My son’s attention span being about the same length as the previous report, he switched gears back to his school work and whether he has packed his lunch.
But this mother’s attention hasn’t changed. I’m angry now, left with unfinished tasks ahead, discussions looming about sex and responsibility and honesty and integrity brewing on the horizon. Thanks a whole lot, Tiger. Bunches and bunches.
At this point in my son’s development, I still have opportunities to have open conversations with him. There will be a day in the not too distant future — days, weeks, or perhaps hours from now — where discussing topics like these will earn me glazed-over eyes with energy focused in the other direction away from where the conversation might be headed. It happens with all teenagers at some point. It’s part of how they learn to separate from us and become autonomous adults.
Which means I will have to find the entre back to these topics in short order, before the door closes between mother and child.
In our household we talk a lot about karma, by which we don’t mean fate; we mean choices and their outcomes. Karma is often misused and misunderstood by westerners as another word for fate. In a very narrow sense, it is — but it’s a fate which is created by the choices one makes. When we choose something, we choose everything that goes with it. Good, bad, neutral or mixed, we choose all the possible outcomes which result from making a choice.
We’ve already had a passel of heated discussions this week about bad choices. It seems someone wasn’t straightforward about the amount of homework they has this past weekend, spending their time playing video games instead of working on a school project. The karmic wheel turned, though, resulting in a big scramble to get the work done late in the evening during the school week under elevated stress levels and with inadequate supplies due to short notice.
Bad choices made, like misrepresenting how much homework, choosing to play video games, ignoring resource planning, will likely result in pressure from team mates on this collaborative project assignment, an unsatisfactory grade, and a loss of privileges. There won’t be any video games this weekend, or computer — but that was a choice made last weekend. This is what he chose, and he’s going to have to accept it all.
And in the future, he should make better choices — like those which won’t come with an angry mother attached to them.
My own karmic lot chosen nearly thirteen years ago means I will have help my son connect the dots between his own choices and the ones Tiger has made. Perhaps Tiger will be a role model for more than his golf swing and course management; he might be a perfect model for lessons with regards to bad choices.
Life lessons about appearances, which on the surface can be deceptively misleading, but eventually crash and burn in an ugly fashion. Like somebody’s misrepresentation about their homework: it certainly looked like everything was under control this weekend, but now we know better and it wasn’t pretty.
Or lessons about greed; when you have it good, stop. Just stop and revel in it, be grateful, share it. Failure to appreciate and share your blessings will come back and bite you, and it may harm others around you.
On this lesson I won’t have to spend too much time, because my kid is actually pretty good about appreciation and corresponding generosity out of gratitude. But it never hurts to add a little punctuation. In Tiger’s case, he’s been generous out of appreciation; he was quite good with charities and initiatives. But charity as well as appreciation begins at home and that means giving deeply of one’s self to loved ones. It wasn’t money or other assets which needed to be both appreciated and shared; this point must be made with a teenager, that appreciating and giving of one’s self is as important or more important than doing the same with worldly goods.
My boy asked last week if he could help a friend with chores related to setting up holiday decorations because his friend’s mom has arthritis. I bit my tongue at the time, thinking it’d be nice if he cleaned his room and took out the garbage here at home like he was supposed to, before running to do chores elsewhere. Clearly we are going to have to work on the combination of responsibility and charity-at-home.
But I think I’ll let charity slide for now. There are more challenging matters to be tackled.
The two of us are still going to have to talk about sex addiction and safe sex, thanks to Tiger; I guess I better pick my battles carefully, so that I don’t get the glazed-over eyes in the middle of these topics.
In any case, I sure hope Tiger’s karmic debt means his mom is giving him what-for even now.