Dylan Had Accepted Full Responsibility.
On my way out the door with Shane one evening, I yelled up the stairs.
“Dylan, could you water the Christmas tree for me? And tell Dad to turn off the lights before you guys leave?”
“What?” he yelled back. “Do what with what lights?”
“Tell Dad to turn off the Christmas tree lights!” I yelled again. “And could you water the tree for me?”
“Yeah,” he yelled back.
“Could you do it, like, now?”
I expected him to actually do it. So Shane and I left.
An hour later, we came back.
The tree lights were on, and the tree had obviously not been watered. I was furious. I immediately texted Dylan, with all the sarcasm a text can muster: Hey, thanks so much for watering the tree and making sure Dad turned off the lights. I really appreciate your help.
Dylan texted back – uncharacteristically – with an explanation that made sense: I told dad to just like you said to but he told me he didn’t know what I meant. Sorry about that.
I shot back: And you watered the tree?
I thought dad did but I was wrong, Dylan said. We had some miscommunication. I should have been more clear.
I pondered this.
Dylan had just responded like a sensible adult.
What happened to my typical teenager? Where was the defensiveness? Where was the angry counterattack? Where was the lazy “oh-sorry-whatever” tone? Dylan responded to my (immature and irresponsible) sarcastic remarks with a (mature, responsible) sincere desire to convey what had happened and why.
How was I supposed to handle that?
Dylan still hadn’t watered the tree, and the lights were still left on. But it was certainly understandable and, more importantly, Dylan had accepted full responsibility for the whole thing.
I almost didn’t text back, because I was so dumbfounded by the reasonableness of our conversation.
Finally, I texted: That is the nicest way you have ever said “oh I forgot.”
Idk if that’s a good or bad thing but that’s what happened, he said.
It’s a good thing, I said. And I don’t feel like throttling you anymore.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the exchange, even hours later. What could have been a horrific argument – what usually is a horrific argument – was, instead, just a conversation.
Even more interesting than Dylan’s rational response was the realization that I had attacked him unnecessarily, and certainly too sarcastically. I had gotten angry over what amounted to absolutely nothing. And this is certainly not the first time I have overreacted.
I am not likely to suddenly become more rational, and I will probably continue to overreact.
But I can keep working on being more kind.
After all, Dylan is doing just that. Only days before his 17th birthday, I can finally see it.