Stories about: Fighting with your kids

On parenthood, fighting with our kids, and redemption

Claire McCarthy,MD

My son and I were fighting the other morning on the way to the train.

This is nothing new. I love Zack desperately and am really proud of his accomplishments, but we haven’t been getting along since he came home from his freshman year at college.

He, I think he would tell you, feels misunderstood and constrained. He misses his independence. He misses his friends. He misses his girlfriend. He is annoyed at being asked where he is going. He doesn’t like having to do chores or share space with his parents and four siblings. He really doesn’t like working around our schedules.

I don’t like tripping over dirty dishes and dirty clothes. I don’t like the extra food shopping and dry cleaning, especially when it’s expected rather than requested. I don’t like being late because he’s not ready on time. I get annoyed when he ignores me, and the attitude he cops can be tough to take. Given how much money we are paying for his education, I feel remarkably entitled to gratitude and helpfulness.

So there we were, arguing our way from the parking lot to the subway station, where we got separated while I bought my ticket. When I got down to the platform, a train was pulling away and I didn’t see him anywhere.

He had left without me.

I called him. “I didn’t realize the train was going to leave so quickly,” he said. This was almost plausible; our stop is the end of the line, so we get on whatever train is sitting there and wait for it to leave. But it’s a big train, with lots of cars. If you want to ride with someone, you wait for them before you get on—otherwise they would have trouble finding you. He didn’t want to ride with me.

He had never done something like this before. He never would have.

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