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I knew it was coming; I just didn’t expect it would hurt.

By Darlene Young

Well, I’m understanding Sharlee’s fabulous essay (the title essay in Segullah’s latest, Dance With Them) a little more now. I got the first “you’re standing too close” attitude from my teenager today. I had been braced for it—really, I swear!—but it still blindsided me somehow. He explained that though he enjoys my coming to his meets, I don’t need to stand right by him the whole time.

 Of course.

 And two things smashed into me at once: first, memories of my own teenage years, the yearning to be separate from my parents and feeling so justified in that yearning—duh, it’s what’s supposed to be happening during these years; I’m trying to be a person here!—all mixed in with discovering my parents were sorta cool and feeling very close to them at times.

 And second, the feeling, which probably peaked during my own junior high years, of being a misfit, a leper, the person people don’t want to be seen with, possibly contagious in my nerdiness. The feeling that kept me from associating much with my younger sister in school hallways lest I doom her to contamination.

 A feeling of shame.

 When I was in high school, I was matched up for ten minutes at a seminary mixer with a guy I had a crush on. It was a great success: I was vivacious and charming, and we had a great conversation.  But later the (oh so sweet) boys in my ward told me that they had heard from this boy how disgusting his time with me had been because of the food in my braces.

The horrible, sickening shame, made worse because I had so confidently thought I was succeeding when all along I had been failing miserably—that’s what I felt when my son told me I had stood to close to him during that last meet. I had been so thrilled to be there with him, meeting his friends (and their parents), so happy to show him support. But . . . well, of course.

 Stupid, stupid me! I had told myself I had a thick skin and sharp memory, that I wouldn’t take it personally when my son went through this very healthy phase. How stupid for it to hurt!

 And so I begin Sharlee’s dance, the push and pull, the holding close but not too close. The showing up at the meet but cheering from a ways back. How I adore that boy—but more than that, I love his whole soul and what it can become. I will let my love and trust give me the strength to stand back a little more. I will be so mature about this.

 But, darn it, while he’s at school today I’m going to go have me a good cry.

About Darlene Young

Darlene Young lives in South Jordan, Utah, with her husband and four sons. She serves as the secretary for the Association for Mormon Letters and is acting poetry editor of Segullah. This year her baby is in kindergarten, and my how those afternoons fly!

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