Best Boy. Best Boy. Best Boy.
I was 8 y.o. I had just had a tonsillectomy, and as I came out of the ether-induced coma, all I could say was:
Maybe I thought that could save me. I remembered my Mom kissing my forehead and saying: “Don’t worry. We love you. We’ll be right there with you.”
But she wasn’t right with me. Not when the black mask came down and I couldn’t breathe. Not when I woke up.
I knew I had done something wrong.
Best Boy. Even at the age of 8 I knew that I had to earn approval, deserve respect – I had to be worthy of love. Isn’t that what we all do in our relationships? We want to be the Best Boy and the Good Girl. If only we could earn the approval of our friends. If only we were good enough to deserve respect. If only we were worthy of love.
Best Boy. Good Girl.
It’s easy to look back and see things I had messed up.
I had broken my Mom’s favorite lamp. I hadn’t meant to knock it off the table. When she asked, “Who did this?” I said “I don’t know – maybe the dog did it.” But Mom found out. They always find out. Maybe it was because we didn’t have a dog….
I messed with my Dad’s tools and didn’t put them back and when he came in saying “Who played with my tools? And don’t blame the dog.” I said “I don’t know.” But he found out. They always find out. Dad had whipped out his belt and used it on my backside. What he left was NOT the mark of approval.
I did so many things wrong that my internal tally of good versus bad was heavily weighted… to the bad.
I would never be Best Boy.
In high school I somehow earned enough approval to have a girlfriend. “She said “I love you!” And I said “I love you!” We did everything together. Yep. Everything. I knew I was never going to be the Best Boy.
Then she left me. And I had to believe that I hadn’t been worthy after all. “Isn’t love supposed to be forever?”
I went to college. I loved again. I lost again. No Best Boy.
I dropped out of college to work construction. I was big and strong. I won arm wrestling contests in the bar. The guys would say “You’re strong!” I had a knack for reading blueprints. They put me in charge. The guys said “You’re smart!” They gave me titles – foreman, superintendent, project manager. I had earned approval, I deserved respect, and maybe I WAS worthy!
Maybe I had finally earned the respect that I was looking for – my own! What then?
I fell in love, got married. Got divorced. Started over.
I fell in love. Had a son. Got divorced. Started over.
I said to myself: “Why do I keep repeating?” Never a chance to be “Best Boy” that I didn’t screw up somehow….
My son is 16 now. He works hard to get good grades and earn my approval. He said that he wants to go to college… to learn to be a construction worker like me.
The other night he was loving on our little dog. He had his arms around her and was leaning on her.
“You’re going to smother her,” I said.
“But Dad, I’m just trying to love her.”
“Let her go. You can’t control her like that. That’s not how love works. Let her go.”
“No. I won’t.”
I stood up. “Let her go! You can’t make her love you!” And I cuffed him on the back of the head.
OMG. I actually hit my son! I flashed back to the times my Dad had used that belt. I looked back at my son. He had fear in his eyes. His voice trembled. “I was just trying to love her.”
“Son. My son.” I put my arms around him. “It’s OK. I love you. You don’t have to earn it, you deserve it always. I will always love you. You will always be my… Best Boy.’”
I think I was talking to myself, don’t you?
The next time you think you have failed, that you can never be good enough… remember that love isn’t something you earn…. It’s something you give.
That’s what makes us a Good Girl. That’s what makes us the Best Boy.