photo-263x350Here’s a phrase all working parents love to hear from their child: “Well, go to work then!” My 12-year-old son tried to wound me with it this morning.

He’s had a rough go since February, buffeted by serious health problems that have occurred so frequently and anew that it has started to feel like they are regularly scheduled, as in Adam’s Health Issue Of The Month.

The latest began in mid-July, when he fell backwards off of a porch at camp, which caused a serious concussion. Since then he’d been living with a constant low-grade headache that only went away last week (with infrequent re-appearances).

Now the hard part: Keeping him relatively inactive even though he feels better most of the time, even though he hangs around in a crowd of jock friends. The doctors say he needs to go at least two more weeks headache-free before beginning to raise his level of physical activity.

Therein lies the problem. He’s happy with his friends. But at home, he’s miserable. So he’s lashing out. This morning I tried to sell him on a positive perspective, on how he’s improving and lucky that he’s on the mend, and could look forward to engaging in a bunch of sports this fall—if not his full-time travel baseball team or his school soccer team. I talked about how at work, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t have to compromise on something to move forward and be successful.

And that’s when he said those magic words. “Well, go to work then.”

Inadvertently, he made me feel worse by also softening his tone to remind me to leave him lunch money so he could be with his friends, and also to leave him my cell phone (while his is being replaced after it mysteriously got banged up one too many times). So, in other words, being kind and pleasant when he needed things from me.

A good friend, whose son is a stellar college student and wonderful human being, confided in me that, when he was 12, his son was “like the worst person ever.”

I don’t know.

I hope I’m planting the seeds of kindness and resilience in Adam by trying to take the high road when I can; by trying to be patient when I can; by trying to be empathetic to his disappointments and not merely prescriptive.

But it’s no fun to be sent off to work so that he wouldn’t have to deal with me.

Easier to deal with the TV.

Eric Messinger is the editor of  New York Family. He can be reached at [email protected]