11: A Pretty Good Sized Flame

I didn’t see this coming.
The phone rang an hour ago. I picked it up and heard, “Mam, this is Lieutenant Patrick…” (The hair near my elbows started to tingle.  I don’t know why my body has been reacting in these strange ways lately.)  His last phone call was to inform us of the rules M had broken.  I finally uttered, “…Yes?”

          Mam, I’d like to report that your son has made positive changes in the last couple days.  (My mouth let out a sound similar to air coming out of a popped tire.)
           There’s a real good kid in there; we just had to light a fire under him to get it out.

On the brink of tears, I reply, “We’ve tried so hard to light that fire at home, but we couldn’t get it going.” Lieutenant Patrick responded,

          Well, let’s just say we had to get a pretty good sized flame under him.

M is considered a “Recruit at Training.” The first and most significant achievement of a Recruit at Training is earning his or her Hat Brass.  I recall reading somewhere on their website that it typically takes RATs anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks to earn this achievement.  Lt. Patrick informed me that he hadn’t earned his Hat Brass yet, but he assures me that he is close.

This is the best Friday night I’ve had in a long time.


10: Thank You, Pandora

In my dreams, M hugs me and says, “Love you, mom.”

    I wonder if I ever get to hear those three sweet words from him again.  One thing I know for sure is that I have some time before there’s any chance of that ever happening.  But I still have hope.

     Coincidentally, I just discussed with my students the story of Pandora and how her curiosity let out all of  the evils in the world.  Luckily, she was left with one thing…hope.  Like Pandora, my curiosity let out all of the teenage evils I didn’t want to face, but if she gets hope, then I get hope too.

     My guess would be that the first time I get to see him, he will try to hurt my feelings, tell me he hates me, and calls me the new favorite nickname he used for me the last week he was home.  By the time he was referring to me as Wuss, I was beyond numb or sad.  You see, my wheels had already been in motion to save his life.

     I wonder what he thinks when he learns that the first time he called me Wuss, I felt stronger than I had ever felt before.  Hope had already started knocking at my door even as the evils were still spilling out of his bedroom, his scooter, his closet, his backpack, and his medicine cabinet. Hope is a great gift for a parent.

9: Sad, Frustrated, and Concerned…But Still Lucky

Today I was informed that M snuck out of his barracks during the night last weekend with two other cadets. They tried to purchase NyQuil.

I am sad, but I am not panicked. I am frustrated, but I am not angry.  I am concerned, but I am not desperate.
Sad…because is hurting himself in ways that break a mother’s heart.  It’s difficult to watch your child hurt the same little body you protected in so many ways, for so many years.

Frustrated…because I can’t speed up time and make his brain develop faster. (I know that sounds ridiculous, but part of my survival at the moment is linked to the fact that his struggles with addiction really are connected to that frontal-lobe thing. Surely this will get better by the time he’s 25? )

Concerned…because while I appreciate he’s in a safe environment, I realize that military school isn’t a guaranteed solution.  He is still his own worst enemy.

     After several conversations, I am certain that the heroes I’ve passed the baton to have a better chance of protecting him now than we did.  We are so lucky that he is there, but I really miss him.

8: Another Club I Really Didn’t Care to Join

It takes about 7 seconds to determine whether or not the friend, acquaintance, or co-worker has had any experience with addiction.  The drill goes like this…”Hey, how’s M doing in school this year?”

     I lay it all out there…Rough summer…blah, blah, blah… things became completely out of control…blah, blah, blah…we exhausted every avenue possible at home to help him get his life turned around….blah, blah, blah…so we sent him to military school.

     And that leads us to the turning point. If they know this secret coded language, they might hug me, or tell me they’ll keep my family in their thoughts, or they’ll ask how my younger son is doing, or they’ll ask if I’ve heard of Alanon, or they’ll ask if my husband and I getting through it okay. The anguish on their face is familiar.

     But if they have not experienced teenage addiction or any addiction at all, the response is different.  The look on their face is less anguish, more quizzical. Their questions are more about M.  “Was he mad?” or “How long will he have to be there?” or “Will he get to play tennis this spring?”

     (To all of my non-club-member friends, you are lucky because this club is not a lot of fun. I realize that it may be impossible for you to completely understand how desperate our situation had become.)

     Honestly, I sometimes wonder if he’s eating well, I sometimes wonder if the other cadets are nice to him, and I sometimes wonder if he’s still mad at me. But luckily, every maternal instinct in every single cell of my body is still on red alert. I find that at this stage, it’s still often necessary for the internal alarm’s volume to blow my speakers. It’s hard to stay tough when it comes to your baby, but I am on a rescue mission.  And I need to be tough.

7: Just Two Questions

     The text arrived with the deceiving tone of my happy text alert ring.  It began…

     2 questions…Why did you read my spiral I wrote in and tell the world? And why was I the only kid whose parents never showed up for parents weekend?


In random order, here are some of the thoughts that begin flooding your mind:

  • How did he know I found his journal?
  • Didn’t he realize that if we came, it would set him back to week 1?
  • Will he ever forgive me?
  • Why would you even want us there if you are mad at us?
  • Didn’t someone let him know ahead of time that we would not be coming?
  • How can you be mad at me…that journal had shocking proof of  potential danger looming.
  • Was this a Facebook thing again? (Recent evil has always pointed back to the dreaded fb.)
  • What’s wrong with me?

     As a teacher, the term Essential Question is familiar.  As a mother of a teenager, the term Stupid Question is familiar.
It’s essential to keep my “Mother of a Teenager” hat on today.

    6: What Must My Real Facebook Friends Have Thought?

         During my week-long Facebook experiment, my real friends began to notice that my “friend” list was growing wildly.  And these new friends had some interesting profile pictures.  The strange profile pictures of my new “friends” ranged from pictures of intoxicated teens in someone’s garage or basement, to the extremely popular pose….girl in low V-neck shirt, holding her cell phone to take the picture, posing seductively in her little bathroom, in front of mirror. Classy.
         Several friends have asked me, “What’s going on with your Facebook?”  After I tell them that I was getting to know all of M’s friends, they ask the next question…”How did you do THAT?!”  It’s mind boggling just how easy it was.  I almost started to feel sorry for these not-quite-fully-developed humans. They are still so naive, vulnerable, predictable, and child-like.
         Perhaps that’s what I need to remember most as I prepare myself for the first time M comes home.  He’s still a child.  And just like when he was 4 and ventured to far out into the the Atlantic Ocean, I need to pluck him up and keep him close. Close to family is where I know he’s safe from harm.

    5: My Week with 205 Facebook Friends

         At first when you discover how easy it easy to infiltrate the teenage world through Facebook, your parental power feels unstoppable, fine tuned and ready for the next teenage action that needs your guidance.  But then reality pops your SuperMom bubble. 
         It’s quite shocking when your eyes first meet images of teenagers in their natural habitat. Why in the world would they expose themselves in such a negative way? Don’t they remember when we lectured them about their online reputation? ………..OF COURSE THEY DON’T.
         They don’t remember because they don’t care.  They don’t care because they’re teenagers.  They are frontal-lobe deprived humans.

    Teenagers and Facebook: What Shocked Me Most Top 5 List

    1. Basement party pictures with lots of beer cans and liquor bottles blurred with photo software…Really….they don’t know, we know, what’s in their hands behind the blur?
    2. Party pictures WITHOUT the blurred out cans and bottles.
    3. Disgusting language  (Their mouths, I mean fingers, should be washed out with soap.)
    4. 14, 15, 16 year old girls taking, what seems to be their attempt at seductive pictures of themselves
    5. Stoned or high or drunk faces plastered in photo galleries as proof of their wild nights.

         Honestly, I couldn’t take it any longer.  A week after I began this venture through teenage territory, I had to end it.  I “undid” all of my new 205 friends. I was missing conversations with my real Facebook Friends.  I wanted to read about my niece’s VIP day at school, I wanted to wish my older kids Happy Anniversary, I wanted to listen to my cousin’s new song recently posted, I wanted to check out my favorite crockpot recipe group, I wanted to have fun and joke with my coworkers, I wanted to see what was new on M’s military academy’s parent group site.
         Stepping into that world was scary.

    4: "Free M" T-shirts Hit Facebook

         My Facebook “friend” list grew by almost 200 this week. My own son wouldn’t “friend” me, but 200 of his friends did. (When I went on my FB rampage last week, I “friended” as many people connected to M as I could. My theory was that a few of them might “friend” me, and then I could see if M was continuing to access FB while in the military academy.)
         Unfortunately, my hunch was correct.  He was still on Facebook, in fact, he had sent a picture of himself in his fatigues to his friends.  After he sent that picture, a long FB discussion between about 10 of his friends became my fascination.  These boys had taken his military academy image and put it on a T-shirt.  A boy from one of the local high schools was selling the shirt for $20 and collecting money at school.
         Within this long discussion, one of the boys volunteered in his post, “Let me buy the one for his mom.” (This is the same boy who had slept in our house a few weeks prior. He didn’t want to sleep in his house since his air conditioning was not working. Perhaps buying my shirt was his way of thanking me for my kindness.)

    3: I Go Spider Monkey

         Saturday’s phone call was just the tip of the Mom on a Mission iceberg because by Saturday evening, I was receiving Facebook messages from friends and family about M posting a picture of his new buzz cut.  What!!?!!
    Number 1… Without a phone and computer access, how is he on Facebook?!
    Number 2….Who is lending him a phone?!
    Number 3….How stupid is this?!

    Frustrated, I tossed and turned all night…until I got an idea.

    Sunday morning I logged onto Facebook.  Typed in his name, found his cover page (by the way, he will not be my “Friend” so I cannot see what’s on his Wall or what’s in his Photos.)  But I can see ALL his friends.  I opened up his Friend page, and there was a beautiful list of all 1,517 of his closest friends.  So what do I do…I start requesting their friendship.
        Well, what do you know.  These teenagers are so friendly, by the end of the night I had gone from 47 Facebook friends to 130 Facebook friends. (Finally…teenage stupidity working in my favor.)

    2: First Phone Call: Breakin’ the Rules

         The calm was interrupted by a phone call.  Saturday (just a couple days after we brought him to military school) he called me.  It was about 3:30 in the afternoon, “Hey Mom.”  I was relieved and surprised and confused.  Relieved because he sounded like himself.  Surprised because he didn’t have a cell phone.  Confused because cadets aren’t allowed to share their phones.
         He said he was doing well, but he needed me to bring him a couple things: his iPod and toilet paper.  I cave…”Okay, honey.” (Ugh.)  I also said that we were going to come visit him in a few more days because it’s Parents Weekend.  (I’m trying to push away common sense that tells me to avoid visiting too soon.)
         Finally I remember to ask him how he called.  He simply said that he borrowed a friend’s phone.  (Now I can hear this friend in the background grumbling, “M…give me the phone.”  I asked him what he was doing…”The cadets have to park cars for a festival.”
         The best part of this rule break came when he asked how his little brother was doing.  I passed on that K misses him.