M walked around me, straight to Winnie – but it wasn’t the sweet, tear-jerker picture I had running in my head all week. It was more like – Mom, you’re in my way, move… Where’s Winnie? And in an instant he said he wanted to go to McDonalds. But first he had to get something from his room. He walked out with his backpack, and I wondered, What could he possibly have in there – Is it bad? Should I check its contents? No, I’m just paranoid.
After ordering first, he walked to the back of the restaurant, sat at a small table that held 2-3 people, and opened up his laptop. He was trying to download songs from iTunes.
We sat at a bigger table and asked him to join us; he came over and ate his meal quietly. Then he spoke…Can I come home today?
It was the beginning of the conversation that had to happen. And soon it was confirmed that we have a different image of what his “visit” home would look like compared to his image. (In his image, he flees the house and goes out with “friends,” the toxic ones.) Desperately, we tried to explain the difference between his dangerous behavior and a more typical, healthier version of teen behavior that can balance “fun” with life.
We explained our version of his dangerous lifestyle: a new group of “friends,” secrecy all the time, failing grades, completely ignoring his family, extremely augmentative about everything and anything, and new clothes picked up from the second-hand store that all came from the brand I refer to as “I Like to Do Drugs” clothing line. (I thought we explained ourselves brilliantly – certainly he’ll understand our point.)
After he realized that he wasn’t driving home with us, his eyes became glassy. But his words were angry…
You guys are ridiculous – everybody does what I was doing. I never drank or got high before school…okay, maybe I did a couple times, but everybody does this. The difference is they have parents who are normal and don’t freak out about everything. You guys are taking my high school years away from me. And I am sick of it.
Well, that was the end of lunch.
But as we drove back to the academy, from the backseat of the car, in a soft voice, we heard,
I’m sorry…but you have to understand that I’m angry. You gave me a 20 minute warning, and then the next think I knew, I was here. I hate it here.
Turning around, I noticed that his eyes were red. Oh, my sweet boy. I love him so much. I worry about him so much. How do we prevent him from getting stuck on this horrible, evil, monstrous path of addiction?
After sitting in silence in the parking lot for a while, I found myself in a trance walking into the Assistant Commandant’s office to check M back in. Providentially, the wisdom of this man came to me like a lifeboat, “Be strong, someday he’ll thank you.”
With my eyes red, I joined them outside. He was cradling Winnie, kissing her, and whispering something in her ear. I asked if we could take a picture – we took a dozen.
It was now time for us to go back home; I reached up to hug and kiss him goodbye, I whispered forever in his ear because for the first time, I felt his hand on my back as we hugged….
I love you, you’re my baby, I love you…It’s not easy up here, and we know it…We are proud of you… Oh, M, I love you more than anything in the world…
It was a tough day – it hurt.