Sitting across from him in the waiting room, I couldn’t help but stare. From his polished black shoes to his spiffy green hat pinned with his hat brass, he looked nice today. Noticing the tie peeking out from his academy jacket, I wondered if he had to look in the mirror to perform the perfect knot…And if he did look in the mirror as he tied the knot, did he see what I had detected?
Over the last few months we have noticed a significant change in his appearance; he looks like a healthy kid again. Yes, M is still drinking, but the drugs are no longer lingering. His eyes look brighter, his skin is clear, and the color is back in face. Does he see how much healthier he looks? We can certainly see it.
My silent observations were interrupted as his doctor called for us. Walking into his office, my mind whispered, “This is where it began 79 days ago.” I think I sat in the same spot – I’m certain that M was in the same seat. Flashbacks from that difficult day popped into my head as our meeting began. But soon, I was back in real-time, and it was difficult too. What did we hope to accomplish today? Could the doctor give him something that would make everything better? Is there something we can do to make him realize that we aren’t ruining his life?
Of course, there were no simple answers today. I suppose I knew that going in – but still I had hoped for a miraculous quick-fix.
So, how do I move forward from today?
Easy…I’ll focus on his healthy face (even though he gave me dirty looks.) I’ll focus on all the healthy opportunities available to him at the military academy (even though he wouldn’t talk to me about his basketball game last night.) And I’ll focus on the fact that I am his mom – and I am lucky.
Growing up I wanted to be three things: a mom, a wife, and a teacher. He made me a mom.
That’s all I need to keep moving forward.
And I’ll start fresh tomorrow because that is my job.
Saturday morning, exhausted from another night of tossing and turning, I rolled out of bed and pulled on my weekend/after-school uniform (sweatpants and sweatshirt.) Feeling a little frustrated with the weight I’ve gained again, temporary relief surged through me as I remembered that I was heading to my favorite “therapy couch” today; I had an appointment set for my friend E’s salon chair. At least my hair would look nice today.
While E worked her hair magic, I rambled on about home. My voice may have “carried” a little bit too much over the noise from the hairdryers, but stares don’t phase me as much as they used to. In fact, it’s kind of liberating to be a bit transparent. And if I’m not mistaken, a few ladies nearby wanted to join the conversation. (Or perhaps, the looks meant something else…but it doesn’t matter.)
E finished drying my fresh hairstyle while I stared at my reflection in the mirror. My eyes looked tired, my cheeks seemed puffy, and my sweatshirt was tight…but my hair looked good.
I paid my friend, E, and sat back in a chair to read. For only a second my mind wondered if people noticed that I didn’t go home.
Finishing the mindless, celebrity gossip magazine, I headed back to my messy minivan. And for some reason, my darn van drove me right to another salon – a manicure might help. (It’s been about five to six years since my last one.) Perhaps if my hair and my nails look nice, I’ll start taking care of myself again.
As I walked out of the second salon of the day, I glanced down at my perfect, little nails. Catching the time on my watch, I realized that my morning of indulgence had lasted four hours … and it was time to go home.
By 5:00 pm this evening, all cadets were to report back to school; therefore, last evening was the end of Thanksgiving furlough. (I mistakenly breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as I thought his last evening home would be uneventful.) But by 3:00 this morning, a strange thought swept through my head … “So this actually does happen in real life – not just in teen movies.”
I had discovered that M had arranged four pillows strategically under his quilt; it was 1:52 in the morning. He was gone, and here’s what was swirling through my head:
It’s 30 degrees…He doesn’t have transportation…
How did he get out of the house…
Where in the world is he…With whom is he hanging out…What are they doing…
When will I see him again…Will I see him again…
Do I call the police?
Luckily, this heart pain didn’t need to last longer than approximately 23 minutes…and that’s when he slid in through the back door as quietly as a rebellious little teenage mouse. His first words…“Mom, I didn’t do anything bad.”
The strange truth is that my first reaction was relief and happiness as I discovered that he was sober. He apologized for sneaking out and explained his side of this crazy teen movie…“Mom, like 20 friends of mine were all meeting at a park to say “Goodbye” to me before I went back to school. I had to go – they were waiting for me.”
If I stopped looking and turned my head, would all this mess just go away? Did the other parents know that their kids were out in the middle of the night? Were they anxiously awaiting their child’s return too? Sometimes I wonder about things like that. And then I remind myself that no matter what the other parents know – or don’t know, I just can’t look the other way. But where do we go from here?
To recap all the emotions my head, heart, and body felt during his first visit home, would be exhausting. In fact, it would probably make me cry. And I don’t feel like crying any more – but I could simply summarize it one – possibly unexpected word….grateful.
That unexpected word probably sounds conflicting considering it wasn’t perfect. And actually, quite far from even “acceptable.” However, certain moments of the week were remarkable, momentous, and possibly even miraculous.
M has 4 parents, 2 sisters, 4 brothers, and 6 grandparents. This lucky 16 and M have amazing support from an even larger extended family. And then we have the phenomenal village made up of friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers. Our village has grown beyond imagination.
I am grateful. I have hope.
We can do this.
“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child
on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.”
~ William D. Tammeus
The strangest Thanksgiving could go down as one of the best Thanksgivings. The road ahead of us is going to continue to be tough, but we can do this.
And we will never stop waving, M.
The house doesn’t smell right today. The house doesn’t sound right today either.
In just the last 24 hours, we have ridden an exhausting roller coaster. I’m tired, I’m confused, and I don’t know what to do for him.
My husband, our new dog, and I sit here on the kitchen floor. I just heard a clip of the President’s Thanksgiving Address:
I know that for many of you, this Thanksgiving is more difficult than most.
But no matter how tough things are right now, we still give thanks for that, most American of blessings, the chance to determine our own destiny.
The problems we face didn’t develop overnight, and we won’t solve them overnight. But we will solve them. All it takes is for each of us to do our part.
I’ve never, ever listened to a Thanksgiving address by any President. It’s kind of funny that this is the one I chose to hear.
Okay…so let’s say there’s a fence – on one side, you have the parents who, without hesitation, do not tolerate drinking and experimentation with drugs. If these parents detect even the slightest whisper of danger to their children’s health and safety, they spring into action. They may say things outrageous like, “Not while you’re living in my house,” or “It’s illegal, so I will not have it in our home,” AND they stick to their word. Some of these crazy parents even sit their teenager down and lay on the… “Let me tell you the story of my friend whose life will never be the same,” or “Let me tell you the tragic story of someone I once knew who couldn’t shake the teenage partying years,” AND end the story with “I love you, and I’m not going to let that happen to you.” These parents are many in number, they are just shy and quiet.
Now…the other side of this fence is bulging with force. I’m not insinuating that this group is bigger in number, but man, oh man – they are a strong and influential bunch. (AND they have a lot of the teenagers on their side.) Perhaps this group of parents just seems bigger because they have a louder, more popular, and “cooler” voice. (I mean really…if you were a teenager, wouldn’t you want to hang with the cool parents?) These parents are so cool that they will “politely” ask the kids to clean up the party they busted. These “chill” parents will turn a blind eye to the pipe that falls out of your pocket when you get up to leave. These parents still love their kids, they just want their kids to like them and leave them alone.
I’m afraid this divide is always going to exist. Neither side understands the other; each is baffled by the choices the other makes. But can’t we all agree that we want many of the same things for our kids? We want them to grow up to be…
happy and content
empathetic to others
men and women of great character and integrity
I admit…I am frustrated. This war is painful and tough, but luckily, I have some really nice, wise people over here on my side of the fence. Who knew that so many of them were out there?
I am thankful for all my cool, smart friends…even the ones I haven’t met yet.
Late last night, after a very long day, I caught a glimpse of my sweet son.
Dinner was a disaster. The ribs I basted all day and the pounds of shrimp I bought were fine. (Although I was so upset during the meal I didn’t eat; I was frustrated – What was I thinking…ribs and shrimp would fix everything?
After dinner, the silent battle raged on. Baffled, sad, and concerned, my parents surrendered and headed home. But my two older sons stayed, and they were ready for a fresh campaign. We called M down to talk around the kitchen table. Within the hour, my husband and I watched as our eyes adjusted to the fact that his older boys had turned into great men. M listened and spoke to them.
Then back up to his bedroom he went.
We hugged B and B and tried to convey our vast pride and happiness in the men they’ve become. Then, inspired by the words they had said to M, I headed straight upstairs to his bedroom, and insisted, “Let’s get this all out.”
Mom, you’re ruining my life…nobody else’s mom does this kind of stupid thing…why can’t you be more like all my friends’ moms…Everybody thinks you’re nuts for not letting me be a normal teenager – I’ve shown everyone this stupid blog, and EVERYONE thinks you’re crazy. Now some of my friends’s parents won’t even let me over to their house because of what you’ve done and said about me….Mom, I’m not stupid…I’m not going to try anything worse than pot or alcohol…I’m not that dumb…only losers do that other stuff.
Now we’re talking…I’ve entered teen territory. And before I knew it, he was throwing the football up in the air, then throwing the superball against the wall, then dribbling the football. All this while I sat in his room talking to him. He even smiled a couple times. I love this boy.
5 hours after he returned home, he finally completed a sentence – up until then, he only grunted.
Arrival: Saturday 12:00
Sitting across from us, with his arms folded, head down, and mumbling occasional phrases of discontent, we let him know how his week would look. Friends may come to our house, but he is not to leave with them. He will be with family (and luckily, we have a lot of family within just a couple miles – for that we are so grateful.) Then it was time to go through his belongings. While inspecting his bags, his dad came across something shiny and good; he had earned his Hat Brass.
Still only grunting, his uncle picked him up to play tennis for a couple hours. Upon returning, he walked by us silently and headed straight to his bedroom; and this is where he stayed. But at 5:00 from my bedroom, I heard him ask my husband, “Where’s mom?” The silent treatment was over.
His words were familiar…”Mom, where’s my___?” and “Mom, what did you do with my___?” or “Mom, why did throw away my ___?”
My words were not familiar, but they felt strong and good.
I know he wanted to sneak out last night, and I know he probably wanted to get his hands on something bad. But my husband’s sleepless night of keeping watch has introduced him to some new ways around here. Our night was not easy, but it was good.
We had to call the police; he is not even home yet.
Before I got out of bed this morning, I had a plan for the day. We would go to a place like, Panera or Starbucks so I could talk my new talk. He needed to be reintroduced to me – a much stronger version of myself as his mother.
This talk seemed like a good first step to set the stage and make our expectations clear. My plan was good, loving, and firm.
But by 7:30 am, I was given reliable, but troubling information.
- Now I know what he has said to his “friends” in the last few days.
- Now I know what his friends are saying and planning for the week.
- I now know everyone who has been driving by my house and watching us. (Including the boys who kept watching me on the road as we drove side by side.)
- I know that he like’s to use the phrase when planning for the week, “What’s there to lose…they already sent me to military school.”
- I know where he’s going to say that he’s going tonight, and I know who plans on taking him somewhere else.
- I know that he plans on spending most of his time at a park.
- I know that he shared this blog’s web address with his friends and told them to send nasty comments.
- I know who these kids are.
- I know where these kids go to school – some public, some private, some independent.
And I will not hesitate to share any or all this information with the police. Meanwhile, they will be watching our house for us.