I should have written this yesterday…but I just didn’t have it in me.
They all know him in that office because he’s grown up in that dental chair. (I remember when most of his entire body fit into the top portion of the big chair; now, he’s so tall that his feet dangle over the edge.) Over the years, this office has evolved into a place filled with dear, family friends. Someone is sure to hug him in there today. Or at least try.
Just like me when I was 16, M wears braces. And as every orthodontist-visiting family knows, biannual teeth cleanings are especially important. (Someday, he’ll appreciate that we fixed his overbite. I’m thankful my parents took care of mine.)
M is a sophomore in high school, and I do understand his eagerness to be a grown-up. (I’m certain that the high-heel clogs I wore when I was 16 had something to do with my aspiration to be an “adult.”)
My parents had to guide me through those difficult years too – always veering me in a different direction when they saw hazards ahead. (And yes, I do consider a severe overbite as a potential hazard that could have led to dental issues later in life. But the clogs…they let that one go. I eventually learned that flat, comfortable shoes are the more sensible choice.)
My parents took their cues from me. Living under their roof, I didn’t drink, do drugs, sneak out of the house, or even be disrespectful. So, they began to let out some of the kite string. Occasionally they needed to reel that kite back in closer to their watchful, yet loving, eyes. (Even in college, they needed to yank on that string…”Academic Probation” once led to an extremely grueling 9 hour car ride back to school.)
Every time I see him flying dangerously wild through life, I’m going to pull on that string. I’m not going to stop until he shows me that it’s safe to let go.
(I love that “kite string” wisdom. It was furnished by a fellow Mother Bear. Thanks, S.)
My intention, in the beginning, was not to share my struggles with the world. This little blog began as a way to communicate with my sister, my parents, my adult step-children, and out-of-town family, as they were all growing in their concern for M.
There was another time during which my life’s journey took me through uncharted territory. It was difficult, confusing, scary, and I felt desperate. But I got through it.
Well, here I was again – facing something I didn’t see coming. This time, however, I was no longer a stay-at-home mom listening to the wisdom of my sister or girlfriends during “play-groups,” or eating lunches that went on for hours at McDonald’s Play Places, or sitting outside on a park bench while our kids played on a jungle gym.
Between time-zones, new careers, and busy families, I couldn’t figure out how to reach my support system. So, taking a tip from the younger generation, I began writing private notes to my friends and family on a little blog that no one else would find. And if someone happened to find it, they still wouldn’t know whose life sounded so out of control because I would stay anonymous.
But then something strange happened. My sister shared it with a dear friend of hers, and out of the blue, this kind person wrote me a letter – and it was that letter that gave me what I needed most…Hope.
I was confused, scared, and desperate, heading down another of life’s unexpected detours, when the wisdom of a stranger gave me the strength to continue to follow my instincts.
To some this blog is quite controversial; they feel this is a private matter that shouldn’t be discussed outside family. Some have suggested that I am ruining my relationship with my child. My question to them would be…How? What “relationship” should I have with my child right now? Do they realize what my child is doing? I’m not trying to be his “friend” – I’m just trying to be his “parent.”
Yes, M hates me right now. And the reason he hates me is because I’m not giving-in to his impulsive and entitled teenage ways. If he “liked” me, then that would mean that I was telling him that it’s okay to break the law, risk his health, treat others with disrespect, and throw his life away. I’m never going to allow him to think that being a teenager gives him a free ticket to such destruction.
Sure, I hope and pray for a good relationship with him when he is an adult – but that time won’t come for quite a while. In the meantime I can handle the cold shoulder, the rolling eyes, the mean names under his breath, and the all around disrespect.
The feedback I’ve received from family, friends, and strangers has been overwhelming. Many nights I’ve read the comments left by readers, and often those words are exactly the words I need to take with me as I trudge through the next day’s adventure.
There is another reason I write – it gets me to sleep at night. This has been my therapy as it helps me reflect and formulate how to deal with the pain, anger, sadness, and frustration. In the old days, I would have written all this down in a little spiral notebook. I only write the truth – nothing here is a secret. (Especially when you consider that you can find everything I write about on M’s and his friends’ Facebook pages.)
At 9:30 last night, M and _____ walked into a house belonging to a “friend of a friend.” They headed down to the basement, sat down on the floor, and talked. Within minutes, the police came down those basement steps.
At 10:15, my cell phone rang; it was _____‘s sister. ~~ It had been years since I had spoken to sweet K. My mind flashed back 20 years to the many times K, her mom, and I hung out at the kitchen table together. ~~ She explained that M and _____ had been at a party that had been broken up by the police. Either she could bring M home, or I could pick him up.
As I drove down the street (a street on which I had traveled many times) I saw a police car parked in front of a house. Walking in, I realized that the house had little to no furniture. Apparently, it was the “friend of a friend’s” old house, which was on the market.
M apologized to me as I walked towards him.
The officer explained the situation, and I apologized to the homeowner for my son’s behavior. The homeowner and the officer explained that M had already apologized.
My own fear began to turn to something else that I couldn’t quite figure out at the time. With tears in my eyes, I began to feel less scared of this situation. The police officer was kind, and the homeowner was a mom, like me. It began to feel like we were all in this mess together.
M and I listened to the officer explain the procedure. He was not in possession of alcohol, but some time prior to stepping into that house, he had consumed alcohol. His violation…Consumption of alcohol by a minor.
Moments ago, I made the required phone call to the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center; the woman who answered was kind too. She explained that someone will call me back later today, and we will then schedule his appearance.
Some may wonder why I am so public about what just happened. The truth is, I woke up to several emails asking about what happened to M last night.
News travels…It’s no secret.
…and what they say about “two steps forward…?” – Well, I think they were right again.
It would be an overstatement to say that the last 24 hours were “disastrous.” Perhaps a better way to say it would be, “We had a temporary setback.”
In the past, M has teased his little brother, K, way too much. Last night, that old habit resurfaced.
He called him names, told him he was going to steal the gift his cousin had given him, and then he threatened to burn all of his Christmas presents.
And a Merry Christmas to you too, M.
I got mad, and steam came out my ears (figuratively) —
M declared that he had a terrible Christmas, and his entitled attitude smacked me
in the the face (figuratively) —
I became unhinged, and asked for his Christmas money back (literally) —
And then he announced that I was “literally crazy.”
As far as I know, the only thing that stirred this ugly bullying was immaturity. If that’s all it was, then I can handle that.
He apologized to his brother, so I’ll cut him a break.
I’m still working on breaking old, bad habits too.
It’s Christmas Eve, late afternoon. There is nothing left to do, but my mind is in overdrive. I went on a walk – that helped a little bit.
For as long as I can remember, M has begun composing his Christmas “Wish” List around Thanksgiving. This marks the first year that M has not handed me a list, written neatly on notebook paper.
(It’s funny to remember the many years my sister and I flipped through the Sears Wishbook at Christmas time. We made our lists too, but they really were just “wishes.” We never expected anything, but somehow our parents created the most magical Decembers in the world.)
It would be a lie if I said that I have given him everything he’s always wanted…but let’s just say, I’ve come close.
Last night I wrapped presents…not one of his presents did he ask for…There are no new phones (and we are still not ready to give him his old phone back,) there are no new iPods or XBoxes or Playstations or computers.
Part of this process has been about me growing-up too. Writing this note tonight has helped.
- What did he think when M ran out to his car to tell him, “My mom wants you to come in before she lets me go with you” ~
- I wonder what his parents think about what I’ve been writing ~
- Does he have any idea how much I love my child ~
- Please, please, please…be good tonight – have fun, but be good ~
- M is trying to make good choices…support him ~
- I wonder if they’ll still be friends when they are my age ~
While sitting at a red light on the way home from running errands last night, I spotted a police car pulling into the fast-food restaurant at the corner. While I waited for my light to turn green, my mind wondered about the police officer who had made the late-night phone call to our home…
As they tried to make their way across the lot, my minivan cut them off. Rolling down my window, I uttered, “Excuse me. This may sound crazy, but I just wanted to thank you.”
They approached the vehicle. Judging from the expressions on their faces, I needed to elaborate. And after I gave them a fast-talking, mini-version of the police call from the night before, I exhaled, “So thank you for helping me parent my son.”
We spoke for a little while about what it was like to be a teen and agreed that those years are tough. The officer who looked like a young LL Cool J revealed that he gave his mom a lot of trouble when he was growing up. Through my mushy mom tears, I sputtered, “And look at you now! What a success you’ve become – she must be proud.”
He laughed and admitted, “Yeah, I was not an easy kid.” Then he cracked up as he explained a discipline technique his mom once used involving a shovel.
Smiling broadly, I explained that I skipped the shovel technique and sent him directly to military school. At that, he burst into more laughter…”My mom sent me to military school too!”
The officer who looked like my oldest stepson, B, reassured me, “You’re doing the right thing, Mom. Keep doing it. He will appreciate it some day.”
I should have jumped out of the van, hugged them, and offered to buy them dinner. Instead, I simply thanked them again and said, “Goodnight.”
Simultaneously, M and I must have picked up the phones in each of our bedrooms. I heard M answer the call, “What’s up?”
At that, a man’s voice announced, “This is the _____ Police Department. I need you to come back to the park. We saw all of you run away. If you don’t come back, your buddy, _____, is going to jail tonight.”
M replied, “What are you talking about?”
Listening intently, I heard the police officer repeat his story, and this time I realized he sounded like he was out of breath. It was easy to deduce that this officer must have found a group of teens in a park at 2:30 AM, ran after them, and caught one. Then he must have taken the teen’s cell phone and started dialing anyone in the phone’s recent history.
M continued, “I have been playing on XBox since I got home at 10:30. I haven’t been out since then.” Then he said something else like, “I mean it – I’m in my bedroom and I’ve been in here for hours.”
The police officer’s tone changed. He was less forceful, and the conversation ended.
Shaking, I placed the phone back on the base, and then I headed upstairs. My mind was racing as I wondered what I was about to find upstairs. Had he snuck out? How could he possibly have done that? I just said “Goodnight” to him 2 hours ago. It had taken me forever to fall asleep; certainly, my ears would have heard something if he had been up and about.
Finally, I arrived at the top of the stairs and barked, “M, what’s going on?” I braced myself as I waited to see his face, his eyes, and his clothes.
His face – smiling.
His eyes – bright.
His clothes – same pj bottoms and tennis sweatshirt I saw him in just a couple hours ago.
“Mom, I just got the strangest phone call…I was on XBox with J and the phone rang…It was the police.”
I explained that I had listened on the other line, and we talked about what must be going on. M acknowledged that he had tried to call _____ from our house phone a couple times during the night. (We still haven’t given him back his cell phone.) That must have been why the police called our home.
My teen was sober last night, and he was where he was supposed to be. I am so thankful.
I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to say – it’s been a while since something positive flowed out of my mouth toward him. But it was the truth – it was exactly what my head and heart were feeling at that very moment.
It was 10:30, and I had just picked him up for the second time this evening. (I have been his chauffeur tonight – taking him from one place to the next.) Out of the blue, I turned to M and simply stated,
And just then…”Moves Like Jagger” came on the radio – I froze. Had he read my note, “Moves Like Jagger’s Mom?” And if he had…what was he thinking right now?
I didn’t spend too much time wondering, because before I knew it, I was mumbling all the words, smiling to myself. It was another good night.
But then it got better.
After he said, “Good Night,” and headed upstairs, I received a comment. It read:
“A good mother of sons advised me once, I know they make you crazy, I know that you want to strangle them, but every chance you have, tell him, “You are going to be a good Man” At some point, you will start believing it and so will he. He will start living it. If you can’t believe it, how do you expect him to? I don’t know, it was something for me to hang on to.”
I’m so glad I told him how I felt tonight. Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing your wisdom. He is going to be a good Man – and I’ll remind him of that as soon as he wakes up in the morning.