One of the hardest parts of being a parent is not just the hard choices you have to make when dealing with your children, but the consequences of those choices on the people in your child’s life.
As I have stated before, my oldest child D, got into some trouble last year and in a bid to seek an alternative to either seeing D on the street or in prison, we sent D to live with his bio-mother and stepdad out of state. It was understood before D went that he was going to be facing boot-camp-esque discipline as stepdad was former Army. This would be tougher and stricter than anything I had been able to accomplish on my own or was even honestly really comfortable with. But the choices D had made did not leave us with a lot of other places to turn.
This week D put out a request on social media to talk to some friends, no family. That typically means that whatever the issue is, it’s being viewed as being “caused by” family. After D’s call went out, I received several private contacts from his friends sharing with me what was apparently going on in D’s life. D also shared with his grandfather, who has often been a good point of contact for D to hear from. According to what D was stating, the punishments for doing “stupid stuff or making [him – i.e. stepdad] repeat himself” were more physical than D was used to. And he didn’t like it and was thinking of running away.
Now… was there a part of me that wanted to fly down to his mother’s place, bundle up my child and rescue him back to our place? Absolutely.
Are we doing that? Absolutely not….and here’s why.
While I understand the frustrations and concerns of D’s friends, there are several fundamental problems with the situation.
1.) D lies…and exaggerates, a LOT. He also knows, having grown up around kids in the system via my work in social services, what the hot-button key words and situations are that will get him attention.
2.) D does not like to not have control. He is very willing to manipulate to get the outcome he wants which usually includes getting someone to get him a “get out of jail free” card. He does not have control at the moment and does not want to toe the line to get it back.
3.) D admitted that the reason for the punishments is because he does “stupid stuff.” Without trying minimize what may be happening, the easy answer is – don’t do stupid stuff.
4.) If we did go down and rescue him, what would that teach him? That he can always count on getting pulled out of any difficult spots he finds himself in? I would rather he learn how to deal with it here than on the street. Getting punched in the arm for mouthing off may not be fun, but it beats getting shot.
5.) Why would I bring D back here just to have to put him out on the streets again? He won’t participate in transitional living programs and because of his past thefts and drug use is not allowed to stay with us or the rest of the family for now. As bad as things may be, he has a roof over his head and he’s getting three square meals a day.
I don’t like it. The idea of anyone other than myself laying hands on my child for whatever reason is abhorrent. And I absolutely do not believe that you can beat a child into obedience. But at 17 and a half, D has got to learn that being rude, disrespectful and not following the rules have serious consequences. Much more serious ones than just being grounded or having your i-phone taken away. Life can be harsh and while I hope for and am working towards a better way, we also have to be realistic about the world we currently find ourselves in. I don’t want to see D behind bars… or dead on the streets, although both may happen. But if that’s the case they will be HIS choices. Not mine… and not anybody else’s.
But as his friends, I know the guilt and the anger that they have in their hearts towards my decision. What they see is a peer being hurt. Someone they care about and want to “fix.” And that breaks my heart for them. The knowledge that they cannot “fix” this, that this is something D has to work out. Not having the power to do anything to make it right and frustration at those they see as having power but not using it. Spider-man’s maxim: “With great power comes great responsibility” is as true for parenting as it is for crime-fighting. That doesn’t make it any easier to follow… especially when it means you have to let those you love sink or swim to avoid dragging you all down. And to allow them the room to live and grow.
So, while I know several of you are mad at me, I want to say thank you. Thank you for being D’s friend. Thank you for caring. I know you are doing the best you know how and doing what you think is right. I still love you. This is D’s life. We cannot control him or fix him. We can only love him. And you are doing that right.