In the continuing saga of Adopted Son, Thursday evening came and he called wanting me to come pick him up. I asked if his mom had shown up yet, and he said she hadn’t, but that she should be there in an hour or so. I told him I wasn’t coming to get him until I’d talked to his mother, so he said he’d call when she got in. He asked me if I still needed the food stamps, and I told him I did, but now more because I needed his mom to follow through on what she said she would do than because my cupboard were bare. I explained to him that this was part of the three of us keeping our roles clear and unconfused and that I had reached the limit of what I could do for him(them) without her support.
I didn’t hear from her until Friday morning when she called telling me that she only had $140 of the $189 she had promised and would that be ok? Half awake, I blurted, “Well, I guess it has to be, doesn’t it?”
She asked me why I said it like that, and I told her for a lot of reasons, the main one being that if that’s all she had, that’s all I could have and there was no use arguing about it. Then I explained to her why I hadn’t gone and picked Adopted Son up when he called, telling her the same thing I told him – that I had reached my limit and that I required her to do what she says she will do or tell me when she can’t. I told her I wouldn’t tolerate being promised support and then not receiving it. I reminded her that she has not followed through on any of what she had agreed to do since this whole thing started, and told her that if she were still in jail, it would be different. But she’s not in jail and therefore needs to do her part in helping me help her and him. I said all of this in a calm, matter-of-fact tone.
She responded by apologizing and then immediately shifted gears and said that she would talk to her friend who was supposed to be coming to pick Adopted Son up and take him to school that morning and see if she could do that for the rest of the school year so he wouldn’t have to come back over here just to get back and forth to school. She told me she still wanted to give me help with the groceries because I had fed him for the entire month of March and she felt that was only fair, so she asked me to call her when I was done subbing and she would give me the food stamps and let me know if her friend had agreed to get Adopted Son to school and back, or not.
Can you guess whether she was there when I called Friday afternoon?
Uh…no. She wasn’t. Haven’t talked to her since. Adopted Son called Friday evening, though, and she was in the room with him and when he asked if I would come and get him, she up and left. I told him no, I wouldn’t come and get him because last I heard from his mother, he wasn’t coming back here. He said that was stupid, that he wasn’t going to be able to get to school everyday from there. I agreed, but reminded him that she’s his mother, not me, and I’m not going to come get him until she says it’s ok because that would be kidnapping, and I’m no kidnapper. Putting it that way kinda brought him up short.
Then, I reminded him of the agreement that he and I had…that all he had to do to stay here was go to school everyday, go to every class, do his work, stay out of trouble and come home on time every day…and that he had broken our agreement by getting suspended.
Then I told him the truth of the situation: that of the three of us – me, him and his mother – it had become apparent to me that I was the one who most wanted to see him in school getting an education. It looked to me like I wanted it more than either of them did and that’s my evidence I’ve gone from doing what I can to facilitate that, to doing too much.
I explained to him that from my point of view, he didn’t value very much the sacrifices I was making to have him here because if I were in his shoes, there’s no way I’d get suspended for something as dumb as not identifying myself to school personnel. I’d think about the agreement I’d made and swallow the urge to defy authority, tell them my name and take the consequences.
I also told him I wasn’t stupid and knew probably exactly what happened to get him suspended: he was in the hallway when he shouldn’t have been, didn’t have a pass, and got stopped by a teacher. When asked to produce his pass, he couldn’t, so he said defiantly, “I’m going to class.” When asked his name, he ignored the question and repeated more defiantly, “I’m going to class.” Then the teacher hauled him to the office and he got a 5-day suspension for not identifying himself to school personnel. But the suspension was about him being defiant, otherwise he’d probably only have gotten detention, or maybe even just a warning for being out in the hallway without a pass. This was a fine example of attitude determining results.
I told him this is what I was talking about when I asked him back that the beginning if he was really sure he wanted to come live with me, because it would be drastically different than the life he had led to date. This is what I meant when I asked if he knew what he was asking for. This is where I have to remember my own kids are watching like hawks so I can’t change the rules for him nor do I want to set any precedents unknowingly. He said he knew then and he knows now, but that he made a mistake.
I told him that if the only problem we had in this situation was that mistake of his, then we would deal with it, but it’s not. I told him that this was also an instance of both of us paying the price for his mom not doing what she agreed to do when she said she would give the school permission to communicate with me about him. If she had already done that like she was supposed to, the school would likely have called me instead of her and I might have been able to mitigate the suspension in lieu of a few days detention, or something. I told him I don’t expect that he won’t make mistakes, but that because my hands are tied where school is concerned, I am unable to help him navigate resolving any mistakes he makes.
So, Adopted Son’s stuck with his mom and is not happy. I’m not happy, either, nor is Second Son, but he and I have discussed the situation, too, so he understands why it is what it is. My mind wants to run away with me and tell me that Adopted Son will end up in juvie instead of school, or worse, but my heart says have faith he was listening.
You really do have it so together, Suzanne. I think it’s really something special that you are glad to help but also draw the line when it needs to be drawn. That’s a very tough balance that I think I would struggle to get right. No matter what direction things go from here, I’m sure you have had a positive impact on Adopted Son’s life. That’s really pretty cool.
My first reaction to your comment was a snickered, “Together? Ha! If you only knew!” But then, after thinking about it, I have to acknowledge that if I didn’t have it at least a little bit together, I wouldn’t be able to recognize the need for, much less draw, any lines. So thanks. It IS a tough balance, one that most of the time feels about as stable as a high-wire act and conflicting as tug-o-war. Writing about it here helps me sort it out as I go.
And thanks to you Suzanne for writing about it because it helps keep me in tow when I read about it!