Last night I shared a glass of wine with the other woman. We sat across from each other, not quite knowing how to proceed, not quite certain who should go first, not quite adept at morphing a previously computer-screen-correspondence into a face-to-face conversation.
I could see why the love of my life was drawn to her. We were eerily similar. I’d gathered that from our emails. We sounded alike…on cyber chat. We reasoned alike. We held the same values and morals. Yes, morals.
This was no adulteress. Oh no, not at all. This was the woman – the mother – whose home my teenage son had run away to.
He called it moving out. But conventional wisdom would argue that throwing some clothes in a duffel bag and heading out the door without an inkling of what’s happening the next day is no such thing. He had run away.
He had had it with our outrageous rules, our absurd expectations and our irrational belief that teens should be responsible and respectful on their journey to adulthood. So — without angry fanfare or slamming doors — my oldest child left our home six days before his high school graduation.
And now, on the eve of his one-month anniversary date (breathe) of life on an air mattress, his preferred mother and I sat in my home and shared some shrugs. And Pinot.
The situation, as an understatement, was hard. Devastating, in fact. It was the ultimate in rejection for a mother: a child that doesn’t want her.
And I didn’t pretend to understand it.
I didn’t understand it because it didn’t follow the script of a Lifetime original movie. There weren’t any “I hate you’’s or abuse or betrayal or Meredith Baxter Birneys. We’d been navigating the typical insanity that comes with adolescence and (insert back pat here), actually thought we were doing damn good so far. There were boundaries and consequences and forgiveness and laughter and acne. Nothing too strict, nothing too lenient. Having survived our own teenage years in the ‘80s of New York, gawd, if anyone knew about pushing the limits of youth, it was us. Fully aware of setting standards and precedents for the three kids that followed behind, my husband and I rolled with the teen madness.
Never had we imagined our rolling would come to a screeching halt.
At first we waited. He’ll be back, we reasoned. We hadn’t allowed him to take his car – surely he’d have to get back and forth to work. But no. He relied on his friends and – well be damned – they came through. So far, for an entire month. Well alrighty then. Interesting bunch, those teenagers.
The other mother contacted me immediately.
She lived a few blocks away. I explained to her my son did not get kicked out of our home, that this was all his own doing. She has two teenage sons herself. She understood. She said she’d keep me posted on events as they occurred, and thus our cordial relationship began, allowing me to become privy to more details of my son’s life than I’d even known when he was in my own home.
As far as shiteous situations go, I had stumbled into a remarkably awesome one. This other mother was sharp. Gave him an early curfew and chores and expectations. Boundaries. Consequences. Hmmm. Weirdly familiar, right?
She admitted she couldn’t come up with a logical excuse for – after four weeks – throwing him out. He was the consummate house guest: polite, obedient and respectful. In truth, she really, really liked him.
Yeah. We get that. We do, too.
She talked to him daily about the value of reconnecting with his family and told him she just couldn’t understand why he wanted to go through this without them.
Yeah. Same here.
Still, we put a positive spin on things for the sake of our other kids and silently pray that he comes to his senses and (cue in slap from Cher), snaps out of it.
I haven’t sat idly by, though, hand-wringing and despondent. With the situation seemingly out of my control I did what any other mother in my position would do: hauled my ass into therapy.
After a full debriefing, her assessment was unsurprising: I was a reasonable person trying to reason with an unreasonable adolescent. She said that since my son was not relying on me for anything, the situation was most definitely out of my control, and I should let it go.
Let it go.
Let it go?
Let go of a child? (He is a high school graduate, she reminded. On paper, an adult.)
But … but … but …
I plunked down a few co-payments for a few weeks but eventually started to space out my visits. She was wonderful, but hearing a therapist tell you something you already know is not exactly cost effective. My girlfriends do it for free.
So there is no happy ending to this cautionary tale, unless one looks at the (okay, almost amazing) relationship I’ve made with the other mother. We talked for hours – and not just about my son. It was obvious: having met under different circumstances, we’d likely be good friends.
She is giving him a safe environment to straighten out his head, and I am giving him the freedom to figure it out.
I am without explanation as to why my son is attempting to assert his maturity in the most immature way imaginable. And it is unfathomable to me why he needs to go through this – or anything for that matter – without his family around him. And it is crushing. I won’t lie: it is the most crushing and hurtful and indescribable pain I have ever felt as a mother.
But he is a good kid, and we are good parents.
I guess I know deep down he’ll be back one day.
I just wish it had been yesterday.
* * * Update * * *
Somewhere in between the time this author had the courage to write this … her seventeen-year-old returned home.
It was a long 47 days.
Ironically – it was also just as long (if not shorter) as this author’s own silent treatment to her own mother…
when SHE was seventeen years old.
* * * (Updated) Update * * *
(especially for those moms who may be experiencing this now)
This author’s son is now a young adult. He is educated, employed, happy and independent. He and his mom often share a laugh about the time he was a knucklehead.
Just. Hang. In. There.