Teen Rebellion Ends Badly
At fourteen, my son had gone over the teen rebellion fence. No, really, I’m serious; he’d gone out on the back deck, milled around for a few minutes, and then he’d jumped over the fence. Literally. One night, he had stayed out half the night and didn’t want to be disciplined. My husband and I had told him he couldn’t leave the house, so like a cat’s cousin, he leaped and was gone. From there, my head spun. It all ramped up so fast, leading to a point where in later years he’d shake the foundation of our family’s core when he ended up in prison.
No amount of words could describe how I’d feel for years. His sentence was 92 months (over seven and a half years). This was a situation where a doctor couldn’t say: “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.” This was going to be a long haul.
My Son In Prison
Now what, I thought? Do I let devastation close its loop around me? I knew I’d put in double duty fighting against what he had been moving toward for years. It didn’t matter how many interventions we threw in his path, we could only slow him down, not stop his teen rebellion. Still, guilt and shame moved in to destroy my emotions. Some would say that as his mother, I was supposed to stop his teen rebellion. Not so. It was undeniable, he had a mind of his own and he used it.
Teens are not born with parenting manuals saying: use this one for Suzie and that one for Bobbie. For me, on some days, it was make-it-up as you go. When I told my son to stay in the house until I got home from work, or when I gave instructions for him to watch his sister, it was supposed to happen just like that. Why? Because I said so, right?
One thing I used to do when my son ran away, I’d get inside my car and roam the places he frequented. When I couldn’t find him, I would talk to his friends and they would tell him that I was looking for him. Soon after, he’d show up back at home. He knew that his mama would schedule another drive-by if he didn’t come home. Also, I had been known to knock on a door or two, leaving a personal message for him; sometimes that would cool his heels for a while.
I’d like to sum-up by saying that it’s a hard thing when every parental effort to protect your teenager fails. If your teen suddenly jumps over the rebellion fence, I suggest you buy a drugstore kit and test for drugs. I wish I had done that when my son was twelve and started to show signs of teen rebellion. I was naïve and thought that he was too young to be using. I wish I had the formula that would have opened my son’s eyes—to let him see how rules and boundaries are not punishment, but the greatest fans of his success. Imagine how marvelous that formula would be to all moms. I didn’t have that formula, but here’s what I did have—a determination to save my son. I always remained the parent. When my son ran off, I never stopped trying to find him, I never stopped letting him know how much I cared. I always let him know that he was loved.
From his prison cell he wrote: Mom, thank you for keeping it real. You always told me the truth so you don’t owe me anything because you’ve already given me all you had. After all I’ve put you through, you’re still showing me how much you love me. I couldn’t make it in here without knowing that.