Observations on the rollercoaster ride that is parenting

I understand.

I was on the freeway when I received the call. I was about three quarters of the way through my morning commute, and in the middle of a teleconference.  I couldn’t tell who it was…the caller ID displayed my office phone, which had forwarded the call. I almost ignored it and sent it to voice mail, but I just had that feeling.  I knew I had to answer the phone. I could feel my body tense up as I pressed the answer key. I said hello… the caller identified herself, and began to state the nature of her call. She said my son’s name… I am not certain I breathed again for the next 10 minutes. My head was in a fog… I felt physical pain, like I’d been trampled and kicked by horses. I vacillated between rage and despair; consumed by fear for the future of our child.  I somehow managed to conduct the conversation and navigate across several lanes of traffic towards an offramp while I slowly felt slip the grip I thought I held on my world and my reality. Bleary-eyed and shaken, I turned the car around and headed towards home.Parenting is a curious arrangement. You are given these fantastic, precious gifts to watch over and care for. You pour your heart and soul into them. You want to take away their pain. You want to amplify their joy. You give them the tools and the lessons. There are myriad things you can and would do for your wonderfully precious gifts…but the one thing you can’t always  do, and the one thing I wanted most to be able to do at that moment, is protect them; especially from themselves. They make decisions that have ramifications; they take actions that have consequences. You can be there for the aftermath, but by that point events have been set in motion. God this job is hard.

Kendra and I were floored… this was our first confrontation with this type of situation, and it really hit us out of nowhere (as these things do). We needed to react, but we needed our reaction to be appropriate to the circumstance. Fortunately, we had a little time to discuss our approach and gain some perspective rather than needing to follow through with our initial emotional responses. We started to focus on the potential reason’s why this event happened rather than just the event itself. We began to realize that we were dealing with the actions and decisions of a 14 year old boy, and all the confusion, clumsiness, and insecurities that accompany that. We realized that this was an opportunity for an awakening… for a lesson in accountability…an eye-opening opportunity for growth.  It brought to mind one of my own “wake-up” events. I remembered feeling alone and out of control… that no one would understand… that there would be no way back to redemption. We didn’t want to introduce hopelessness to the situation, so when I met with Logan, one of the first things I did was tell him my story.

I was about his same age… It was summertime in Albuquerque and my friend Marque and I were bored. We were lazing around his apartment when the notion struck us to visit our friend Eric. He didn’t live too far away, but the walk to his house was all uphill and it was very warm that afternoon. We thought about riding our bikes, but the same conditions made riding an unattractive option. Eventually, one of us brought up the idea of taking Marque’s mother’s car. She was upstairs asleep since she worked nights, and wouldn’t need the car. Marque was 16 and a licensed driver. I was 14 and had logged several hours at TNT Go-Carts… not exactly the same thing. But, I wanted to be cool and pull into Eric’s driveway behind the wheel. So I begged Marque to let me drive. He didn’t want any of his neighbors to see me pulling his mom’s car out, so he agreed to pull over and let me drive once we got to the park (City View).  Yep, here we go.

The streets east of the park get fairly steep, and I was having trouble keeping the speed of the car consistent. I started to mash the accelerator to prevent the urk and jerk motion, but failed to release it when I took the final left and right turns of that voyage. A family was crossing the street a few houses up the block. I was coming around the turn pretty quickly, and I panicked. I pulled the wheel hard to the right, lifted my foot off the gas, and mashed down as hard as I could on what I thought would be the brakes. It wasn’t the brakes.

We sped toward the curb; then up the curb and through some hedges; then onto the lawn and toward the house. The people looking out their front window looked about as surprised as I was to see us barreling toward them. Somehow, we stopped. I remember lifting my feet up after we went over the curb, but I’m not sure how me finally came to a stop. I think Marque might have slid across the bench seat to step on the brakes. I just remember feeling foolish and not knowing what to say.  One of the residents came flying out of the house and was banging on my window. He was screaming something, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I rolled the window down and kept staring ahead. I remember him reaching in the car and turning off the engine.

The police came. I remember the homeowner being very upset and wanting to know what charges he could press. He was screaming and being very animated, and I remember looking at the house next door and realizing where I was and thinking, “Oh yeah, Vicky Roe lives there. Damn.”, as they were putting me in the back of the police car. I have never felt more cut off from the world… and the humiliation of having your friends seeing you like that… that lingers.

Eventually, Marque got to take his mom’s car home, and somehow word got to my friend Jay who drove by on his motorcycle and gave me a ride back home. The souvenirs from my trip? A $180.00 ticket, a promise of a follow-up call to my home regarding the damage to the property, and 6 points off of a driver’s license that I didn’t yet possess. I could’ve taken out a family, I put my friend in a bad position with his mother, could’ve damaged her car severely, ruined someone’s yard, got a ticket I couldn’t pay, and became an insurance liability for my parents before they even needed to have me on the coverage. The outlook was bleak.

I went to my brother, as I tended to do when I found myself in precarious situations, but the remedy for this one fell directly on me. He helped me come to terms with the fact I had to man up and come clean and face whatever music was in the cards.  I had an uncomfortable conversation with my dad that evening when he came home from work. Things were pretty day-to-day for the next few weeks. But, I paid my consequences and worked off my debts, and eventually, I saw the opportunity to grow that was wrapped around that situation. Our hope for Logan was to shorten the distance between the event and the realization of the opportunity. He has fences to mend and he has consequences to reap. But I am hoping the understanding that I am familiar with his path and that I understand where he is coming from will keep him from feeling isolated and strange through all this. The remedies we’ve designed should help address why he did what he did…and we are here to support him through it all.

So, we will see… I had to hit snooze a few times before I finally heard the alarm clearly. Let’s hope this tune rings loudly.

Thanks for coming along for the ride…

2 Comments

  1. Mark Foster Mark Foster
    February 13, 2010    

    Thanks for sharing this, Brian. I hope that I handle the situation as well when I receive “the call”.

  2. Trish Trish
    February 13, 2010    

    Ohhhhh how we all can relate! Mine are 9 and 11 now and I am NOT looking forward to them having to find their way through their own stupid choices…..although I know you are right and it will make them strong like us when they come through the other side! I love to hear the positive because they ARE just kids and need their parents more than they know!! Thanks for sharing.

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