Those words were spoken to me in jest this weekend (from the music store owner, as he slipped a shiny new guitar into Hayden’s hands…to “borrow”…since hers “wasn’t working”), but they’re the perfect words to sum up our lives right now. For those of you who have been following along, you know all about the Prodigal…our oldest son…the one who left home at seventeen…diploma-less…to begin a string of jobs he couldn’t keep and laws he couldn’t obey. The kid (who seems to be doing really well now, but that’s a story for a different day) put us through the ringer. There were days that I wasn’t sure my sanity, my marriage, or my family was going to survive his adolescence.
Well. Say what you will about nature vs. nurture, but we are looking at a 13-year-old carbon copy of the Prodigal…with a few differences. FIrst of all, Prince Charming (we’ll call him PC today), is much more vocal than the Prodigal ever was. On the one hand, that’s good…less rage all pent up inside. On the other hand, seriously. I’ve been thinking about removing his vocal cords myself. With a spoon. Second, PC has “learned” a lot from the Prodigal. With all of his “wisdom,” we are seeing (and hearing!) behaviors at least two or three years earlier than we did with the Prodigal. Third, with this much of a head start, I’m afraid PC is going to make the Prodigal look like an Eagle Scout before we’re done.
So. Because this isn’t our first rodeo, we’ve tried to make some changes. PC goes to school now, since he told us over and over that was the desire of his heart. While we knew that school wouldn’t solve all of his problems, he was convinced that it would. At school, he would find more friends and easier standards.
Of course, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. It turns out…surprise, surprise…school is hard. The academics are tough, the kids are fickle (this is middle school, after all), and it takes so. much. time. Even the biggest critic of homeschooling can understand that homeschooling takes a lot less time. After all, you’re working one-on-one with a kid. Plus you’re not dealing with all the classroom management stuff. Back during his homeschooling, Dillon would be irritated if his book work (not counting hands-on stuff) wasn’t done by noon. Well. Now, he leaves the house a few minutes after 7:00, gets home a few minutes before 4:00, and has a couple hours of homework most evenings. (Actually, the homework doesn’t always take that much time, but you have to factor in the pouting, stomping, yelling, crying, and fussing that precede it…I told him that soldiers have come back from Afghanistan with less post-traumatic-stress than he seems to have from eighth grade…he wasn’t impressed.) And all that time isn’t producing stellar results. After he failed a science test yesterday (he said the teacher didn’t even have to grade the back page to know he had failed), I asked (to try to prompt him to take it seriously) if he was flunking all his classes (because he’s failed tests in all of them). He snorted, gave me a look of total disgust, and said, “Mom! I’m not flunking art!” Good heavens. My bad.
But we could deal with all that. We could (and are) help him figure out how best to schedule his time. We could (and are) work with his teachers (who are wonderful) to figure out how to help him succeed. We could (and are) give him time to settle in to the new routine. We could do all that…except we can’t. Why? Because of the hatred. The relentless (every. single. day), mind-blowing hatred that he has for us right now. Every day there’s a new litany of things that we aren’t doing well enough for him. We’ve never given him what he needs and/or wants. We should have never adopted him. He and Zach and Haley all hate us and always have (although I pointed out that we talk to and/or text with Zach and Haley several times a week, all of which is happy). When he has kids, he’s going to have different rules (they will get to play video games and ride their bikes as often and as long as they want), because he wants them to have memories of a happy childhood…unlike him. He still can’t understand why we won’t “let him go.” His plan is to live with Zach and Raven until the baby arrives and then “find somewhere else” to live. He wants to quit school but not to go back to homeschooling…he’s just done with school…it’s ridiculous anyway. He shouldn’t have to read God’s Word with us in the evening…and we shouldn’t call it God’s Word, since we’re just trying to make him feel guilty…because he needs time to himself. On and on and on and on.
I have made it my personal goal to not engage in these battles with him. I. will. not. raise my voice (although I have…don’t kid yourself). When I feel like I’m going to lose it, either I leave the house (which is rarely possible, with the little kids), or he goes to his room. So he’s spending a lot of time in his room, because even Mother Teresa would yell at the kid, and I ain’t no Mother Teresa. As he sat at the table the other night, ignoring his spelling words to inform us once again of how we’re failing him, I gazed into his hateful eyes and understood for the first time why animals eat their young. Good heavens.
Even things that we have tried to compromise on (like bike-riding and Wii-playing) have only increased his angst, so we have gone back to our original rules on those (the Wii is gone for good, and the bike is relegated to the weekends…in the country out by church…since we’re pretty sure he’s using it to find trouble here in town). When he wondered why the changes in policy, I just told him that his last little speech about how we never do anything for him hadn’t been all that motivational for us, and we’d decided that if he was going to be mad anyway, we might as well stick to rules that made more sense to us.
So. He’s wearing us out. To continue the cowboy theme, we find ourselves humming the Garth Brooks classic, “I’m much too young…to feel this d*&% old.”
But (and there’s always a “but”…praise God!) we read in our devotions last night…from God’s Word…about Joseph…and how God brought incredible good out of all the troubles that happened in Joseph’s life. We read and re-read Genesis 50:19-21, where Joseph tells his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives…” We talked about how sometimes the evil seems ready to overtake us, both world-wide (think Middle East and Nicaragua) and family-close (think teenage angst and little-abused-kid fallout), but God will use it to accomplish good things. We were reminded of James 1:2-4, which says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We’ve got the trials, for sure. The perseverance and maturity must be right around the corner, right? Right?