The interstate was smooth and the sun was shining. I'd just dropped my son off with his father and was heading back home after a leisurely lunch in silence. Given that it was the culmination of the holiday season, silence was much needed. My mind ticked through the events of the last two weeks, cataloged all of the things I needed to accomplish for the coming week, and set my mark for the future. When my phone rang it's text message alert I glanced briefly at the sender's name and pulled over.
Had it been anyone else I would have driven on undeterred, but it was my son.
Son- Hey, when are you moving?
Me- Spring I hope. Why?
Son- Well I was thinking I might move back in with you. I don't think I want to wait until spring.
Me- What happened?
Son- Nothing. I have been thinking about it all day.
Me- I will call you when I get home.
As I eased my car back on to the road, I felt the sense of peace slipping away. By the time I made it home 45 minutes later I had thought of every possible thing that could have caused him to change his mind. He'd only been home for a week for the holiday and in 1 hour of driving with his dad had reached a decision to scrap his plan of living with him and was ready to give up his new life to return to his old life and embark on a new adventure with me.
There is a sense of superiority when you think, "My kid likes me best!" It's not mature. It's not the way you're supposed to look at it, but it's there. Still, I needed to hear what was going on in his head before I put on my "I win I win" attitude. With that in mind, I picked up the phone and called my 15 year old son, now three hours away and warm in his other home.
As much as I wanted to start the conversation by asking him when he could be packed so I could go get him and bring him back where he belonged, I held back and asked instead what had caused his change of heart. I heard him choke up instantly. "She doesn't like me. She doesn't want me here. I don't want to live where I am not wanted. Things she gets mad at me for wouldn't be a big deal if it were one of her kids. She tells me I am lazy and that I shouldn't be tired after school. She tells me I can't have dinner if I don't come down in time. She says that I should do things and when I ask her what she just says "stuff you should be doing". I don't know how to do what she wants if she won't tell me what to do."
I waited patiently for it to pour out, while he choked back tears and took deep breaths to collect himself. "Have you talked to your dad about this? Have you talked to her about it?" I asked.
"No. I will just get emotional and he will probably ignore me. I don't want to do it wrong so I don't say anything." He replied.
"I know it's not fair and I know it's not easy, but you have to talk to your dad about this. It's not fair to him for you to just say you've decided to move out if you won't tell him what's going on. Tell him how you feel and ask him if he can get regular work hours so he can spend time with you and you aren't just stuck there every night with her." I said.
Truth time. My son's impromptu decision to move home gives me mixed feelings. When this same boy told me 1 year ago today that he was planning to move back to Iowa in the spring...Ugh my heart was broken. I wrestled with all of the feelings a person feels when they've been broken up with. One evening a friend actually said, "You sound like you're talking about a guy leaving you." Honestly folks? That's how it felt. I was supposed to get 18 years. For fifteen years I was the only home he knew. I changed the diapers. I fed him, clothed him, taught him, held him when he cried, cheered him when he succeeded, and encouraged him when he struggled. It literally felt like a break up. What had I done wrong to cause my own son to not want to live with me?
As it turns out... I just don't value the same things teenage boys do. Grease, motors, dirt, danger, and a good burp. When he left in the spring to live with his father I was resigned to the fact that I am not a father and he needed his. I watched him grow from a distance and learned to smile through the hurt when he told me about the fun things he was finally doing with his dad that he'd missed out on. He seemed happy.
In turn, I learned to be a regular person again. My options in life opened up a little bit and I embraced the notion of a new experience. I decided I would continue with my plans to move and if my lot in life was to be an empty-nester at the age of 37, then so be it. I started packing boxes in preparation and readied my older child to take on her adult responsibilities.
With a brief text exchange and a phone call, I was back to January 2011. I think I did the right thing. I told him to stick it out, talk to his dad, find a way to make it work, and let me know if he needed my help. I put my plans on hold to make sure that one way or another he knows he always has me to come home to, but let him know that I wouldn't be a rebound parent that allowed a back and forth move every time things didn't go right.
Tonight I am torn between hoping he does come home and hoping that he will find the courage to talk to his dad and step mom and find a resolution. One decision means I get my son back and the other means I can continue on the path of my new life. Two very different paths, each with it's own sets of pros and cons... but what would a new year be without a bit of uncertainty and that fly by the seat of your pants feeling?