Me: Yeah, Mike, this is Dad.
Mike: Can I come home?
Me: Mike, we've been through this so many times. You can't be in our home because it disturbs everyone else way too much.
Mike: Oh, Happy Father's Day, a little late.
Me: Thanks. It's nice of you to remember.
Mike: Dad, I really want to come home.
Me: I know you do, Mike, but that just isn't a possibility right now.
Me: Because Mike you have not been willing to follow our rules, you steal our stuff, you smoke weed in our basement, you bring strange friends to home in the middle of the night and scare your siblings.
Mike: But I've changed.
Me: How do you mean?
Mike: Like I'm not using?
Me: For how long now?
Mike: I don't know. Probably a month or so.
Me: Well, I believe it's been at least a couple of weeks because that was the time you were in jail.
Mike: Well, I really need some place to stay.
Me: Where have you been staying for the last three days?
Mike: With friends.
Me: And you can't stay there a little longer?
Mike: Because she's going to JDC [juvenile delinquency center] tomorrow.
Me: Oh. I'm sorry to hear that.
Mike: So can I come home?
Me: Why are you talking so softly?
Mike: Because I'm tired.
Me: Why are you so tired?
Mike: Because I've been walking around all night and day. I don't have anyplace to stay.
Me: You sound like you're high ... are you sure it's only because you're tired?
Mike: Yeah. I'm really tired. Can you help me?
Me: Mike, Mom and I have tried to help you for years. We did everything possible for you, and you refused to cooperate with everything we offered or suggested. There's just too much water under the bridge.
Mike: What do you mean?
Me: I mean that it's just too upsetting to everyone else in our home, and it isn't fair to them. They have had to deal with this stuff for years and years now, and now that you're eighteen it's a little different.
Mike: So you adopted me to desert me?
Me: Mike, I am not deserting you, but there are only so many options I have left. I would be happy to give you a ride to Salvation Army to see if they have a place for you tonight.
Mike: So I can't come home?
Me: No, Mike, you can't come home.
Mike: Oh, OK. I'll call you again later.
This is not the entirey of our fifteen-minute conversation tonight, but it summarizes the content pretty well. It is one of the most difficult parenting positions I have ever had to take. To deny a home to someone you love seems cruel and heartless, and it is certainly not in my nature to respond in this fashion. I have to steel myself and remain clear for the sake of the other children in my family for whom I have a responsibility. We have all dealt with the difficult times Mike has had during his years before adulthood, but they should not have to be subjected to his further chaos at this point in their lives.
In an ideal world Mike would have responded over the past nine years to the hundreds of interventions and attempts we have made to help get him on the right path. In a perfect setting Mike would be able to come back to our home, stay true to what he says, remain chemical- and crime-free and begin a new life. In a better situation, we would have someone or somewhere else for Mike to stay where we could help him but not have our other children subjected to his criminality and chaotic lifestyle.
But we do not live in a perfect world. It is a world with complex moral dilemmas competing at numerous levels. There is often no clear "right" or "wrong" answer. It is a world in which more than one person is affected by the choices we make, and it is gut-wrenchingly difficult to determine whose best interests outweight anothers.
Claudia and I have had to make the very hard decision that at this point our remaining children at home, most of whom are minors, deserve to have a home in which they can live with less stress and worry. We have to decide to do what is in their best interests, even though it means that one of our children, now legally an adult, cannot receive what he thinks he needs.
When there are no good options I can only pray that God will do for Mike what we cannot do. But it still doesn't feel very good.