Our eighteen-year-old son Mike, who has more than a thousand dollars in fines and restitution to pay as a result of illegal activities showed up at our home just in time for dinner. Tonight was dinner on your own at our house (which means each person makes their own meal as they see fit), so I had only a few brief interactions with him. We first talked briefly about his state identification card, which I presumed to have come in the mail yesterday. He opened the envelope and then said, "They screwed up." "Oh?" I said, never one to have much confidence in the bureaucracy that is Minnesota state government. "Yeah. Look." I opened the letter and attachment, which displayed the legal consequences for his auto theft charge (as a juvenile last November). At that time it was ordered by the court that he be not allowed to have a driver's license for one full year (Mike has never had even driving school or a permit to this point). So what I looked at was the judgment on that account; evidently they misunderstood his application and now he has yet another excuse to find no job.
The other interaction involved his using my cell phone to see if he could find a friend to hang out with tonight. Evidently it doesn't yet bother him that he's been living in an apartment for three weeks without any income to provide for his utilities, his food (most of which he eats with us, which is fine with me) or for his future.
As he returned the cell phone I said, "So, anything new for you?" He simply shook his freckled head and said, "Nah." "Too bad," I said, as he walked out of the room. A few minutes later I saw him in our kitchen where he asked if he could use my laptop to check his Myspace. I said, "No," which brought about a confused look on his face. A few seconds later he followed up with an appropriate question (which I thought might have an obvious answer), "So, is there anything I can do in order to use the computer?" I said, "Mike, you need to get a job." Shaking his head again he began to move from my presence, as I found myself saying, as kindly as I could, "Is that something you need some help with?" He mumbled to himself, so I asked him to repeat his response. "No. I can take care of that without your help." "OK," I said. "Just checking."
And that was pretty much all we had to say to each other today.
And each day that I talk with Mike -- and I guard myself from being sarcastic or rude to him -- I feel a little better with what might become the eventual outcome, his homelessness or trip back to jail. I do not feel better because I want to see my son in jail or because I want him living from friend to friend (especially with fall and winter months in the distance). I feel better because I know in my heart that I am doing everything I possibly can to help him. He simply refuses to comply, as has been the sad story of his life with us for the past nine years. The saga yet continues, but I have to allow him to take care of it himself, for my involvement is unwelcome and unhelpful. And while that is really what he has communicated all of these years, as a juvenile it was about what was in his best interests, not what he wanted. Now it is about what he wants. And what he wants is to take care of it himself.