I have written many times in this blog about the value of self-differentiation for the adoptive parent. (I suspect the same principles hold true for parents of any type, but adoptive parenting is what I am most familiar with). By self-differentiation, I mean the ability to know oneself in any given situation, to be supportive of another person while not necessarily appreciating their particular behavior. It is the goal of self-differentiation to maintain an appropriate distance without creating an emotional cut-off.
I had the opportunity again yesterday to self-differentiate.
Returning home from a meeting in the metropolitan area (about ninety miles from our community) I received a call on my iPhone from our son Mike, about whose most recent exploits I blogged yesterday.
"How are you doing?"
"Pretty good. I've been in the Cities today, and I'm on my way home now."
"Oh. Sorry I didn't call you yesterday."
"Yeah, I was wondering what happened. Where were you?" I knew full well where had been, because I had checked our county's online jail roster and saw his face peering back at me.
"Um. Where was I?"
"Yeah, where were you?"
"Umm. I was out of town."
"Oh, yeah? Where was that?"
"You mean what town?"
"Yeah, I guess that's what I mean."
He names a neighboring community about 40 minutes away.
"So, are you still willing to do my laundry for me?" (I have told Mike in the recent past that I would be willing to help him get his clothes washed, even though he cannot be in our home or near our property).
"I can, but it'll have to be another day. I am headed back home now, but I have a meeting at church tonight."
"OK. Well, I'm doing good."
"Yeah. I'm working hard on getting my apprentice hours in so I can be a tattooist."
"Good for you, Mike."
"Yeah, so anyway, I guess I'll call tomorrow."
"Um, so," with exaggerated excitement, "have a great day!"
"Yeah, you, too, Mike."
I decided that I would wait to see if Mike might disclose to me his complete whereabouts for the weekend. It is, of course, possible that he was in a neighboring community at some point on the day in question, but I know for a fact that as of early evening Saturday night Mike was in our county jail on new charges. He must have been released sometime on Monday (probably after an initial court appearance).
Because he served his ninety days in prison, my understanding is that he was free and clear. But, he is stepping back into his old, familiar pattern once again ... a misdemeanor here, a minor infraction there, and eventually serious, felony-level acts. My hope is that he will curb his enthusiasm for crossing legal boundaries and not repeat his previous scenarios, but I know from experience that the best predictor is future behavior is past behavior.
There was a time when the actions of my children made me anxious with worry. While I continue to love my children, as I always have, a new depth has emerged in my life where I can love them without feeling a sense of helpless perplexity. I have (and will continue to) done my best to nurture, instruct, discipline and guide by example. I can do little more than that, nor should I.
Ah, the joys of self-differentiation!