Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Triple Crown Day of Parenting

It's been some time since I have blogged. At least two months, in fact. I figure that my cynicism regarding parenting is probably not what those in the blogosphere want to read about, but at the same time I'm sure there are parents out there who feel like I do, so at the very least I can reflect the thoughts of others. As challenging as a cynic is, a lonely cynic is probably even more destructive. So, for what it is, here is an update.

Yesterday started fairly well for me. Friday is my usual day of the week "off," by which I mean I do not come even close to my church office or pastoral responsibilities (unless, of course, there happens to be a funeral or some other difficult to schedule event). I have a sense of freedom on Friday's and seek to enjoy it with all my might. By mid-morning, however, my aspirations had already been shattered by a scream fest involving my wife and our oldest daughter, who was demanding transportation to a distant community so that she could visit her boyfriend. This interaction has a long history filled with many complicating factors, and I will not go down that road. It's just too fraught with complexity, and it is simply what it is. (Please, no moralizing comments from blog readers at this point. We are years beyond that).

Anyway, with wife and oldest daughter on their way out of town, I set out to complete some of my personal day-off tasks. Within an hour or so I received word from my wife that there was news she needed to share. Before I go there, let me just share this irony of life. A week ago I was in a week-long training, in which one of the ice breakers was for each participant to share two pieces of information -- one true and one false -- about one's life.

The two I selected (one true, one false) were: (1) my mother is a logger and (2) I am a grandfather. Little did I know that within a week's time I would discover that both statements would be true, and I'm not talking about the "my mother is a logger." I've known that for more than forty years now.

So, suffused with the knowledge that our sixteen-year-old daughter is growing a new life within herself, I arrived back home to hear from the oldest son we have living with us, "Dad, the sheriff was here today." I said, "Oh?" "Yeah," he responded, "he wanted to know if we knew were Mike [our twenty-year old son who has already been in jail numerous times and served a stint in prison for felony convictions] is. I told him we hadn't seen him for a long time, but the cop asked if he could look through our house to make sure he wasn't here." This son has been diagnosed years ago with an expressive language disorder, so sometimes it's bit frustrating to talk with him, especially in situations involving crisis, because his ability to organize and express his thoughts is quite disjoined. "So," I said with my irritation than necessary, "what was the cop doing here?" "Um, he just said that if we see Mike we need to tell him that if he is seen on [our local high school] their property again he's going to be arrested."

Nice. Sixteen-year-old daughter with child. Twenty-year-old son on the verge of arrest ... again.

In what seemed like minutes later, although it was actually a couple of hours, I received the third piece of news. Claudia received a call from aforementioned daughter who had talked with our eighteen-year-old son's girlfriend. Our eighteen-year-old son recently decided that he would leave the group home he had been living in (a place that covered his room, board and transportation free of charge under a state program) so that he could take up residence with his fifteen-year-old girlfriend and her mother.

And yes, in case you are wondering, we did beg, plead and explain to our son that if he was sexually involved with a girl of that age that he could be charged with statutory rape under Minnesota statute.

And yes, he is currently in a county jail in Minnesota on two charges of criminal sexual conduct. The first charge carries with it a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $30,000. The second charge carries with it a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $20,000. And yes, according to the statute (which I read online, but admittedly only as a lay person, and not as an attorney) consent does not constitute legal permission. Our son is a very serious situation. And, as it has been every time for the past seven years, he has chosen his own way and not ours.

So there it is ... serious situations facing 25% of our children. On days like these I wonder why I signed up to be an adoptive parent. They could have been making these same choices as children who aged out of the foster care system without the supposed advantage of having committed, loving parents.

I am disillusioned and despairing tonight. If only there were an award of some sort for parents with the most bad news in one day. There isn't, of course, but for today I think my cynical muse will just call it the Triple Crown Day of Parenting.


Corey said...


One of my favorite parts of the Bible is Job 2:11-13, when Job's friends come to see him, and they sit on the ground with him for 7 days and nights, and they don't say a word to him because they see that his suffering is too great for words. (Of course, this is before they open their mouths and blow it).

Consider me sitting on the ground with you and Claudia, silently.


Ours said...

Thanks for sharing, Bart.
I can't think of anything else to say. So I won't.

Other Mother said...

Bart - You are not alone. The familes who've made the commitment that you have are few and far between, so unfortunately that means those who truly understand are few and far between also. I can't say I've experienced what you're going through, but do understand the heartbreak of adoptive teen parenting. Please remember that these are 25% of your children. That leaves 75% who are not pregnant, arrested, or leaving their support, and at least a couple of those are delightful!

Praying the sun shines again for you soon.

FAScinated said...

A few minutes after I read this I thought of Christ looking at me and shaking his head in despair. All that work, all that pain, all those messages of love all for me...and I keep sinning.

What you have done over the years matters, Bart. It matters a whole lot. You cannot change all their behaviors but you have given the message to your children that they are loved beyond what they can ever understand...and they are forgiven.

It matters. You matter. ~Kari

Julee said...

Gosh, we've had days like that (been awhile though) but never found such a nie label for them...Triple Crown Day of Parenting. So sorry. Thanks for sharing and reminding the rest of us of the times when it is REALLY hard, not just normal everyday hard parenting.Sometimes for me when it is a hard day I forget how HARD the really bad days were.
bride to Mike
mommy to 22
expecting 3 more very soon

Rose Adoption Journey said...

Praying for you today. This past 8 weeks have been crazy for us and many times this past 8 weeks, I have thought about why we did this...the same exact thoughts.. you are not alone. Loving you guys through blogosphere!

MamaKate said...

My heart goes out to you both. All that in one day!

Anonymous said...

My friend who is an adoptive parent as well says, "some of the time".

We give our children our best effort and it works...some of the time.

My favorite family therapist said of my son, "You have given him something no one can ever take away. He knows what it is to be loved and to be a part of a family."

I know you feel badly and that these words dont make much difference. But, dont give up Bart. And dont stop blogging because there are a lot of us doing this work and we need each other.

Take good care, my friend.

Jerolyn Bogear said...

Even though the troubling times scream louder, the good you two have done with those kids far outweighs the difficult times.

Hopewell said...

Oh Bart, believe me that I AM praying for you and your wife [and the children]. I hate to see the "cycle" starting up again for anyone, but here you go. And that "other cycle"--the one that has children or other ill-prepared people making babies and dumping the resultant messed up kids on society is also starting anew. I think, somehow, you are a descendant of Job, but I am glad you are my brother in Christ and that I'm in this boat with you.

FosterAbba said...

I think the sad truth is that we can't "fix" our children who were damaged by their birth parents. We can give them opportunities they otherwise might not have had, but in the end they are going to make their own choices. If we are lucky, they will make good ones. If we aren't then they will take a different path and will experience the school of hard knocks.

Whether they will learn any better from that school will remain to be seen.

Good luck to you and your wife. You are in our thoughts.