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Seven weeks ago, my son Jonathan entered into the Job Corps program. He is now less than a month away from his 18th birthday, a landmark moment in any young man’s life. For Jonathan, though, this day holds the fulfillment of a long-standing wish—namely, his release from the clutches of my custody and control. He will finally be his own man, not only able to make his own decisions but required to accept the consequences of said decisions head-on.

I started today by asking myself if I thought Jonathan was ready for this shift in responsibility. The behavioral disabilities that had plagued him as a young child seem to have worked themselves out of his system, and he has made great strides in exercising control over his once-unstable emotions. But he was so late in accomplishing these things that I still consider him to be behind the learning curve in many ways.

However, the more I struggled to come up with an honest assessment of Jonathan and where he’s at right now in his life, I had to concede to the fact that another, similar but still very different question was actually weighing more heavily upon my mind. What I should have been asking myself, and finally did, is “Am I ready for this shift in responsibility?”

As Mom, I’ve been making decisions for Jonathan for the better part of his life.  In fact, it’s something I’ve gotten quite accustomed to. The fact that I was a no-nonsense kind of parent in charge of a kid that rarely made any sense was no help at all. Inevitably, no matter what I decided, to Jonathan, it was usually wrong.

Jonathan was 4 years old when I left his father. In taking Jonathan with me, I made the decision as to where he would live. (Years later he would throw this in my face, demanding to know if I’d even asked his 4 year old self what HE wanted.)

Six years later, a couple of months past his 10th birthday and a few days after Christmas, Jonathan announced that he wanted to go live with his father. Dad’s situation (a new wife, a little brother and a house with a yard) was much more appealing to a kid than a single mom working two jobs and living in an apartment. Hell, if not for the fact that it was my ex, it probably would’ve been much more appealing to me, too.

But I hesitated in giving in to Jonathan’s request. I urged him to talk to me about it, tell me what he thought would be the pros and cons to a life with his dad. I reminded him that they’d not always gotten along, and even though I recognized Jonathan’s desire to bolster their relationship, I really doubted that he understood the ramifications of the decision he was begging to be allowed to make. Sure, our life together was hard, but we could work on it, and he didn’t have to move out for us to do it. Deep in my heart I felt as if he was making a bad decision based on big dreams and 10-year old logic.

The more I resisted, though, the stronger his pleas became until he brought out the big guns—what I figure now was the catalyst to the whole thing.

“Yeah, but,” he said softly, not quite meeting my eyes, “now you’ll get to be the fun parent.”  

“What? Where did you hear something like that?” His statement had startled me, although in the moment I couldn’t have said why.  

“From you,” he said. “I heard you on the phone with Dad one night. You were yelling at him and told him that he was lucky because he got to be the fun parent. That you had to deal with all the bad stuff, and he just got me for weekend visits and football games.” He looked up at me with his big brown eyes, brimming with tears and so full of hope. “I want you to get to be the fun parent, too.”  

And that was all it took. In my embarrassment at having been revealed as a class-A jerk, I was helpless to resist letting him make this choice. And then, when it backfired on him, as I’d predicted it would, I resisted the urge to swoop in and rescue him. I had told him that he would have to live with his decision, for better or worse, and I did my best to see that through.

We’ve had lots of other decisions go wrong between us over the years, and I guess I’m just afraid that he’s still going to make decisions for the wrong reasons. I know that I can’t live his life for him, but I’m so desperate for Jonathan to find his way, his dreams, his drive, that I’d probably consider keeping him right under my thumb, if asked.

I guess it’s a good thing nobody’s asking, huh?


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Sep 24, 2008
    • Oh Heather,

      I had tears in my eyes reading this. I can absolutely relate to everything you said, however, I also know that if we do our job as parents, kids will leave our nest and will have to make it on their own, sometimes falling down and getting back on their feet. Hopefully their lives will be filled with great accomplishments, dreams and goals that they set out for themselves.

      We never know what lays ahead of us, we can only hope and pray that all the preaching we did through out their growing years will always be in the back of their mind, reminding them right from wrong, and helping them make the right choices.

      Hang in there girlfriend....this is yet another chapter of our life.


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Feathermaye wrote Sep 24, 2008
    • Thanks so much, Yana.  

      It took me most of the day with this one, and it ended up being something very different from what I’d originally had in mind. Isn’t it funny how some stories just insist upon being told?

      I have such high hopes for Jonathan. He’s my only kiddo (although I have 3 wonderful step-kiddos) and I feel like he got the best and the worst of me. I just hope that one day he can tell the difference between the two. ;)

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate you!

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Inakika wrote Sep 24, 2008
    • Okay, lets pass that tissue box.....

      Heather, I can so feel your pain. I have 2 sons at home now, 20 and 22, and I’m afraid to let go.
      After losing my oldest son 3 years ago, I have become a bit more stingy of my other 2.
      My husband is ready to ease them out of the nest, but he has not yet because he is afraid of my emotional state. I try not to be too clingy but it’s tough.
      They both work and are starting to find their way and I am ever so slowly loosening my grip.
      As Yana said, we must trust in what we have taught them and let them spread their wings. It’s not easy but it’s a must.

      I wish you all the best. I will be pulling for you and Jonathan.....

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Feathermaye wrote Sep 24, 2008
    • inakika, I am so sorry for your loss, and your own struggles to let your other 2 move on. Not just for their sakes, but for yours, too.

      It’s ironic to me that for most of Jonathan’s childhood, I never really enjoyed being a parent. With the unique challenges that his emotional and behavioral disabilities presented, it was more work than I could handle most days. I didn’t get the ‘fulfillment’ so many professionals and books told me parenthood would bring, and I kind of resented the mothers who claimed they’d found it.

      Now, though, I’m ready to reap the rewards that I was promised in motherhood. I want him to succeed in a big way, so that we can both say all the years of struggling were worth it. I want to be able to stand up and shout ‘That’s MY son!‘.

      Thanks so much for your input!

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cheryl Phillips wrote Sep 24, 2008
    • You‘re a great Mom, Feathermaye. We all have obstacles we have to get thru—-and I think you can pat yourself on your back for just having the strength to keep the faith. Your son will thank you....

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Sep 24, 2008
    • You know....when we have these children...we don’t get a manuals with them.  We learn from our parents...our friends...our co-workers...our name it...we got the answers. all reality...we do..but we don’t.  

      Every situation is different...and you do the best you can do.  WE all make mistakes....and will continue to make mistakes....but...and that’s a big “but“ have to acknowledge them..and move on.  

      It’s tremendously hard to let go....I know..I had to let mine go this weekend.  He moved out into an apt. with a friend of his.  I feel like I have taught him right from wrong...and I’ve done the best job I could possibly do.  Now....I have to let him go...and pray that he makes the best decisions.  The main focus is to make sure he understands...that no matter are always there for him.  Bad or  have to be there.  If there is might not condone the behavior but he still needs to know you love him and that you are there for him.  I told my son this weekend this very thing.   I said...I have no control over what decisions you make...but understand....that I’m here for you if you need advice before making one that you are not sure of...and...if you choose not to ask me...that you will be responsible for whatever the consequences are of that decision. HARD....very hard to do.  Your situation is a bit different....but you can’t cage them up.  You’ll just have to deal with whatever.  I’m getting to the point that I’m on a “need to know basis“...if you think I really need to know that..then tell me...if not....leave me out.  LOL

      Good’s tough...

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Feathermaye wrote Sep 25, 2008
    • Cheryl, It’s ironic to me that I’m just now figuring out that I deserves some pats on the back now that my ‘work’ is almost done.  

      Thanks for reminding me of that.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Feathermaye wrote Sep 25, 2008
    • maryclark, I’m in love with the idea of the ‘need to know basis’ approach. My only problem is that my imagination, if left to fill in the blanks, will be my downfall.

      Maybe I’m ultimately lucky because I’ve been letting him go in stages... I’m not sure, but this might become another point for reflection for me.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and sharing your thoughts and story with me.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Feathermaye wrote Sep 25, 2008
    • iidlyyckma, I think you just might be right, but only sort of. Clear as mud, huh?

      I actually think I’m BECOMING better person (thereby daughter, sister, friend, mother and wife) as I get older. So much more makes sense to me know (whoda thunk it?), and I am finally able to begin putting everything into perspective.

      It hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud of the woman I’m becoming. I knew she was here somewhere!

      Thanks so much for your encouragement and input!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Faye43 wrote Aug 29, 2009
    • Feathermaye. I love that story. Your son sounds very intelligent to me. It sure looks like he is headed in the right direction. He is in the work corpse so he is preparing for his future. Take care my friend and God bless you both, Faye happy

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