Before cell phones were tucked into every pocket, our landline was the only phone we had, and it hadn’t rung. I knew the whereabouts of three of my four children; sound asleep in their beds. The evening before, I’d heard the engines of cars idle in the driveway, doors slam, familiar footfalls either descending into the basement or ascending upstairs to a bedroom. I’d gotten up from my bed and tiptoed around, peaking in doorways, just to make sure everyone was accounted for.
One of my sons had made plans to stay with friends, his bed was empty, his floor covered with dirty clothes, a few crumpled-up candy wrappers and empty pop cans. I picked up the cans and tossed them into a basket in the garage before I headed up to my bed to get some sleep — the fragile, tentative sleep of a parent-of-teenagers.
The police officer was very courteous, and gave us quick assurance that our son was OK. Through the lens of his eye, he saw tears form in mine, my knees buckle, and my husband reach his arm around my shoulder to keep me from melting to the floor.
“What? What! What?” I couldn’t form words to complete a sentence.
My son and a few of his friends had been camping where no camping was allowed. On further investigation, alcohol had been discovered. All the kids were minors. My son volunteered that he’d been the one to obtain said alcohol.
Over the next couple of hours, my emotions whirled around me — a tempest of rage, a burst of gratitude, nauseating guilt and shame.
I followed the officer to the scene of the crime, where the culprits sat along the edge of the woods, waiting to be retrieved by their parents. One minute I screamed,
“Throw him in jail!” The next, I hustled him to my car, frantic to protect him.
I’d be lying if I told you this child was the only one of my four who made a mistake during adolescence. All of my children have admitted they made poor choices at one time or another. Some were found out, others got away with their crimes. By crimes, I mean anything that was not in the grand plan their parents had so carefully laid out for them during their childhood.
I was never prepared to be shocked, disappointed or embarrassed by my children. It did not occur to me that the child I had nursed, read to, taught to ride a bike would ever step off the path.
Enter wisdom, born of lots of experience. The only cure for the madness of trying to control every outcome in my children’s lives was for me to give them back to God.
“Here, you take them. They are more than I can handle.” At the moment of release, my shoulders relaxed, the weight lifted. Not to say I haven’t tried to heft the burden again; but each time I fail, it takes me a shorter time to remember Who is in control.
I ache for the families and friends of the girls who were injured in the recent accident. I can almost hear the chorus of accusations, the throbbing beat of shame and crescendo of blame. It comes from the root of fear we all sense, when things become way out of control. Forgiveness must come; it is as essential as the air we breathe. As prayers rise, the clamor will subside.
Among the parents of these girls, there is not one who wouldn’t trade places with their daughter. These children are loved. If parental love were enough, we’d all be different people. We’d all have gotten on with our lives.
Teenagers are notorious for being distracted by the world. Technology has created new obstacles to common sense, and society will eventually revisit the alacrity to which we have embraced it.
Yet, as adults, we must admit, as adolescents we were distracted, too. I sat on the console next to my first boyfriend, who drove with one hand on the steering wheel, no seat belts attached. We learn by our mistakes.
I used to think the worst-thing-that-could-happen was only a preview. Now, I ask myself, “What positive thing can I do to recover from this episode?”
As a community, we can get better by striving to live in harmony.
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. … Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up." (Romans 12:12, 15:2)
— By Ann Brugger, Tribune community columnist