A Matter Of Choice


“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” ---William Jennings Bryan
My 18 year old son spent the night in jail this week. He was arrested for possession of marijuana.
Not what you’d call a mom’s proudest moment, not by a long shot. It also isn’t the kind of news a person wants to share, and yet it feels like I am not being truthful if I leave it out of the conversation.
Being a realist, I sometimes get accused of being pessimistic; I’m not. But I am cautious and I do worry. I feel the need to prepare myself for the worst, anticipating what could happen, so that I can deal with what actually does. The control freak in me hates surprises. Many times my “preparing” just ends up as wasted worry.
Not this time.
When I got the news that my son had been taken to jail from a friend of his, I was calmer than I had anticipated I could ever be. Maybe the relief in knowing that at least he was alive had something to do with that. When he didn’t come home the night before, nor answer his phone all day long, my mom”dar” imagination was going all kinds of crazy places.
There have been signs for a while that something wasn’t quite right with him. But no amount of talking seemed to break through his angry shell. About a week before this incident I broached what I thought was a frank discussion about where his life was headed, or wasn’t headed. I actually said the words: “I want to know the truth, are you doing drugs? I do not want to be blindsided, I want to know what we are dealing with.”
Deep down did I really think he was smoking pot?  No. He’s a good liar. I believed him when he said he wasn’t. That he wouldn’t. That he knew it was stupid, and he knew the risks. I rationalized the lingering doubt in me by assuming that he had tried it, and had stopped. What he really meant is…I know the risks and I don’t care.
I have never tried an illegal substance, neither has my husband, so it is hard to understand this situation my son finds himself in. I have explained, no doubt ad nausea, why I personally considered the risks of smoking marijuana not worth taking. I had hoped both my kids would use this sage advice to come to the same conclusion we did. Clearly, it didn’t work that way.
How should a parent feel in this situation? Guilty? Disappointed? Angry? Or like a failure for not having made sure the message was clear? Well, in truth, feeling any of that would just be a waste of energy. He’d have done the same thing regardless.
Honestly I feel a little relieved, at least now I know the truth. I hope this was his rock bottom and that from here things will start looking up. I hope I can stop being the kind of mom who looks at every weird object I find laying around the house and wondering what it was used for. I want to lose the urge I sometimes feel to search through his wastebasket to see if anything looks suspect.
I want to stop feeling guilty for not trusting my own child.
He put himself in this situation not only knowing how we felt about marijuana use, but knowing exactly what the consequences of getting caught with it might be. Funny how a strong willed child grows into an 18 year old who believes that by his sheer will no bad things are going to happen to him.
I feel embarrassed, but not for my sake, I am embarrassed for him. I am disappointed in him, but not more than he is in himself. I do worry about his future but I also realize how fiercely I love that kid. I wished his life to be all neat and tidy, all the unpleasant setbacks happily absent. But, that is what I wanted for him and this isn’t my story. It’s his. And his story is made up of his choices.
I have learned that people have to make their own mistakes, no matter how hard you try to show them the easier way. So that means this is not a reflection on my parenting skills, it is about a kid making his own mistakes and in turn having to accept responsibility for his actions.
The big question now is what will he do with his second chance? I have faith that he will grow from this experience, and that he will use it to become the person I believe he was always meant to be.