Monday, September 19, 2016

More Travails

     Braden has shown some real improvements of late. After finally earning his first Boy Scout merit badge (Citizenship in the Community—see my prior Braden essay, regarding), which I had to exert tremendous force of will, persuasion, and persistence to get him to do for his own good, he's now well on his way, through mainly his own exertions, to earning his second (Citizenship in the Nation) merit badge. Good for him! He wrote a letter to a congressman, is reading a daily on-line newspaper front page, and just visited our state capitol, which covers all the hands-on requirements, praise God.
     Also the other day, Deanne called me at work to say the water main servicing Jaren's school broke, so she would be picking him up. When I got home and prepared for my workout run, she fretted, “What if Braden and Pene panic when they see the empty school?”
     “They won't panic!” I said. But I ran by the school to make sure Pene wasn't waiting there alone for Braden, which would be less than safe. She wasn't there, and just as I got home, she arrived and said, “Braden went to get Jaren. He told me to go home first.” It was pouring that day so it was thoughtful of him to let Pene come home first, since she still suffered a sore throat from the day before. Not long after, Braden appeared and said, “Hi, Dad.”
     You came straight home when you saw the empty school?” I asked.
     “Good,” I said, and explained about Mom picking up Jaren due to the water main break (they would all have seen the blocked off road, Department of Water Supply service trucks and workers, and gushing water along the street). “Good job letting Pene come home first,” I added.
     But toward the end of dinner that night, he asked about joining a technology-related JROTC workshop/class to be held twice a week from 5:00 – 8:00 Tuesdays and Thursdays and I immediately said No, you need to focus on academics. He started breathing fast and heavy, stiff in his seat, ready to explode.
     I don't tolerate blow-outs at the dinner table (food and eating should be pleasant and not associated with angry shouting) so I dismissed him to another room.
     Yet while doing the dishes minutes later, he barked and groused at Deanne, snapped at Jaren, then later bitched at me, so I said, “Get your umbrella and walk up and down the street. Don't come back in until after eight,” meaning after his walk, he could sit in the garage, similar to past disciplines.
     He went to his room for who knows what?, barked more at Deanne, then left the house in a huff.
     After my bath, Deanne, exasperated, said, “What about his homework?”
     I said, “Whatever! I don't care...”, then, after reconsidering, said, “Tell him to do it in the garage if you like...”
     She disappeared for awhile, came back, and said, “He's not on the street; he took his bus pass with him.”
     “I don't care,” I said.
     “How can you say that?”
     “Because I don't.” An hour and a half passed while I read to Jaren and Pene. I knew Braden was too chicken or timid to do anything scary-ass foolish and I wasn't about to let Deanne go drive around looking for him. The worst he'd do, I reasoned, was get on a circle-island bus route and come back late. Or go to the police and grouse to them about us. “He'll learn,” I figured and prayed that God would convict him.
     Deanne, still upset, suggested we give him more leeway with activities.
     I explained, “This is another of his dumb, sounds-like-fun activities that has no bearing on anything, just like rifle squad and Rangers—it's not his thing. What he needs is friends to hang out with on weekends. I'd let him stay out to ten at night or later.” (I'd reviewed a parental advice book after reading to the kids and it said by age thirteen, the author's son was allowed to stay out that late on weekends with friends, which sounded reasonable for sixteen-year-old Braden to me.) “Or if he showed me a course syllabus that stated, '80% of graduates of this class enter the military at a higher level classification...' Or said, 'There's this girl I like; I want to spend more time with her...' Or, 'My buddies are going, can I hang out with them?; I want to invite one over to the house...' I'd be more inclined to reconsider, but as things stand, no, he's got to man-up to his responsibilities and learn to take disappointment like a man, not a six-year old. His reaction was way disproportionate. In two years, I want him out of here if he continues this way. I'm preparing him for that day. That's my goal. And he's running out of time fast.”
     “But don't you think-.”
     “No! I'm not going to argue with you about it—that's not going to help. Pray for God's peace. That's all we can do right now.” And I told her as I prepared for bed at 8:00 not to shout at him when he got home.
     The knocks on the door came at 8:30. I opened the door and he looked calm and restored.
     “Where were you?” I asked.
     “Walking up and down the street.”
     “No,” mumbled Deanne from the living room.
     “Which street?”
     He named streets nearby, but not ours.
     “Okay,” I said in rising pitch to signal disgust, and let him in.
     I later told Deanne I was going to give him a pass on this one and next morning told him, “Next time I tell you walk up and down the street I mean our street. If you want to go anywhere else, you have to tell us. We have to know your whereabouts at all times.”
     “Yes, Dad,” he said.
     I realize that occasional fits from teens are normal and healthy. Mostly I thank God for keeping me fairly calm through the whole ordeal even as a part of me was edging toward panic, which would have been dumb and unproductive.

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