I remember clearly the night I decided to walk out on my first marriage. I weaved between the buildings of our Arizona apartment complex in the dark of night, sobbing as only a broken teenage girl can. I clutched the handset of a payphone and held it against my cheek, eyes closed. I swallowed my pride. And then I dialed.
“Mom,” I whispered into the phone. “I need to come home.”
I thought about that yesterday morning, when I logged onto the computer to check airfare for my boy after a late night text, a plea for help and a photo. No doubt he deserved the beating…brought it on himself, I’m sure of it…and though I’d like to finish the job when I see him, a mama’s stomach curls at the site of her childs battered face…regardless. I thought about this boy when he came to us at nine and how I promised to keep him safe from all he’d been through. I thought about myself at nineteen and the long list of reasons my parents had to give up on me. I thought about the risk my parents took when they bought me that one-way ticket home. The unconditional leap of faith they took in their wayward child, time and time again. And I clicked purchase.
After all, sometimes we all need a do-over.
I wonder where the limit lies. Where that fine line between enabling and helping hides. There must be one. They tell us when we become parents that we’ve eighteen years ahead of us but perhaps those of us who adopt older children have a longer sentence. Or maybe it never ends. Maybe I don’t really want to relinquish control. And maybe it’s harder for the parent to let go…than it is for the child to walk away.
Billy left home a year ago yesterday and like most of us, has learned a few hard lessons along the way. Or at least I hope he has learned. Next week he’ll be back with us for the winter. A chance to rethink, refresh and rehab from the harsh world of adulthood. At nineteen he is on the brink of too old to cuddle but the kids are excited to have their brother back with us. And truth be told, so am I.