It’s been an emotionally exhausting couple of days for me. I thought I had left broken hearts behind with high school, but it turns out your own kids can break your heart worse than any stupid teenage crush.
Last summer, just a week before Justis was supposed to come home from summer visitation with his mom, she called us to let us know that Justis would be staying with her going forward. No discussion about it. Just “he wants to live here now so that’s how it’s going to be.” We were, of course, pretty upset by this. We felt it was in his best interest to stay with us for many reasons. Plus we were pissed that we just being told, not given the chance to discuss it.
Supposedly the two of them had been talking about it since before the school year even ended. But nobody had the balls to discuss it with Lee until the end of summer. We suspected that Justis wanted to move because we had come down pretty hard on him about his school work at the end of his sophomore year. We had even gone to school with him a couple of times and caught him in lies about his schoolwork. He was embarrassed and angry by this. We firmly believed that allowing him to move in with his mother would be teaching him to run away from his problems and not be responsible for himself or accountable for his actions. So Lee said “absolutely not” and, after we got our lawyer involved, Justis’ mother didn’t pursue it any further.
But she never gave up on the idea. A couple times this year she told Lee she really wanted Justis to move back with her next year (for his senior year of high school). Before Justis went to visit his mom for Christmas Lee talked to him about moving. He told him if he really wanted to move, really thought through the options, the pros and cons, and decided he wanted to move, we wouldn’t stop him this year. But it had to be something we all discussed together before he left for summer visitation. Justis agreed that it wasn’t handled very well last year and he would think about it.
A little over a month ago my grandmother asked Justis what he was doing next year. He said he was planning on staying here. I said, “Really? I’m glad to hear that.” He said, “Yeah, I just decided it makes more sense to finish school here.” So I thought it was settled and we didn’t need to worry about it anymore.
Then last Wednesday night we got in to an argument. Lee and Justis had already gotten in to it about the car. Lee felt like Justis wasn’t taking very good care of it. And then I discovered that Justis had skipped class a couple of times. After really stepping it up and doing awesome the first part of this semester, Justis really started to slip about 6 weeks ago and his grades are suffering. In fact he will definitely fail at least two classes this semester. He got mad that we were on his back about it and stormed out of the house telling us he wasn’t coming back. Nothing serious. Just your typical argument with a teenager. Or so we thought.
While he was gone he called his mother for support. She convinced him to come back home for now and told him he would just move in with her this summer.
The next day she called Lee and told him we are too hard on Justis. He’s like her and will just run away if we hound him too much. Then she said she’s trying to convince him to go in to the military after high school because she thinks that will help him. (
When Justis got home from school we had a sit down with him to talk about the events of the night before.
I said, “What are our expectations for you?”
He replied, “Do my best in school. Get my chores done. And stay out of trouble.”
“Are you doing those things?” I asked.
He acknowledged his role in this. We talked about what we could do better. And everything seemed good. He told us he wanted to stay here. He had already talked to his school counselor about what he needed to do to still graduate next year. A morning P.E. class. And an extra history class independent study. Back on track.
But then he called his mother. And he changed his mind. “She really wants me to move back in with her.” I asked him why he was changing his mind. He said, “Because I get along with her better. She and I can talk about anything. She raised me for 12 years so I know her better.” (Which is something that came right from her mouth because she said that exact same thing to me a while back when I was talking to her — although to be technical it was only 11 years.)
As disappointed as we are and as bad a decision as we think it is, we aren’t going to fight them on it this year. He’s 17-years-old. It’s time for him to make his own decisions. And suffer the consequences of those decisions, should there be any. It’s time to let him go.
But it’s hard. I’m sad.
I’m sad he’s leaving. We’ll miss his smile. We’ll miss his laughter. We’ll miss his sense of humor. We’ll miss his company. It won’t feel right to be on family outings without him. Our family won’t be complete.
I’m sad he says he doesn’t know us as well as his mother. We’ve loved him his whole life. And we’ve raised him for the last six years. We’ve tried to do everything in our power to give him the tools he needs for success at school and in life. We’ve tried to teach him the important lessons. We’ve sat and had many, many, many conversations with him. Both heated and not. We’ve celebrated his important milestones. We’ve made him promises and we’ve kept those promises.
But that’s not enough.
So for the last four days I’ve been on the verge of tears. Because I’m not very good at letting go.