Saturday, May 17, 2008

A conversation with my son (if he'd only listen...)

Dear Son,

I wish that what I've learned from my youth could be passed on to you. I wish that you be willing to listen to me. While you think I have no idea what it's like to be a teenager, I do.

This morning, I blew a fuse when I saw that you had over drafted the bank account that I created for you. I did that to make my life a little easier-- so that I could transfer your weekly stipend at the touch of a button. You see, son, I don't have time to jump out of my desk and to drive to a bank to make a deposit. I'm busy working, five days a week, 9 hours a day.

I feel helpless as a mom. It frustrates me to see that you cannot focus on TODAY.

I see this every workday, son. Remember, I work at a high school. I see honor students who forget to bring an important paper to me until the last hour of the last day, because "they forgot". I deal with parents who drive to the school to deliver forgotten lunches, important homework, a jacket because the weather is too cold... and, to be honest-- it frustrates me. These parents don't realize how these interruptions are an inconvenience to me (it takes away from doing my job) and to the teachers-- whose classes are interrupted when a messenger has to deliver something. Worse, they don't realize how they are enabling their own child by not letting them suffer the consequences of their actions.

I have not forgotten how limited a teenager's "world" is. It's all about what day the newest and best video game is going to hit the store. There's a party happening tomorrow night, and there is no way you're going to forget where it is, what time it is and who will be there. Life is boring, so you have to fill up your day planner with things to do-- play golf, hang out, hit the mall. Homework can wait-- you can do it during class the period before. Their parent's lifestyles have evolved into technology that you cannot seem to live without-- iPods, iPhones, cellphones, text messaging, the internet, MTV, concert tickets that cost more than my weekly grocery allowance. This generation of teenagers have it so good, that you don't know any differently. No wonder that most teens feel a sense of entitlement!

It's interesting how most teenagers make fun of the "dorks", "dweebs", "square bears"...whatever the label is that kids give to the students who do well, academically. I can also tell you, that I know a lot of these students. Those "dorks" are the future entrepreneurs who stand a better chance of making an easier transition into this world. The more that I get to know the very students that you made fun of, they are great kids. They want to get the most out of their education, because they have ambitions.

In truth, son, it took a while for me to accept that you were not going to "walk" with our class of 2006 to receive a high school diploma. I am relieved, though, that you finally completed high school at an adult school. I still hope you would be the first "kin" to have a college degree. However, I have modified my hope for you dramatically.

What truly matters to me, now, is that you will find a way to focus your life on what's important-- and when you do, you will find true joy.

Life isn't easy, and God has never promised that to us. What God promises us is that he is with us during times of trouble. I think that people become angry at God when they don't get what they want. The fact is, that God has a perfect plan for each and every one of us. He gave us, each, free will. We also forget that there is a dark force that wants to entice us into making choices that are not God's will-- he is the Enemy, Satan, The Devil, The Fallen Angel...whatever you want to call him. He is temptation. The only force stronger than evil is good-- and God is good, He is perfect. I finally figured that out when you were about 14 years old. I had been led to believe, by "religion" that God is an angry God and that I cannot measure up to his standards. Until I found the right church, a bible study group and a radio show (Pastor Greg Laurie), I never realized how much God wants to forgive us and to bless our lives. He is not only the God of second chances-- he's the God of a zillion those who are willing to admit our wrongs and who desire to change our ways. That is what repentance is all about.

I am blessed, son. That's because I finally realized that material things are not true blessings. It was at the time that I was on the verge of losing my business, scraping together my rent money at the last hour, and not being able to afford basic necessities-- that I realized I could still feel joy. I learned to forgive, and I found peace. That's when I finally understood that God will give us joy, even when we are hurting, if we ask for it and we believe. I get it!

My joy came from appreciating what I had, and taking care of it. I no longer resented people who had more money than I did. Instead, I learned to be creative and resourceful.
Do you remember all the fun times we had with your Uncle and cousin? I can remember how much fun we had hiking in the redwoods... bonfires at the beach... watching you try to catch fish at a beautiful creek where we all walked with our pants hitched to our knees?

Those were great times. It cost us very little money. What mattered was that we were together as a family.

Since then, I have learned that it's okay to sacrifice buying something I really couldn't afford and staying at home. For eleven years, I struggled to make ends meet. Just last year, by working two jobs, I have paid off my debt. I am free!

That's why I worry about what I see you doing-- you are borrowing money to pay off other debts. You are shackled in owing money, and you are living a lifestyle that you want-- but that you cannot afford. You have not learned how to manage money, and that worries me sick.

I wish that you didn't have such a need to be on the move, every day. You are addicted to driving around. You can't sit still. Fun doesn't have to cost money. Boy, did I ever have to learn that as a single mom. Still, we had fun.

Finding a full-time job is something that you need to do when you are not working your part-time job or attending a daily meeting. I applaud you for going to meetings-- but are you applying what the 12-steps are all about? Or, are the meetings your social network to meet other people?

At my age, and maturity in life-- I try to focus each morning in prayer. I find comfort and wisdom when I pray each morning-- I thank God for another day as a gift of life from Him.
I ask God to give me direction and guidance for the day. I count my blessings, and they are many. I talk to God...I tell Him what I'm worried about. I pray for other addicts who are struggling to stay clean. I pray for the parents of addicts, whose hearts are broken. I pray for people who have asked me to pray for them. When I pray, from my heart, I feel peace and strength.

I have found a routine in my life, and I'm not bored. When I want to buy something that I really want...I write it down on my wish list. I have an emergency savings and I set side money for my wish list. I've waited months before buying something on my wish list, but I pay cash. I don't buy from my wish list until I've paid for things that are non-negotiable-- food, gas, housing, medical and emergency savings. I tithe money for God's kingdom, even if I could use that money. I see my money as God's blessing to me. He has returned that blessing tenfold. Money has shown up in ways that I've never expected. I believe that's God's work. I have peace in my life, financially.

That's all I wish for you, my son. Peace and joy, because God loves you. Maybe, one day, I can have this conversation with you and it will all make sense. For now, my words would fall on deaf ears to you. I suppose I'm one of countless parents who feel the same.

Addendum: I started writing this entry around 7:30am. B called me at 7:45am, and he sounded very depressed. He was upset when I told him that I wasn't coming up today. I just knew that would happen-- he failed to call me until the last moment. Did I mention that he called me at 7:00 last night because he had a dangerously low blood sugar (he's diabetic) and he wanted me to "wire" money immediately? I told him "no" and that even if I wanted to... I was in a restaurant. He said he'd call me in an hour.... which turned into 12 hours later.

I tried my hardest to sugar-coat my words. I struggled to not sound like I was lecturing him. It was useless-- he is in "victim" mode and he has an excuse and reason for everything. I left things by telling him that he needed to find HIS way to track how much money he was spending from his debit card. I warned him that the next time he over drafted the account, that it would be closed.

I could hear his frustration mounting, and then the expletives started in. He accused me of talking to him like a 5 year old. I can't win. I hate the "F" word. I warned him that I could not talk to him if he was going to keep the "F" word came, and I had to hang up.

That hurts me more than words can express. After careful thought, I called his "Foster" home and spoke with "C". He said he'd call B and talk to him.

I went swimming for 1/2 hour which help to release my stress.

I just got a call from "C". He spoke with B and he agreed that he sounded very down. B is struggling in a difficult area to make ends meet. Already he's gotten three parking tickets, had his car towed and now a bank overdraft charge. He ran out of money in four days, instead of the seven he needed to make it stretch.

Yes, life is tough. But, the key (as I see it) is that you can either jump into the victim mode-- and blame everybody else...or you can be victorious, no matter what. You can choose to repeat your mistakes, or learn from them.

If there is one thing that anyone, who knows me, can say-- I'm a survivor. I don't give up. I have survived heartbreaking and painful divorces, bankruptcy, robbery, and having my hard-earned money swindled from me. Yet, I am in a happy and healthy relationship with my husband. He is my reward for all the men who have not treated me very well. I have been set free of getting involved with men who didn't love me for who I am.

I do believe that God doesn't give us more than we can handle. Out of the ashes come beauty, as the bible says.

My strength comes from God, my Heavenly Father.

I pray for peace in my life, today, and for my son. One day, I hope he will know the pain he has caused but that I still love him with all of my heart.

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