Happy Eighteenth Birthday to my “New Son.”

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At some point, things change unexpectedly in your job.  You find yourself settled in a new school, with a new age group of kids, who throw you totally off kilter.  In the bunch there is that one kid.  The one who makes you crazy, the one who can only sit still for about 45 seconds, yet is so endearing, so innocent of guile.  You spend your first two years in middle school with him as a constant backdrop, trying to figure out how he will not completely throw everyone else off.  In the winter you attend his basketball games, because no one else does, and you find that, along with keeping your frustration level high, he has captured your heart.

You keep him in your class in eighth grade, in the academic college preparation class, not because he is appropriate for it, but because he wants so much to be there.  When he leaves at the end of the school year, he confides that his aunt has threatened to put him in foster care.  She says she just can’t handle him.  You tell him to contact you if that ever is about to really happen.  You will take him in before allowing him to go to strangers.  And you wonder how this could even be a thought in anyone’s mind.  But you forget about it, and almost forget about him for the next two years.  You run into his aunt and she tells you that he’s moved in with a different aunt, and is going to a different high school, but that’s all you hear.

Until one day there is a private message waiting on Facebook.  Just a hello. From that kid, that certain kid.  You say hello back and comment that he must be about to start his Junior year in high school and he responds, “Yeah, if I go back to school I’ll be a Junior.”  Wait.  If?

You ask what the “if” means and the story he tells you does not involve his going to school; without hesitation you reply that if he wants to finish high school he can come and live with you. He doesn’t respond for a day or so, and you send another message and say you’re sorry if you freaked him out.  He should just keep the offer in the back of his mind, as one of his choices.  Finally he responds, “Why would you want me if my own family doesn’t?”  And within a few days he and his duffle bag of possessions have moved into your home.

At that point you decide you should probably tell your other, adult, children of what you’ve done.  They react in a way that confirms your faith in their hearts and their goodness.  They call him “New Son” and treat him as their younger brother.  They give you advice about what gifts and clothing he will probably like, and how to make him feel more at home and confident of his place in it, even when he makes mistakes.  He is their new brother and they all stand up for him.

After a few months of calling you his guardian, he suddenly tells a person in authority that you’re his mom, and you both agree that “mom” sounds better than “guardian.”  One day you’re talking with him about your other children, and he tells you, “Yes, you’re their mom, but right now I need you to be my mom.” And in a moment of clarity you realize that you and your family have unalterably grown for the better in the time he’s been with you. Like all children, he has truly been a gift, sent from a place that is beyond your control.  All you had to do was open the door of your heart and your home and accept the gift and it was yours.  We truly do receive all we need, if only we are able to accept it.

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4 thoughts on “Happy Eighteenth Birthday to my “New Son.”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love your very essence and this really chokes me up…thanks so much for writing. happy Birthday, Alex!

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