31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Dad Acquieses, Justin Arrives Back Home!

Single With Children: Selfless parenting resolves situation

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 06/25/03

"So Mom, how long do you think it would take me to walk home from Tampa?" my son casually asked me during a phone call a couple of weeks ago.

Of course, I didn't take him seriously. I mean, his grades have greatly improved, so I knew he could do the math. He wasn't due to return home from visiting his Dad until July 20, but after the first week wore off, he found himself in a strange city, missing his friends, his car, his room, his cats, his dog and what is his life for most of the year.

I won't deny that I went to bed a little unsettled that night. I kept thinking he was too reasonable to really contemplate such a thing, but this tiny little doubt had me rattled. He is, after all, the magically invincible age of 161�2, even though thus far he's used fairly admirable good sense.

It's a dilemma that a lot of noncustodial parents face when their older offspring build a life in another city with the things that teenagers treasure most: Hanging with their friends.

I talked privately to his dad, and he agreed that our son was pining for long summer days skateboarding with his best friends, driving around in each other's cars, checking out movies (and girls!).

Justin was treading tenderly because he loves his dad very much. Fortunately, his dad took none of this personally. He remembered being 16 and how important it was to do all of the things that Justin was missing. Rather than feel offended, he employed compassion and understanding, realizing it was no reflection on their relationship. He also assured me that Justin didn't have a knapsack full of sandwiches ready to take on the road.

As the days went on, Justin told me he planned to set out for his "walk" and that he would probably see me sometime on Sunday morning, by his calculation. He said he would be tired from such a long journey but was sure to gain a few extra miles by hitchhiking - just what every mother wants to hear.

I talked to him on the phone the Friday before he was to arrive from his walk. He again said he would see me Sunday. I laughed and told him to be careful of alligators and strangers offering candy. I was pretty certain he was simply teasing me.

Sunday morning, around 8:30 a.m., my mom reported that Justin had called saying he was just seeing how everyone was doing. Mom found it strange that Justin, a young man who gets up at the crack of noon, would be lucid enough to talk at such an "early" hour. I found that kind of strange as well. About two hours later I heard someone burst through the side door and in came Justin sporting a huge grin and hugs for everyone.

It turns out that his dad had changed his airline ticket so he could return home a few weeks early and when Justin actually called, he was not at home "bored," but in the Atlanta airport waiting for his next flight. He had called one of his friends to pick him up at the airport so the surprise would be complete. We were all stunned to see him and happy to collect the hugs.

Of course, I immediately called his dad, who had been in on the ruse from the beginning. He said after considering how lonely Justin had been during the day, hanging around the house and knowing absolutely no one, he decided it was only fair to let him return home and that he would schedule a few "mini-vacations" to be with him before school started back up. I could only smile because I realized that in letting Justin come home early, my former husband was extending a very special kind of love to our son with absolutely no guilt attached.

I am sure that when Justin and his dad and stepmother get together in the next few weeks when they can really spend some time together, they will all have a great time. His dad turned a situation that could have potentially resulted in resentment into something positive and allowed him to even have some fun in springing a surprise on us. What a sterling example of selfless parenting.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

Click here to return to story:

© The Amarillo Globe-News Online

No comments: