A Waffle House at 3:00am.

Saw this article this morning, and I started thinking…..https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1232636725882540038&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwqth.wordpress.com%2F2020%2F02%2F26%2F20200226-raising-young-men%2F&siteScreenName=wordpressdotcom&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

Discussion welcome. Can’t wait to see what you guys think.
Here, we have a Police Officer who arrested a 6yr old girl in school. She threw a tantrum, kicked and screamed. Officer picked her up from school (obviously someone at school called the police), charged her with misdemeanor battery, fingerprinted the little girl at the police station, before the state atty said she would drop the charges and let her go into Grandma’s custody. Of course, Grandma is mad and will probably sue the police department.
Officer also arrested another 6yr old boy.
The Officer was fired for not getting the approval of Watch Commander for arresting a child under age 12. What happened to common sense? Why is all this activity necessary? Is it because we turned over the job of parenting our children to the state? Cuz………., that’s what I’m seeing.

Personally, I see this as a waste of Police Officer’s time, coupled with a new and alien phase of teachers who are afraid to discipline students in a classroom. AND bad parents. BUT, let’s stop and think about it. Who really knows what goes on behind closed doors and the struggles therein? Are we judging without knowing? Probably.

Here’s the other side of the story. I confess. I had a stepson who decided he wanted to run away from home. He was about 8yrs old at the time, trying to bluff me, and I knew it. I said, “Okay, fine. Your father and I will miss you but we understand how you feel……”, which left him quite confused. I can’t even remember why he was mad, but I helped him pack up his little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle suitcase he used to take to grandma’s when he spent the night.
I shook his hand goodbye at the back door.
Gheez, he was a stubborn kid.

He took off across the parking lot at the school next door, walking real slow and dragging his feet. He kept looking over his shoulder, waiting for me to capitulate and come after him.
I didn’t move – I was committed, but I could still see him.
About 10 minutes into the event but with stepson still in eyesight, Grady drove up, local police officer. He stopped to say hello every time I was watering my flowers.
I told him about my problem with stepson and told Grady to go and arrest him.
Grady was surprised, at first. Yet, it was a Sunday afternoon, he wasn’t busy in our little township, and with a sly grin, he understood my dilemma, completely.
Grady wheeled his car around, turned on the blue lights, and went to “arrest” my stepson. No handcuffs, we agreed.

Within 5 minutes, I met them both at the police station, which is also in eyesight of our house.
Stepson knew he was in BIG trouble.
Never had another problem……
Don’t ever bluff a Momma.
Of course, we teased my stepson about “the time he ran away” with great regularity over the years, but that boy always pushed my limits.

Flash forward, stepson about age 14-15.

He had a girlfriend in a neighboring county who was a superb young woman. We encouraged their dating even though the distance was a problem, and neither kid could drive. On a Saturday night, I took off from home about 11:00pm, and went to pick him up from a “date”….. quiet and dark roads. No traffic at all.
We struck up a conversation on the way home.
I asked him about his date. He had fun, but something was off.
We rode for a while in silence, and then he blurted out his problem.
His best buddy, Alex, had run away from home.
“What?”, I said, and my back stiffened.

Alex was like my own kid. Alex’s mother was a dear friend to me, owned a successful biz around the corner from our house. The boys had been best friends since cub scouts. When Alex had problems with step-dad, he lived with us for months on end – which really wasn’t all that different because he was at our house all the time anyway.
But this time Alex had run away for real.

Alex had called my step-son, during his date, and Alex was afraid, calling out for help, but unwilling to call his mother. Stepson was giving me details, fast and furious, but in no particular order, and I was trying to keep up with the story.
My stepson was visibly upset.
Alex was still stubborn and “in over his head”.
I asked my stepson “WHY” was Alex afraid?
Within a nano-second, “Where is Alex?” I was wide awake, and readjusting in my seat by then….
The answer came, “Well, Alex has been living in a hay barn, just south of St Louis.” Me, at lightning speed by then, “Almost 300 miles away!!??” From stepson, “Yeah, he was working for a farmer, but season was over….. threw him off the property….. refused to pay him….. didn’t have any money…..can’t live there anymore……”
Stepson was sad, he missed his friend, but understood the problems.
“A hay barn????”, at that point, I think my stepson was wondering if he made a mistake by telling me. I could tell my stepson was having a difficult time with this, and I stopped, backed up, calmed down, asap.
I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of Alex in a hay barn. I rubbed his shoulder and said, “Honey, it’s going to be close to 30 degrees tonight, cold outside and even colder in Missouri. What the heck was he thinking?”
“I don’t know, mom”, said my stepson.

Silence for a few minutes. My brain was running at full tilt. There was no possible way, no possible ulterior motive nor condition which existed, where I could leave Alex alone. No, no way….. no matter what the repercussions. No.

We turned onto the interstate for our last leg of the trip home to our house, and I turned north, instead of south.
“What are you doing, mom?”
“We’re going to get Alex…….”, I said.
Objections, loud objections, “Mom, you can’t interfere”
From me, “The hell I can’t!”

I called June, my friend and Alex’s mom, and woke her up. She explained the situation. Alex was a brilliant, rich, insanely handsome and stubborn young man…. which I already knew. And she had told him to call her when he was ready to come home, but he was defiant. He was unwilling to call, to capitulate, and it was killing her, but she had made her stand and her husband was a bigger part of the problem, throwing gas on the fire.
I told her I was going to get him and they could work it out later.
She was actually relieved.
Then, I called my husband. He insisted on coming with us, but I refused to come home and pick him up. He didn’t have the personality for what lay ahead. He was furious, but he was a strong man and intimidating. This….. hmmm, yeah, this needed a lighter touch.

My stepson called Alex, told him we were coming, and they talked back and forth several times…. to arrange where to meet.
And off we went to St Louis….. in the middle of the night, fog rolling low of over the pastures, almost no traffic save the friendly semi-trucks, ….. we made great time.
We met Alex that night under an interstate bridge. I’ll never forget it. He didn’t want to be close to a gas station or attract any attention. He was only wearing a light jacket and had been gone for over 6 weeks. I thought to myself, “guilt”, how the heck could Alex be missing for 6 weeks and me not know about it? I was negligent and felt like a horrible mother. Then, I shamed myself for even considering my own feelings when others were far more urgent at the moment.

I just couldn’t imagine him living in a barn… alone….. and cold.

We got out of the car, Alex not quite knowing what to expect. I threw my arms round that kid, so happy to see him, alive and unharmed. No yelling, just grateful he was okay. Within 15 seconds he was sobbing into my shoulder.
His parents were multi-millionaires. Alex had every advantage and yet, he was a miserable kid in an impossible situation, just trying to find his way.
Amazing how an argument can start as nothing and blossom into a catastrophe.

But at 3:00am, a Waffle House run can cure what ails almost anyone. Those boys were so hungry.

Both boys fell asleep on the way home. They were almost grown men but huddled together in the back of the blue-bomb mini-van, sharing Grandma Della’s homemade afghan, like they used to do when they were little cub scouts.
I rode in silence, deeply humbled and relieved. There but for the grace of God, go I. I thought about June and what she was going through. I thought about how I would react if my stepson was 300 miles away, living in a barn, and cold. It made me react physically. I was shaking and white knuckled, gripping the steering wheel. The thought of what could have happened scared the heck out of me. Sigh…..

Gosh, I do admire an independent streak in a young man. It means they have spirit, which is the best thing we could ever give to a child. Certainly, I raised Gunner to be incredibly independent, and at times, wow, I have learned to regret it……..

I’ll admit, as a mom, whenever my husband would try to hover over the kids and limit activities, I would argue for independence, allowing them plenty of rope to test limits. In a small town, we could always rescue them if one got into too much trouble. My standard line was, “You know, if it was 200 yrs ago, by age 16, those boys would have a wife, maybe a child on the way, and 200 acres to farm.” and then turn to the child, “Of course I trust you, …..dear” ….. which was the kiss of death and meant they couldn’t screw up. It made them responsible adults. Normally, it worked.

Sometimes though, our terrific young men, they just need a little help, a little bit of space, neutral ground, and a 3:00am Waffle House run in Missouri.

By the time we reached Memphis, the sun was up and my husband was calling, anxious, making the boys even more apprehensive. Yet, he was legitimately worried about all of us. We arrived at home and he was waiting in the driveway. My first husband had the ability to LOOK at those boys, and they would immediately start crying. The boys were nervous and didn’t know what to expect from him. Slowly, they unfolded their stiff bodies from the mini-van. Were they in trouble? Going to be torn apart? Yet, I have to give my ex-husband credit. He handled it perfectly….. hugged them both hard, for a long time. He told them to get some sleep, take a shower, and everything would be okay.

And it was.

Only a man can understand an adolescent male, and the innate natural desire for a young man to stake a claim, stand for something – even if it’s wrong when they’re teenagers. It’s something a mom can’t do no matter how hard we try. It takes both parents to raise a young man. Sure, a lighter touch from mom is often needed because young men can go from an eight-year-old, to 40-year-old, and back to a 12-year-old, in the same conversation. A stern look from Dad, which can make a child crumble, is definitely necessary but comes in handy. Above all, a little bit of silence, no quick judgement, and plenty of long hard hugs make everything better, no matter how old they are.

When Alex returned to school, he was quite the legend. The stories of his nights “on the lamb” and our midnight run to Missouri grew like exaggerated “fish stories” as the years passed. He was a handsome young fellow and the girls swooned around him. I rolled my eyes. He was the consummate bad boy. But a strange thing happened along the way….. Thankfully, my legend grew a little bit as well because it was part of Alex’s story. It went like this: “Because, No matter where you are, Miss Daughn will come and find you.” It was strange and liberating for the kids. It meant they had a sense of security, to step off of base…. The kids never did anything really bad, no gun-running or drug-dealing, but they had a feeling if they ever really got into trouble, they could call some one, like me, and magically, I could fix it if they were “in over their head”. In a weird way, it gave them more independence. Over the next dozen years, there were many phone calls, but nothing too severe.

As my own son, Gunner, grew up, he had thousands of miles of rope to test his independence. We kept thinking he would screw up, mildly, a little bit, and waited for it. Nothing. Straight as an arrow, that kid (which isn’t normal), …… until one time….. He called me at midnight from his dorm. He was quite upset, ranting and raving. I tried to calm him down to no avail. He cried and sobbed, inconsolably. After an hour, he hung up on me.

What? My son had never hung up on me. What was going on? I woke Big T up and he was concerned as well. It was unlike Gunner. Big T was pacing the floor and suggested we drive down to his high school/college, about 200 miles away. I nodded, but thought I should go alone, again, over his objections….. softer touch, save the big guns for when we need them. I couldn’t sleep anyway, took a shower, and started driving. I woke Gunner up, in his dorm, at 5:00am. “Mom, what are you doing here?”, he said, embarrassed. I looked at him and squinted, “Because no matter where you are, I will FIND you.” and then, “You want to tell me what’s going on?” It was hormones, over-reaction, thinking too much and caring what other people think too much. He was lonesome and had lost perspective. I took him to the grocery store and restocked his little fridge. He was fine……………

We went to Waffle House for breakfast…. because sometimes….. you need a Waffle House run.

And I let the rope out again…………

Kids are tough, but being a young man in today’s world is far more difficult. It migh take all of our effort, but being a mom is the best job I’ve ever had. Why would any parent trust the bureaucracy with such an important job?

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3 thoughts on “A Waffle House at 3:00am.

  1. Another great story with deep meaning. Have missed your stories for a while. Glad you are OK. At least, hope so!

  2. Okey-dokey…..

    Glad to see some activity. If you decide you’re back, we’ll be back.

    Hoping that all has worked out in the present for you.

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