Pre-post note: This is a very serious subject, and my hope is that if even one person who reads this entry learns something new, my mistakes will not be in vain. And because I take this so seriously, I share no photos today, as to not detract from what I have to share. I pray that there are no judgments passed and that this entry is read with the sincere intent in which it is shared.
Court update in a nutshell: Today John had a court appearance to be arraigned for a misdemeanor crime committed by a minor. He now faces trial on June
1st. The judge appointed him a court ordered attorney; she entered a not-guilty
plea, in spite of the fact that John told her he was guilty of possession of marijuana. So we
take it from here.
A personal note: A sincere and heartfelt thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of the kind thoughts and prayers that have been said in our behalf. And a special thank you to Heather for texting me while I was waiting in the courtroom hallway close to hysterics, pacing back and forth for two full hours. Heather, I do so love you! Thank you for being my special BFF - you give me so much more than I will ever be able to reciprocate, and for that, I know I am blessed beyond measure.
And more special thank yous to every single person who took precious time out of their busy lives to comment on my last blog entry - you shared your hearts with me, and I was comforted by your words of kindness and support. I read each and every word and was uplifted and encouraged by everything you shared. Your words offered peace in a time of great need, and although I have not responded to your individual messages, I hold them dear to my heart... please know that when you shared your words, you lifted my spirits and gave me much needed courage.
The specifics in more detail: The judge talked to John about how serious the punishment would be if he pleads guilty: fine, community service, possible time served in juvenile detention center, potential expulsion from school, and loss of driver's license. John is prepared to pay the fine; he knows he will have to do community service. The detention center thing sort of blew his mind and scared the bejeevers out of him, as did the expulsion from school. But since John DOESN'T EVEN HAVE HIS DRIVERS PERMIT, let alone a driver's license - that part doesn't faze him. But the judge didn't want him to accept the [potential of] a full penalty without representation of an attorney - which will cost us a freaking fortune - so she entered the not-guilty plea and ordered a trial. Jeff is furious. I'm just sad. John is pretty quiet about it, but I've not really had a chance to talk with him since she gave her ruling. One of the kids who were involved in this whole mess (the driver of the car) didn't even show up! The cop was a no-show, too, and we are wondering if that may have something to do with her ruling?????
My observations after living this nightmare: I write this as the mother of a 17 and 18 year old, and I share my story as my own way of putting it out there by offering a public service announcement in regard to teenagers today, because to
be very honest, these are things I did not know until recently. These practices apply to middle school, high school, and college age children, who are our leaders of tomorrow, and our hope for the future. I had no idea these things were happening until this week, and thus, I believe that other parents may be as clueless as I was until my world fell apart. So here you go - my personal experience in all its gory details.
I preface the following by saying emphatically, "Good kids make bad choices. And, although bad choices are often part of growing up, parents need to be aware of the potential mistakes that can be made - whether it be due to peer pressure, depression, spur of the moment decisions, or just plain rite of passage." When we are talking about our own children, ignorance is not bliss. Education is, therefore, the key.
In the last week, I have learned that it is very common for kids to put the alcohol in everyday, common containers and take those common containers to school and to public places. Examples: vodka goes in a water bottle because it is clear, Kahlua goes in a to-go coffee cup because it looks like coffee, and the cool thing known as "puckers" (these are the vibrant colored liquors that are watered down) go in Gatorade bottles because it looks like a sports drink. The kids then openly carry these containers at school, at the mall, at the movie theaters, etc., enabling them to drink alcohol throughout the day. Rarely are they caught because they pass the containers around and they hide them in their backpacks and their purses; often they even don't try to hide them... but rather carry them proudly out in the open as a way to look cool, be cool, and get a buzz. However, the truth is that the kids are drinking these beverages boldly in the hallways of the school, in the public areas of the mall, and in plain sight elsewhere, because the containers actually look like everyday beverages and no one suspects otherwise. This is a BIG problem and it is becoming a very common practice among middle school, high school, and college age students. I had no idea. Now I know. But still... it takes me by surprise.
John's crime was in relation to possession of marijuana. However, the kids he was with when committing this crime were busted for possession of alcohol (vodka in a water bottle tucked inside a girl's purse), and I sincerely believe chances are that when there is one illegal substance, there will be others, and that all illegal substances can lead to a road of [potential] destruction. The kids who smoke pot most certainly hang with the kids who drink. And to believe that one activity is exclusive of the other is equal to hiding a head in the sand. As a parent of two teens, I refuse to hide my head in the sand. My eyes are wide open, and now I have to figure out what to do with this information... and believe me, it's not easy, because this is out of my realm of experience. I'm sort of grasping at straws with this new-found information.
And so I am sharing these things, not to air my dirty laundry, but because today weighs heavy on my mind as I spent an entire morning - 4 long hours - in court with my 17-year-old son who was busted for possession of an illegal substance in January. As I said, today he pleaded guilty, but the judge did not accept his plea and she administered a NOT guilty plea... and so the kicker is that with an impending trial, this is just the beginning of a bad choice that John made back in January.
Trying to do the right thing when this happened, I did punish my son - I didn't allow him to test for his learner's permit, and he lost all "freedom" privileges, including having friends over, going to friends houses and dating. He also lost all source of income from me - I now give him ZERO money. He also has to undergo random drug and alcohol testing administered by me - via an Rx from his doctor that I requested by phone. Note that anyone can make this request, so if you have suspicions, make the request - be prepared, because to it is much better to be safe than sorry. I wish that I would have done this last year when my gut told me that "something" was off.
Anyway... I digress... that was it as far as punishment at home - those punishments seemed appropriate at that time, since he was home-bound and unable to attend high school due to his illness, and since the random drug testing now hangs over his head and is in his face every single day since he never
knows when I am going to stop at the lab and have him pee in a cup (and I have
done so... so these are not empty threats) - so in my mind, the punishment fit the crime; he is broke, he is without driving
privileges, he has lost my trust, and he is still stressing because these
things are only the beginning of his consequences.
Today, the punishment continued in that he had to spend the morning in court. He was so nervous that he was shaking. He chose to wear dress clothes with a tie as a show of respect for the court (his idea, not mine). And he took his earring out so that the judge would not form an opinion based upon his appearance (again, his idea, not mine). And still, the result of his poor decision now means that he has to go to trial - which is even more punishment all these months after the fact - all this for "possession" (he did test clean when the cops caught him - so he just had it in his possession... but that is still a misdemeanor).
And so when all is said and done, his punishment will be even more than ever imagined because he will have a fine to pay, perform community service, worry about possible expulsion from school, and there is a slim chance that he will have to spend time sleeping in a juvenile detention center. Additionally, he won't be
able to get his driver's license for 6 months after he applies. So by the time
he is finally able to drive, he will be well over 18 years old.
My take on this: his mistake, his
consequence. My prayer is that this will be a life lesson, because if I allow myself to think otherwise, I will fall apart, so I am holding tight to the consequences for actions theory. Am I mean? Possibly. But it is the only way I know how to approach this living nightmare.
One thing that seemed to be very effective in John's situation was when he witnessed me crying. I told him that I loved him unconditionally and that I understood that mistakes are made - but at the same time, I told him how very disappointed I was that he had chosen to make such a serious mistake. I then informed him that he had to earn back my trust and that it would take a lot of effort on his part for me to be able to trust him again. In turn, he cried, apologized, and toed the line (for how long... that is yet to be seen - because, to be very honest, I am extremely skeptical at this stage of the game).
John knows that I truly believe that good kids can make bad choices, and that I will always love him through thick and thin. But he also knows that, although I do not look at this as the end of the world, it most certainly dictates how the rest of his teen and high school years are going to be: court appearances, possibility of expulsion, community service, fines, loss of license, lack of trust, piss tests, and on and on it goes.
If one were to talk
to my son tonight, he would probably admit that it is just not worth it. But the question remains: will he still feel this way the next time temptation arises? Will he still consider consequences when actions at that moment in time sound so intriguing?
I think that temptations today are far more than we, as parents, ever faced. I also think that through the ages (even back in my time, which seems like 100 years ago) the problem with teens is that they never believe it will happen to them... they think they are immune to getting caught; invincible... they honestly believe they are invincible. And because of these natural teenage beliefs, there is just one single thing I hope comes of this mess: I want John to realize that NO ONE... NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON is immune to temptation, and it takes a courageous person to stand up and say no. When it comes to invincibility - saying no is the only way to assure that getting caught is not an option.
Lesson learned? Only time will tell.