Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.
My family had a trying week over the summer. Everyone does, but this one was extraordinary, and as tough as it was on us our family wasn’t directly involved. On Friday my wife texted me that as of midnight Bryce was a daddy. I couldn’t make sense of it. I knew my first cousin is expecting her second grandchild (and still waiting for any of her kids to get married), but she doesn’t have a Bryce and it’s nowhere near time for that baby. The only Bryce I knew is the guitarist in Austin’s band, and as far as I knew his girlfriend wasn’t pregnant.
Shows how much I know—or most people, it seems. Yep, these two high-school seniors are now parents. Austin had not told us because he didn’t want us to have to face Bryce’s parents and not tell them. As it turns out, that might have been for the best, because when Bryce called to tell his parents they could come see their grandchild, they threw him out of the house. He went to stay with his girlfriend’s dad, who is elated with the news.
Big deal? Of course not. Old story, common story. It surprised me a little, but not too much, because I would have guessed Bryce’s folks would be pretty conservative about such a thing. So why do I mention it?
The previous Saturday, not quite a week earlier, my wife took a phone call from another of my son’s friends, his best friend in fact. He was calling in tears to tell us his twin brother was going to prison. It seems he and another teenager had broken in to the home of a couple the second boy knew. I don’t know many more details and it doesn’t matter, because the boys killed the couple. The victims’ families want the boys executed.
This kid, and his twin brother, have stayed at my house, eaten with us. A few years ago their family was in particularly bad shape and we got together a Christmas dinner and gifts for them. Bryce, of course, has been at our house often, stayed over, rides the bus with my son. I feel like all these kids are mine when they’re in my care, and I feel responsible for them when they’re not because I know we’ve had some influence in their lives.
Naturally, then, we feel a measure of failure when a kid we’ve known for so long goes to prison and possibly worse. In Bryce’s case I’m more concerned for his future than anything else, but I realize he’s never been devoted to school, even though he and his girlfriend are staying in class. Honestly, I hope the whole band makes it and school becomes less relevant. I’ve told my son repeatedly that it’s better to play for a living than work.
But what’s the point of all this? The bulk of that week I was in a mild state of shock, knowing that this boy who had been part of our family, at least to some extent, had gone so far off the rails of society. Then, a baby is born. Conventionally, that should be a moment of joy, a celebration of the continuation of life. But the child’s grandparents turn on their own son, disown him, basically act as if he’s done the worst thing he could do.
Well, based on events I can easily point out, he didn’t. It’s all caused me to re-examine how I treat my kids and to rethink how people I know may react when the unexpected hits them. I am certainly trying harder to keep perspective. A- on an algebra test? Looks good to me. Thanks again, Christopher, for helping remind me what’s really important.