I am firm believer in Fate. I’m an equally firm believer that we can alter our Fate depending on the path we choose. Sometimes we know when to make that change and sometimes Fate decides to give us a heads up to say “HEY – You there ! There are two paths you can go by and right now you, my friend, are running down the wrong path in two left shoes with a broken compass.” This past weekend, to paraphrase the estimable Forrest Gump: Fate. Showed. Up. For the faint of heart, this isn’t a short story.
I was supposed to go to camp with my Girl Guides this fateful weekend. In the six years I’ve been a leader, I’ve never missed a camp. That’s mostly because I’ve planned them but I also really enjoy it. Three days of fun in the great outdoors watching girls grow and learn and make friends. I’m sure Fate is floating about there somewhere providing a girl with a little nudge but I like to think the leaders play a role in that as well. As it turned out, we needed a First Aider to attend camp and the one leader that had it, had an obligation this weekend. Fate stepped in and made other plans and I stayed home instead.
Now this wasn’t a completely bad thing as I have had family visiting from England for two weeks. As the main driver and finder of things to do for this trip, I was disappointed about not going to camp but knew it was for the best. It was during a trip with the family that Fate showed me the reason why I didn’t go to camp. As we scouted for waterfalls and photo-ops in Waterdown, my phone rang. It was the middle of the afternoon and with my job hunt in high gear I had high hopes that the voice on the other end was going to ask for an interview. When the voice on the other end introduced himself as Officer Smith of the Halton Police, I knew this wasn’t going to be the great phone call I had hoped for.
Officer Smith was calling about my son. He assured me that Thomas was fine. He assured me that it wasn’t “that kind” of phone call that every parent dreads and where I would end up a puddled mess. But my son had made some bad choices. My son had engaged in some behavior that needed to be addressed. You’d expect, especially for those that know me well, that my son was going to get the biggest ass-kicking when I got home. That no one, not even Fate, was going to be able to step in and save him. Strangely though, I didn’t react that way. For some reason, I knew that this was a life changing moment for all of us. I knew that Fate was providing an opportunity for me to make an impression on my son. Once I got home and finished mentally processing everything I’d been told, I made a decision. I was going to take my son to jail.
Now this might seem extreme to some but when you have a kid with challenge’s sometimes extreme is the only way to give Fate a hand. I contacted Officer Smith and asked if he would meet with my son. He readily agreed. I joked and asked if he was a big, scary guy at which point he advised he was only 5’6″ but would do his best. I figured with a gun at his side, that would balance things out. Initially Officer Smith was going to come to my home but I changed my mind and made the choice to drive Thomas to the local police station. Since Fate had decided to give me this chance, I was going to blow it up to epic levels.
We arrived at the police station at 915am Saturday morning. This was right around the time I should have been happily scampering about camp meeting new Guiders and Scouters. I should have been watching my girls in their activities and getting ideas for our unit. What was I doing ? Fate decided I would watch this massive tree of a man (sneaky Officer Smith) lead my son to an interrogation / interview room. We spent the next two hours with Officer Smith as he described for my son what life is like in prison, what life is like in group homes, what impact Thomas’ actions were having on his family and his life and that this was where he was going to end up if he didn’t choose a better path. I allowed this officer to describe, quite graphically, what life would be like as somebody’s girlfriend in prison. When I say blow it up, I mean blow it up though no pun intended in this instance.
Then I made an even harder decision: I asked Officer Smith to take my son to a jail cell. I will forever have the image of my son standing in the strip search room and being told what “bend and cough” means. I will forever have the image of my son inside a jail cell, sitting on the cold hard bench that could be his bed. I will forever have the image of my son being taken through the booking procedure and told explicitly how he would be scrutinized and treated. I even made him read out loud the sign on the door regarding prisoner transfer and advised him that if he didn’t pull his head out of his butt, he too, would be called a prisoner. He needed to step up and help change his Fate. I would have given anything for a S’More to deal with the stress of this morning.
I will own that I held it together quite spectacularly through out this little ordeal. I realize that I orchestrated the meeting but had my son not engaged in preventable behavior, I would have been spared the images and conversations and the reality that they represent that are now engraved in my memory. Once the meeting was over, I thanked Officer Smith, who clocks in at a respectable 6’7″ to my 5’2″, and assured him that this meeting would be beneficial to all concerned. He gave me his card and told me I was doing an amazing job. That he’d never seen a parent do what I had done that day. That he could see my son was a good kid and just needed some help. I took that as hope that I’d been successful in assisting Fate to put my son on the right path.
On our way home, my steely veneer crumbled quite spectacularly. Full on tears rolling down my face with nose running and staggered, choking words delivered to my son. I advised him, that in no uncertain terms, he would remember this day for the rest of his life because I surely would. He would remember that I had to take him to jail. He would remember the feeling of that cold, hard jail cell bench. He would remember that once that jail cell door closed, he would not be able to open it and I would not be able to protect him any more. Fate must have stepped in again because for the life of me I cannot remember all that I said but I know my son will remember my crying, distraught face. And he will remember my last words to him which were, “You will remember that if you break my heart, you will not be able to fix it. Ever.” At this point he was having his 2nd or 3rd cry of the morning so I believe the point was made.
This situation is what we call a teachable moment. It’s one of the things I love about being a Girl Guide leader. That chance to be involved with personal growth as kids navigate life changes and hard decisions. It’s what I love about camp: all those teachable moments. As a parent, I do this all the time. It’s my job and one I take very seriously as you can tell. As a leader, it’s what I choose to do to give back to my community. I think Fate had a hand in putting me in this role as a parent and as a leader and definitely did this weekend. Perhaps without a hard-ass for a mom, my son would already be lost on a path with no one to guide him out, tie his shoes and fix his compass. While I missed fun memories with the girls, which leaves its own sting of regret, Fate knew my son needed me more this weekend. His story is still to be written and it will take as long as it takes. If you got to the end of this long post, thank you. Lucky for Thomas, his momma isn’t faint of heart either.Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.