Growing Pains

When he wasn’t griping about how late we were, he was griping about my driving. Stone wrecked the truck his senior year of high school and was dependent on me for rides to school in the mornings. We were often late leaving, and I drove fast to make up for it. Stone got better about getting up and ready, but I didn’t, and I heard about it too loud and for too long.

It was an ordinary Monday morning. After angry words all the way to the car—“Do you know what time it is? What are you doing that takes so f-ing long?”—I said calmly, “I’ll be glad to drive you when you can talk to me respectfully.” I looked straight ahead as I spoke, sitting motionless in the driver’s seat, stealing myself for the fallout I knew was coming.

Stone punched the door beside him and swore, “Are you kidding me? What’s wrong with you?” he complained. ” I’m going to be late to school, and it’s going to be ALL YOUR FAULT!”

“No, it’s going to be all your fault—I’m ready to go. We’ve got time to get there if you control your mouth. I’m not going anywhere until you stop talking to me this way.”

“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU! THIS IS INSANE!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. “Just f-ing drive me to school! NOW!” I was silent, still as a stone–or still as this Stone wasn’t. His fist hit the dashboard.

“If you beat up my car, I won’t drive you at all,” I said annoyed. “If you can’t control your mouth or your body, maybe you need to get out and yell and punch until you’re worn out. I’ve got all day.”

“Just f-ing start the car. I’M NOT FIVE!”

“You’re right. More like two.” I took a deep breath and tried again, “Stone, you’ve got self control. Use it. When you’re calm, I’ll start the car and drive you to school.”

He let out a groan, which as groans go, wasn’t as loud as it could be. I felt encouraged, but I wanted quiet, so I waited. After a minute or two, it came. I turned the key and we were off—15 minutes late.

Halfway down the driveway he started in again. I slowed down and stopped. “Oh my God,” he said slapping his forehead. “For real? You’re going to keep this up all the way to McCallie?”

“That’s up to you, buddy. I want you to be on time as much as you do. But I won’t be talked to like this in my own car. If you can’t stop, maybe you should hitchhike.”

He gave up a guttural howl and laid his head on the headrest, his fists clenched, “I CANNOT TAKE THIS!” he yelled.

“I’m getting tired, too. When you’re quiet for 5 minutes, I’ll drive you.”

I checked my watch. God, show up, I thought. Surprisingly, five straight minutes of silence came, and we were on our way.

He wanted to talk about it, but he couldn’t do it without getting ugly. Halfway down the mountain, I pulled over again and said, “Stone, you’ve got all the power here. It’s up to you to control your anger so I can drive you. Honestly, I’m ready to turn around and head home. I’ve got things to do.”

He said nothing. I looked at my watch. Five minutes of peace and quiet later, we were on the road again. Once on the highway, I nearly pulled off, but he checked himself and held it together. But when we got on Dodds Avenue, he lost it. “Mom, you need help. NOBODY F-ING DOES THIS!”

“You’re right. I need lots of help.” We sat for another 5 minutes, not 10 minutes away. When we got close, he said he’d walk. He’d already missed his first class. “Do you need a note for being late?” I asked.

“Don’t bother. Nobody would believe it,” his voice was low and tight as he grabbed his books from the backseat.

I needed a nap when I got back.

The next morning, he didn’t speak. He said nothing on the way to the car. He said nothing as we rode the 30 minutes to school. His self control was the fastest growing fruit I’ve ever witnessed.

It’s been four years since then. Stone called me twice yesterday to tell me the simple stuff—who he bumped into and what he’d had for lunch. But there’s nothing simple about living in relationship.

It’s taken hard work on both our parts to find an easy, light place to co-exist. Forgiveness and growth are out-of-this-world things to experience.

For the story of what that hard work has looked like, see The Prodigal Stone.

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