These Things Take Time

These Things Take Time

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future

These Things Take Time

In some families, please is described as the magic word. In our house, however, it was sorry.

~Margaret Laurence

I came to motherhood late in life and all at once. One moment I was thirty-six and single, and the next I was married with three stepchildren, ages thirteen, seven, and five. For many reasons, this was destined to be a somewhat fractious situation because the kids lived predominately with their mother 3,000 miles away. Except for two separate yearlong interludes, we saw them only during summers and the rare Christmas holiday. Even so, and despite my gross lack of experience as a parent, the kids and I managed to forge a mostly amicable relationship.

My stepson Anthony was an affectionate child who delighted in art, reading, and superheroes. We became particularly close, but this began to change as he grew from an endearing five-year-old into a truculent teenager. Hindsight, of course, is 20-20, but at the time neither my husband nor I realized the many issues that plagued him. All we knew was that our immensely likeable son had seemingly turned overnight into the Terminator — difficult to talk to, impossible to reach, and combative over the least little issue. Our relationship degenerated into a tense, battle-ridden landscape of sullen silence broken by argument and confrontation.

Everything came to a head one Christmas. Anthony was living with us at the time, but according to the terms of the parenting agreement, he flew to be with his mother for the holiday. No sooner did he get there than he called to say he wasn’t coming back. We were stunned. My husband talked with him at length, but he was adamant. I also spoke with him, apologizing for my behavior and lack of patience, acknowledging my part in our difficulties and asking him to come home so we could work together to find a way back to where we’d been. He refused. At that point, I’m afraid I did one of the worst things a parent can do — I gave up on him. Although Anthony and his father stayed in guarded contact, he and I didn’t speak again for six years.

Then one night my husband came to me and said, “Anthony’s on the phone and wants to talk to you.” Cautiously, I took the receiver and said hello. “I just want you to know I’m sending you a letter,” was all he said before hanging up. I wondered what hate-filled message I was about to receive, but when it arrived, the opening words read: “First of all, I want to say I’m sorry.” By the end of the letter, I was crying. When I got myself under control, I picked up the phone.

It took enormous courage and a willingness to risk rejection for Anthony to reach out to me after so long. It took immense trust in our past relationship and the belief that we could reconnect for the two of us to begin again. Slowly, we worked through our issues, coming to a clearer understanding of not only each other, but of ourselves.

Over the past ten years, our relationship has grown into something wondrous. Not only are we mother and son, but we’re good friends as well — maybe even best friends — calling to share details of our day, a joke, or to offer support during difficult times. In a way, those years of silence worked to our advantage. But we would never have reached where we are today if it hadn’t been for Anthony’s bravery and desire to begin again and regain what we had lost.

~Melissa Crandall

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