As I mentioned in this post, Ryan has a bit of a complicated back story that includes having two half-sisters that were adopted by another family. We don’t get together with them nearly enough, but we do meet with them once or twice a year. This past weekend, Ryan was having his last soccer game of the season, so his younger sister (she just turned 12), and her parents (Don and Laura) came to watch. The oldest sister is 21, and she has moved out of her parents’ house and did not make it, but Sara and I are both friends with her on Facebook.
Don and Laura live about 45 mins away from us, and they had some difficulties getting to the game on time, so they were not able to catch any of the game itself, but we did all go for ice cream afterwards. It was really nice to be able to sit and talk with them, and let Ryan spend some time with his sister (although I’m still not really sure if he completely understands the whole situation). Sara and I both (not to mention Don and Laura) think it is incredibly important for Ryan to get to know, and have a strong bond with, his sisters. Both of them really seem to enjoy seeing and talking with him, too.
We got thrown a bit of a curveball this time, though. I mentioned to Don and Laura that Sara and I were friends with the oldest daughter on FB, and that it seems she was doing well. She is set to graduate with a four-year degree from a pretty good university, she has a steady boyfriend, and a steady job. We also knew that she had moved out of their house.
Don and Laura started telling us, though, about how the last few months had been “a living hell”, and that things were “not good” with Sharon. Sara and I were stunned. We both looked at each other and I could tell that all sorts of things were running through both of our minds. Ryan and his sisters all have the same mom, but different dads (as far as we know). So we were thinking, maybe Sharon was taking drugs, or was sleeping around. Or maybe she was stealing things, or had gotten pregnant. Considering her background and the fact that Sharon and her sister had been removed from their mom’s custody about the time Sharon was 10 or 11, the things that could cause her parents to say they were going through “a living hell” could have been anything.
Sara and I were bracing for the worst. I asked what was going on, and Don starts talking about Sharon having a boyfriend, and that she had been “drinking” and “smoking”. He explained that she was also living with her boyfriend. A friend of Sharon’s and her boyfriend were living there as well. She also had been pretty much lying about all those things for a few years.
Don and Laura are an “older” couple, and they are both very religious. Now, I don’t want to belittle the things that Sharon did. Underage drinking, and smoking, are not “good” things. They are also not, in my and Sara’s opinion, “a living hell”. I think Sara and I both were stunned just because we were expecting “more”. Sara even said at one point, “What else has she done?” Don just looked at her like he didn’t understand the question. Sara went on to say (half-jokingly), “I guess I was lucky that I lived in a different state than my parents when I was doing all those things.”
I know different parents have different expectations for their children. I also know that Don and Laura grew up in a different time and place than their daughters, but if the occasional drink of alcohol and the occasional cigarette, are the WORST things that Ryan (or any of our boys) do, I will consider our parenting to be exceptional. Especially if our boys are about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree (a year early) and planning on going to grad school. In fact, to me, the worst thing Sharon did was that she lied about what was she was doing. Under the circumstances though, and seeing how Don and Laura reacted, I can understand her hiding those things from her parents.
I don’t ever want my boys to think of me as their “friend” before thinking of me as their parent, but I also want them to understand that my love for them will not change because of the things they do, or the choices they make. I want them to always know that they can tell me ANYTHING and my love will always be truly unconditional. That doesn’t mean I will always like or agree with their choices, but their choices are theirs to make. I can only raise them the best I can and help them make the best choices possible. Everything else is out of my hands.