Monday, February 28, 2011

Not All Guys are Perverts

Riding in the car, Stevie glanced at her daughter and said, “The camp director told me you were talking with a carload of boys when he found you. Who were they?" "Just some guys from the village, but they weren't perverts." "How can you possibly know that?" Stevie demanded. "I just know, Mom. That's the problem. You don't think I know anything." Shawna breathed an expletive, then added, "That's how I feel about always being treated like a baby. I'll bet Dougie felt the same way. No wonder he did what he did."

Slashed by Shawna's words, Stevie could not have said more if she had wanted to. She gripped the steering wheel and focused on the road ahead, hoping Shawna would not choose that particular moment to look at her, because her lip was trembling and her eyes were filling with tears.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Don't Know Anything

Stevie said, "Shawna, tell me about this girl Destiny." It was a wide-open opportunity for Shawna to finger Destiny as the instigator to sneak out of camp to go meet boys. With a get-off-my-back whine, Shawna replied, "Just a girl in the youth group." "And the clothes you wore last night—the sweater and microskirt—did they belong to Destiny?" "Yeah," she said finally. "So you let a girl in the youth group talk you into wearing her clothes and doing a very dangerous thing," Stevie clarified. "Destiny didn't talk me into anything. I wore those clothes, because you won't let me wear them at home. And I went into the village because I wanted to."

Stevie could feel her patience and civility eroding. "You could have been kidnapped or raped or murdered, Shawna. Didn't you see the danger of walking into a strange town alone in the middle of the night?" "Mom, you make it sound like all guys are perverts," Shawna retorted with the familiar you-don't-know-anything haughtiness in her voice.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Silent Treatment

The drive down the mountain was agony for Stevie. Shawna slouched against the passenger door, sullen, brooding, and arms were folded tightly across her chest. Her self-imposed isolation could not have been more obvious with a neon Keep Out sign flashing in front of her. Stevie struggled over how to break through Shawna's defenses and get to the root of her misbehavior. The struggle was becoming commonplace for Stevie as Shawna tested the outer barriers of parental control.

Her headstrong daughter would probably raise a big stink over being grounded. Shawna was getting to be an expert at displaying her displeasure. Stevie would be loving but firm with her daughter, a resolve she had made after Dougie's death. Had she insisted that she and Jon deal more firmly with Dougie, things might have been different. Stevie would not allow her daughter to fall into the abyss that had swallowed her older son. It just was not going to happen again.

"Is there anything you want to say about what happened last night?" Shawna answered quickly, "Nope." Her tone conveyed a message Stevie was hearing more often in her daughter's attitude: I could say a lot, but I'm not telling you anything.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Looking for Jon

Eugene (called Rattler in the De Soto gang) rummaged carelessly through the cabinet underneath the phone until he found what he was looking for: a soiled, dog-eared telephone directory that was four years old. He swept through the pages until he found the section he wanted, then ran his finger down a few columns, stopping below one entry: VAN HORNE, JON AND STEPHANIE. He exulted with a string of epithets.

"Hey, Rattler, you're lettin' this guy get to you. He's just dirt on your shoe, man. Let it go," implored Chako. "Not this one, Chako. This one's mine. This one is gonna wish he'd kept his hands off me and the gang." Rattler slipped a giant .45 inside his belt and pulled his shirttail over it. "Come on, show me," he snapped, heading for the door.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Again the car phone startled Stevie. "Stevie, this is Jon. Collin just called and said you're going after Shawna. What's the deal?" Feelings taunted her. Good mothers don't get called to camp to pick up delinquent daughters. "

"Shawna was outside her cabin with another girl after lights-out and they're kind of hard-nosed about their rules," attempting to trivialize the incident. "That sounds a little severe to me," replied Jon. He paused, "Stevie, I'd like to spend some time with the kids this weekend, if that's all right with you. Maybe pick them up after Collin's soccer game, take them out to dinner and a movie. And I want them to go to church with me in the morning."

Stevie replied, “Shawna really should be grounded over this camp thing. "Geez, Stevie, can't you bend a little for once and come up with a way to punish her without punishing me?”

Why did their conversations so often deteriorate into criticisms of one another's parenting techniques? As usual, Jon was interfering in her attempts to discipline one of their children. "All right, Jon," she conceded. "I'm too tired to argue with you."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The “Ex”

Placing the phone in its cradle, Stevie's thoughts were focused on Collin's father—her ex-husband. Even after more than a year she felt uncomfortable thinking of Jon as her "ex." Loving Christian couples with wonderful kids were just not supposed to end up as ex-husband and ex-wife. But then most Christian marriages didn't experience the anguish that she and Jon had suffered with their firstborn, Douglas—sweet Dougie.

There were many things that had happened to her that Stevie never believed could happen to a Christian--the sudden, wrenching loss of a beloved teenaged son to drugs; the oppressive guilt, cruel insinuations and charges of blame, the growing wedge of cold distance; the blinding, debilitating depression Stevie thought only resulted from mental illness or demon possession; finally, the willful dissolution of a solemn vow.

Who had initiated the proceedings? Stevie had to admit that she had, under indescribable mental, physical, and emotional stress. But who had actually caused the divorce? Each blamed the other at the time. From her current perspective, however, Stevie could admit that there was no one culprit. The dissolution of their marriage was a regrettable but seemingly unavoidable product of these two people under this kind of pressure.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sad Dream

A vivid snapshot of her eldest child flashed into Stevie's mind, derailing her prayer. It was the one picture she most wished could be wiped from her memory: her seventeen-year-old son lying white and lifeless on a gurney as EMTs vainly tried to pound his heart awake. The unbidden scene still brought a lump to Stevie's throat. "Oh, God," Stevie whispered, "please don't let it happen again. Please don't let—" The car phone sounded, startling Stevie. "Yes?"

The sleepy voice of a nine-year-old mumbled, "I had a sad dream, so I came to get in bed with you but you weren't there. And Mrs. Lopez fell asleep on the couch." "Another sad dream about Dougie?" Stevie probed cautiously. She purposely used sad dream instead of bad dream or nightmare with Collin, hoping to diminish his fear. Collin's dreams about his older brother were terrifying. Stevie had been awakened by similar nightmares many times herself. "Yeah, about Dougie." "Why don't you snuggle up in my bed for a while and watch cartoons," she urged. And if you need Daddy to come over, or if you just want to talk to him about your dream, call him. OK? I love you."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lord, What's Up?

"OK, Lord, what's going on here?" Stevie asked aloud. "I'm not the perfect parent, but I'm certainly not a disinterested, neglectful parent. And I've been doing especially well since Jon left. I've been spending time with the kids—lots of time. I don't work in the evenings anymore and seldom on weekends. I attend their school events as often as I can. I make sure the three of us have dinner together most evenings. I help them with their homework. I read to them and pray with them at bedtime...."

"But, Lord, you know I can't go to school with the kids and choose all their friends for them. As hard as I try, I can't monitor everything they read or listen to or watch on TV. I can't get inside their heads and delete the ugly, destructive thoughts the devil plants there. I'm doing everything I know to do. How am I supposed to keep Shawna and Collin from getting swallowed up by the world like Dougie was?"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mad or Relieved?

Stevie sighed. She knew she was a good mom. She had been especially attentive to the needs of her fourteen-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son after the horrible crisis with her oldest child two years earlier. But instead of arguing the point with the director, she had agreed to be at the camp by seven-thirty to pick up Shawna for sneaking out to meet boys. Taking another gulp of tepid drive-through coffee, she silently urged the caffeine to slap her awake. With any luck she would be back to watch Collin's soccer match at eleven.

A pizza party was scheduled for Collin's team after the match. Perfect, Stevie thought. That will give me a couple hours to run errands and— She groaned aloud, remembering that Shawna would be at home and seriously grounded this afternoon, meaning that Stevie would be staying close to home with her. Why is punishment always harder on the parents than on the kids? she mused.

Stevie drove. Her stomach was knotted with anxiety over endless questions to which she had repeatedly awakened through the short night. Also gnawing at Stevie was the realization of what could have happened to the two defenseless girls.