My sister had to go to court with my teenage nephew because recently he was arrested (along with several friends) for underage drinking. He had to pay a fine, is going to have to perform 20 hours of community service, and if he has any kind of trouble for the next 2 years he goes to jail. If took her 2 days to be able to tell me what happened because she was so upset by it. He's always been a good boy, and he's truly a magnificent person on the whole. He would never do anything to hurt anyone, and is the first one to lend a hand if it is needed to anyone.
She was going through that thing that all parents experience on some level when your child makes a mistake, wherein you feel somehow responsible for their choices and conversely the sense of failure as a parent. I told her that she need only look at him, the kind of person he is, to determine and fairly judge herself as a parent - not on this one mistake and lack of responsibility. I made her really take a long hard look at her relationship with him, the fact that he tells her EVERYTHING and that he includes her in practically everything he does. He calls her numerous times a day, sometimes just to tell her he's thinking about her and that he loves her.
It was just one mistake, he's smart and has accepted his responsibilities for what he did to get himself in trouble. Bottom line, he's a really great kid and he has never been in any kind of trouble before. In talking to her, she met the points I made with "Well, that's true" and "I didn't think about that, but that makes perfect sense". She also expressed gratitude for being there and being both honest and supportive in my realistic approach to this entire situation. I don't think she realized how much of an advocate and cheerleader she still has in me, and it felt like it did when we were kids taking care of each other.
Then I called my nephew. I told him that I needed to explain a couple of things. It was this, essentially:
I know what happened because I spoke to your Mama and knew she was upset and bothered by something. I made her tell me what was going on, and now I want to tell you a few things. First, I love you tremendously and I'm not mad at you, I haven't lost respect for you, and I'm not about to judge you for this. I'm not going to be a hypocrite either - I did my fair share of stupid shit I got caught for when I was a kid too.
You did something careless and you got caught - you know what that's like now, so I don't think I need to preach about it. I know you're embarrassed, humiliated, and were probably scared to death throughout this entire thing, and you didn't go through that just so you could turn around and do it again. I don't expect you'll every do anything like this again, but let me just say that if you ever do, I'm breaking my fucking foot off in your ass - just know that now, and that's all I have to say to that effect about the prospect for future irresponsible choices. The main thing I want you to know is that this mistake does not define who you are as a person. It's life stuff, and you'll make other bad choices - because you cannot make perfect or right ones every time. The point is to try your best to make good choices, but sometimes it is just trial and error.
None of this changes the fact that I love you, you're one of my favorite people on earth, you're magical and beautiful, and even if I wasn't your uncle I would still want to know you and be your friend. Because THAT is who you are as a person. That's what I love most about you, and I'm just as proud of you for all of that now as I ever was.
Your mother is taking this a bit harder and more personal than she deserves to, so you have to do something about that. This was all your doing, your choice, and your mistake - so let her off the hook for it. Make sure that this evening when you see her that you tell her she's a great mother and that what you did had nothing to do with her and is no reflection on her as a parent. Make sure she understands that you're man enough to accept responsibility for this, and that's how you're going to set both of you free from it.
All this having been said, I am ALWAYS here for you no matter what you do - and I always will be. Don't ever fear my judgment or my disappointment, because all of that passes by very quickly and what really matters is that I will always love and celebrate your life a million times more than I could ever be upset with you. So move on from this, make it right with your mother and with yourself, and know that I'm proud of you for handling this the way you have - like a strong, decent man should. I know people twice your age who wouldn't have shown as much responsibility for their actions as you have, so be proud of yourself for that.
I love you, baby. You're still the same sweet boy I adored before this all happened and you always will be, in spite of anything else. And that is the way it is supposed to be.
He got quiet for a few seconds after I finished, told me thank you and that he loved me very very much, and was a bit overwhelmed by the entire conversation. I told him to handle his business, he giggled at me, and promised me he would. Another I love you, and that was that.
This is why I have the abundance of love in my life, because I take care of my own the best ways I can. I have it and I trust it because I know I've earned it. And it feels tremendous.