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Stepping Up & Being Responsible, Being A Good Parent/Role Model, & Why I'm The Favorite Uncle 
18th-May-2007 03:41 pm

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.
18th-May-2007 07:47 pm (UTC)
Dammit! Why must you always make me cry!
18th-May-2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Um, because you're a big softie?
18th-May-2007 07:57 pm (UTC)
Shhh!!!! No one is supposed to know!
18th-May-2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
Geez that's extreme.

I think our drinking laws are freaking ridiculous.

You're a good uncle. I'm a terrible one. I don;t even know my niece and nephew. And because of my brother and his wife... i kind of prefer it that way.
18th-May-2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
I'd be willing to bet you'd be a fun uncle--the one nieces and nephews can't wait to see and parents roll their eyes about.
18th-May-2007 08:03 pm (UTC)
ROFL - exactly, on all counts! Of course, my siblings are all pea green with envy too - they want to be "cool" like me, but they're just not. Well, this one sister is in her own way, but it's not the same. With me, they never get censored in any way - they eat that shit up, too. Add to that the fact that you never know what I'm ever going to say or do at any given time, and I'm famous for doing crazy, ridiculous shit in public to get a laugh and embarrass the right people.

Poor D is at the point of just rolling his eyes and not paying attention anymore, instead looking at everyone else and saying "Well, there he goes - brace yourselves."
18th-May-2007 08:04 pm (UTC)
DAMNIT!! I thought you meant me, not Ernie.

I agree, I think he'd be a good uncle as well.
18th-May-2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
Well, it goes without saying about you!
18th-May-2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
I agree to a point, but it sure made the right point in this case.

On that point, I agree completely. He wasn't driving, and no one was hurt.

I try my best, sometimes I'm better than others.

That's a shame, and it makes me really sad to hear it. I understand what you're inferring, but still - that just makes me sad. Because I can only imagine what that feels like knowing what I know and having my situation as a basis for comparison.
18th-May-2007 11:08 pm (UTC)
I think I'm having a reaction to this similar to Ernie's.

You state below that no one was driving and that no one got hurt. The law (not you guys) are making this kid feel like shit and threatening him with jail for underage drinking--something I got away with every opportunity I could in high school. In fact our parents let us have beer at our parties as long as no one drove drunk. They knew we were going to drink somewhere and they wanted to prevent harm from coming from it.

And nothing bad happened! I started drinking legally at 19 and never did anything too stupid. Puked once, but never drove too drunk or stopped breathing. This kid is being made to feel shitty for perfectly normal developmental behavior.

I think your response was good. And he probably shouldn't drink again because the bastards will put him away for it and that's not worth the risk. But it's a stupid set of laws that dictate that. We live in such scared, shrivel-dicked, pantywaist times.
18th-May-2007 08:50 pm (UTC) - Uncles/Aunts make a difference
Your story reminds me of what my aunt said to me when she found out I was gay. I was at her house (she's got a gorgeous home in ftl) and it was at the tail end of a family vaction.

I'd only days earlier found out that she knew I was gay because one of my cousins slipped up and told her so a few months previous to that.

It was early in the morning, and I was having trouble sleeping so I got up and decided to start coffee for the troops (her house is not ony gorgeous and huge, but she has the entire extended herd stay over there following our annual cruise.)

She got up next, came to get the coffee... saw I was the only one awake, and said, "let's go for a walk"

We talked about everything then. She said she still loved me, she knew my parents would too, when I told them. She said no rush to tell them, wait for a good opportunity. She said they wouldn't be upset that I was gay, just that my life would be harder, and that they'd feel sad, but their feelings wouldn't change. She told me about a a flight she was on, and how she sat next to a gay guy (she was doing business in SF - i imagine the odds were in favor of that!) and they had a long talk and she coveyed advice offered to her...

Still, for a 65 year old aunt who likes to go to waterparks with her enormous extended family, water ski periodically, etc... I think she's pretty damn cool.
18th-May-2007 09:19 pm (UTC) - Re: Uncles/Aunts make a difference
THAT story was awesome. Even I love this woman.
18th-May-2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
First I salivate at your penis and now I cry at your capacity to love.

18th-May-2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
18th-May-2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
That was quick--now I'm back to salivating.

Have a great weekend.
18th-May-2007 09:05 pm (UTC)
A fine, AND community service, AND possible jail in future? For.. dog forbid - underage drinking? WTF? Do they get life for shoplifting where you live?

Sorry, but I am stunned by the level of punishment for a teenage indiscretion. I mean, yeah, drinking underage = not good, but surely the sentence is way out of proportion to the crime?

Oh and yeah, you're awesome and stuff. ;)

18th-May-2007 09:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but it definitely makes the point. There's great value in that, in holding them accountable and making the case that in the future it gets even MORE expensive and there are lots more consequences. So in that respect, I think it does a greater good.

I thank you.
18th-May-2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
This is exactly the kind of thing I get all tingly over, especially when I see it coming from gay men in the ways they treat their families. It shows both a sense of seriousness and affection that I very much admire. I'm glad you decided to share this, bud.
18th-May-2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
wow, what a great uncle you are...
18th-May-2007 11:27 pm (UTC)
I wish that I had gotten talks like that whenever I screwed up while growing up. Your nephew is fortunate to have not only a loving mother, but a loving uncle. Kudos.
19th-May-2007 01:28 am (UTC)
19th-May-2007 04:09 am (UTC)
That's the kind of thing that makes me love you so much! You think a lot like I do when it comes to life matters and child rearing.

When our girls got to high school age we offered to let them have alcohol at home.Only at home. That way it took the "forbidden fruit" aspect away and they knew if they wanted it they could have it. Other kids were shocked we'd do that but why put your head in the sand and pretend they aren't going to try it?

This way we knew too they weren't drinking and driving. Larry gave them different kinds to try and they didn't really care for it. My two oldest drink occasionally (they are legal age now) but Jillian doesn't care for it at all.I don't know if it had anything to do with our doing things the way we did but it worked with our girls.

We didn't allow other kids to drink at our house because we didn't want to contribute to another person's minor. But that's another whole subject.

You were great to tell him that it was his choice and he needed to take responsibility for it. How many parents miss that opportunity? You can let them see the choice and it's consequences without making the kid feel ashamed for trying something he sees others do all the time. How wonderful to remind him his choice was not him and his choices didn't change your love.

I remember those kind of talks with my girls. They only got into trouble once or twice (never with the law, just sneaking out of the house to see a boyfriend)but I think letting them know that they will make mistakes as they learn their limits, but you will still love them makes all the difference in how they view their self worth.

Any kid would be lucky to have you as his uncle or parent. Hugs ya BIG for being so great! And they have the nerve to say gay men/women wouldn't make good parents! I can't tell you how many straight parents aren't that in tune to a child's need to learn his limits and do so with no fear of losing his parents love.

Great Job! Christina
19th-May-2007 07:13 am (UTC)
Will you adopt me? :P

Seriously, though. Your nephew is amazingly fucking lucky to have you in his life, as is your sister. I hope you know that. :P
19th-May-2007 10:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'd like to be adopted too.

You are such a wise and balanced person. Your family are damn lucky to have you :)
19th-May-2007 11:10 am (UTC)
Ummm, there's quite a long line of potential adoptees forming behind me...
19th-May-2007 12:03 pm (UTC)
When I have kids (when did it change from if to when?), I want at least one person in their extended parental network to love them as fiercely and wholly as you love yours. No lie.

I'm a gentle person, a pacifist by nature -- meek and mild and tender, etc. -- and therefore your capacity for violence occasionally scares me. However, I can accept and even sometimes embrace it because it is tempered a thousand times over by your capacity to love.
19th-May-2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
We have a niece and nephew, 6 and 4 respectively. We last saw the niece when she was 8 months old, and have never met the nephew. I hope to change that soon-ish, but with us in South Carolina and them in Vermont, it's going to take a Major Travel Experience to make it happen.

That said, I always eat up the posts you make about Your Kids. I try to learn from you not just The Right Things To Do, but as well The Right Time To Do Them.

It's obvious what a large place Your Kids hold in your heart - and just as obvious how large that heart is.
14th-Jul-2007 06:12 am (UTC) - re: superhero uncle
Have I told you lately that I totally love you?! AND... When will we do the DNA testing to find out whether or not we were actually separated at birth???
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