Mom’s don’t leave

She walked directly toward me in the oddly crowded IHOP at nearly midnight. She was a thin, tiny woman with short blonde spiky hair and tattoo sleeves on both arms. She stood over me and nearly yelled, “Mom’s Don’t Leave. Mom’s…Don’t…Leave”

I was alone at my table waiting to pay the check. Our son had just stormed off. I wasn’t sure if he would be waiting for me or disappear again for weeks. I was in a dilemma about what to do. He can’t live with us, we had decided, because of his uncontrolled anger, violent outbursts, destruction, drug use and thievery. His unbridled rage scares me. On this night, my husband out of town, I just didn’t know what to do. My baby boy-man was asking to come home. What do I do? How do I walk the line between loving my desperate, hurting son to enabling his drug use and bad choices. I wanted to hug him tightly and ease his pain. When he was small, that worked. But, mommy hugs no longer are all that’s needed to make him feel better.

Two hours previously I had once again picked up our son from jail. I was already asleep when he called. When someone calls from jail you get a robotic message that says, “You are receiving a call from an inmate at the criminal justice department. Will you accept the charges” You then need to call a different number, add money to the inmate account to pay for the call and then the inmate can call again and you can accept the charges. Finally on the phone with him, our son said, “Mom, they let me out can you come get me? I want to come home. I’m ready to do better.” He has said this before.


We are weary, lost and out of ideas of how to help our youngest. At 18 he left home with just a backpack, no high school degree, no job and no plans. He couch surfed for about 3 months until he finally chose the streets. He has been living on the streets for 2 years. Yes, he bounced around the shelters for a while, but then, after a short while, refused even to stay in shelters. He sleeps under bridges and eats out of dumpsters. He has said, many times, “I live ‘free’, Mom!”

That night, at IHOP, our conversation was a repeat of many we had had before.

Me… asking how we can help, what we need to do to support him. I asked if he was ready for rehab. I asked if he wanted help to get a job. I try hard to stick to boundaries we set to keep ourselves safe and not “enable him” (as all the books say)…walk the line between ensuring he knows we love him; we want the best for him; we want to support him and want him to succeed…We want him to be safe and happy.

And him…crying, confused and unable to say what he needs. He says he wants to get a job and wants to get off the streets. The conversation goes in circles. He says nothing. Curses at me. Threatens. And, then he walks away. Nothing is resolved.


That IHOP night, this little woman sat down in my booth stared me in the eyes and just said “I can see you are tired. Your face says you’ve nearly given up. Don’t give up on him. Mom’s..Don’t…Leave.” Her small fists beat on the table as she emphasized each word. “You need to always be there for him. Be there when he is at his bottom. Be there when he is doing well. Be there when things are crumbling. Mom’s…Don’t…Leave,” she repeated. “He needs to know that you are always going to be there.” She said, “Believe me, I was there, he will thank you for it later. Mom’s…Don’t…Leave.” Then she got up and left.

That was in August. We picked him up from jail again at 2am yesterday morning. This time seems different. (I have said that before) He is still here. And, we are here for him.