No Deposit. No Return.

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I came late to the mother party.  I had always thought I would have children, but just didn’t meet the right guy. Then, when I was 37,  I met Joe. He had two little boys; aged 8 and 4. It was a Christmas visit to “meet the family.”  Not only did I meet Joe’s children, but also his parents, sister, cousins, nieces, nephew, aunts, uncles and their spouses.  The ex-wife even managed, when dropping off the kids, to “need a drink of water” so that she could walk through the entire length of the house, just to ogle me.

To bribe the family into liking me (having the disadvantage of being a Texan from West Virginia among a group of Ohioans and Michiganders) I had prepared tins of fudge and cookies. The younger child came up to me, grabbed a piece of fudge and ran away. The older immediately sat down beside me to share his toys. Rather foolishly, I thought; “this is going to be easy.”

On weekend visits, in the beginning, I got along more with the older child. He was precocious, seemingly wise beyond his years.  I felt like I could understand him better than his parents. I admit he had a special way of turning a situation to his advantage. But I didn’t mind, this was my opportunity to play “mom.”

After the kids moved in with us, I found out I couldn’t have children. A rather devastating thing to find out, even though by this time I was 40 – an age where pregnancy would have been difficult. So I concentrated on Joe’s kids, mainly the oldest child, who was having trouble in school.

The younger child took a piece of fudge and ran away. The elder immediately sat down beside me to share his toys. Foolishly, I thought: "this is going to be easy."
The kid was brilliant in math and creative writing. But he was needy. The few years prior as a child of a “single mom” had not been kind. So I put everything I had into making sure he knew he was special—helping him with his homework; going to bat for him with the nuns, and then public school teachers and administration.  And finally getting him into a program that could deal with his special needs.

We thought Texas would give him a fresh start.  But his personality got the best of him. A popular kid, he was more interested in socializing than school work. Each year he would resolve that “this one will be different.” But after a couple months he’d decide it was too much work, too much trouble.  And as the stepmother who had put so much effort into raising him, I took it personally – my own failure as a “mom.”

Last Spring there came a perfect storm. We had pushed and pushed — perhaps the wrong thing to do given the circumstances. But all our efforts had fallen on deaf ears. Personality traits and other issues combined with raging hormones. The sweet little 8-year old had been replaced by a young man who challenged every rule. And I, who had promised myself I would never become my mother, was disappointed that after all I had “invested” into this kid, he was on a path that would get worse before it got better.  It all came to a head one day. He challenged his father. Things got ugly. And uglier. And the family was torn asunder.

Yesterday our family shared a meal for the first time in months. It was a celebration and a farewell. Now 18, the 8-year old who had shared his toys under the Christmas tree was moving back to Ohio. To find his own way in life.

A winemaker once told us that if a wine is not able to stand on its own as drinkable when first bottled, it would never be good. I have to hope the same is not true for children. That you do what you can to make them know they are loved. You instill in them the values you think they will need.  And then you have to let them go.  To age, perhaps mellow, but to grow into their own.

It’s a hard, hard thing to let go. Even when you start in the middle.

About Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and nearly 10,000 twitter fans. She holds certifications from International Sommelier Guild, regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events and is currently studying for her California Wine Appellation Specialist certification through the San Francisco Wine School.
  • @nectarwine

    Thank you for sharing this piece of your life. Not everyday needs to be about wine and business. As a step-father to a 13 year old, I can relate to your challenges. I wish you son all the best as he learns to live life independant from you and Joe.

    Josh

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

      Thanks Josh.

  • Leslie

    I am so sorry to hear this. Yes, letting go is terribly hard but as hard as it is, sometimes it can bring amazing results. I will be keeping all 4 of you in my prayers.
    Leslie

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

      thanks Leslie. Sorry you guys didn't get to see him off as well.

  • http://www.bigfatwine.com Joel

    You just never know what you have done right in life. Sometimes it is plainly evident that we did a fantastic job bringing up our kids and then it looks like we must have done something to mess them up. Regardless, the love exists no matter what paths we are shown or choose on our own. Thanks for sharing such an important piece of your lives.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

      Thanks for your kind words.

  • cellarmistress

    I was really touched by your story and started tearing up as I was reading it. I am sure that he will look back on this someday and appreciate all the time and love you have invested.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

      Thanks.

  • Amanda

    You and I are in a very similar boat. My oldest son, my “challenging” child, turned 18 two days ago. I'm still in the struggle though as he still has one more year of high school. I have spent the last 13 years trying to keep him in school, letting him know he can't get a decent job without a high school diploma, etc. I know that the day he walk across that stage to get his diploma, I will cry like a baby. Tears of joy as well as relief. I've pushed and encouraged and sometimes forced my way through all these years, I know it will have been worth it. My hat goes off to you as this isn't even your biological child and it's much easier to just give up when they aren't. Hugs to you. :)

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

      Thanks. Good luck to you with your son!

  • http://www.bacomputersolutions.com Glass Bottles

    Great story… I know just how you feel!

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

      Thanks. Wouldn't it would be great if kids came with an instruction manual?

      • http://twitter.com/palatepress Palate Press

        Oh Amy, I was getting ready to type that, but decided to read to the end. I am sorry it came to this, and wish the young man enough time for his accumulated knowledge, much of which most certainly came from you and from Joe, to overcome his youth. And for you and Joe, I wish you peace in the decisions you have made.

        d

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

    I think the biggest lesson I've learned in being a parent, for me at least, is that we really have very little control of the outcome. And it's extremely naive, or perhaps arrogant of us to think that we do.

    Thanks for your kind words.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com WineWonkette

    I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned in being a parent, for me at least, is that we really have very little control of the outcome. And it’s extremely naive, or perhaps arrogant of us to think that we do.

    Thanks for your kind words.