Chapter 13 – Fearing the Worst

Note to reader:  My hyper son, Charlie, who is featured in my book, is now grown and has a PhD… and three active children of his own.

“So then, who is Tommy?” you might be wondering. Well, you can meet the real Tommy in Chapter One—but maybe you already know a “Tommy.”

Maybe you have a Tommy, or a Tomi. Children like Tommy are everywhere.

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Chapter 13 – Fearing the Worst

Outbursts of anger…

Rebellious backtalk…

Fights with other children…

Destruction of private property….

As I pondered Charlie’s track record, my self-talk continued: “These are things that put adults in jail. If Charlie doesn’t grow up and change, he’ll be in jail.” Not a pretty thought for a mom to have. Yet in reality, I knew adults who hadn’t grown up, and they’d experienced serious consequences for life. So sometimes I extrapolated the present into the future and contemplated the worst. Fair to my son? Definitely not. Did I sometimes fear the future? Definitely yes.

One night when Charlie was nearly four, I asked a university student, Laura, to babysit for a few hours. Laura was studying criminal justice, and she was doing a project which would require a phone call sometime during the evening. I told her that was fine.

Since our boys had a Calvin and Hobbes record with babysitters, we gave our sons the normal lecture before leaving for the evening: “Listen to Laura or face serious consequences when we return!” They were sobered just thinking of the possibilities.

Laura served supper to the boys and watched them play while she took care of little Joy. Charlie, of course, was his usual boisterous self, goofing off and testing the limits. Toward the end of the evening, Laura said to the boys:

“I have to make a phone call now.”

“Who to?”

“A policeman.”


“Because we need to put somebody in jail.”

“Us?” exclaimed a wide-eyed Charlie. He seriously wondered it. And honestly, at times so did I.

Over time I learned to keep in mind that though my young Charlie was immature (for sure!), he was not a criminal. Staying focused on this reality helped give Charlie both hope and confidence. Positive beliefs about a child actually work toward inspiring that maturity. And by remembering that my youngster was merely undeveloped, not a felon, I gave hope to myself, too.

Fears arise because you cannot know a child’s outcome while he is still in the formative years. This is scary and can become a heavy burden. Since our culture tends to blame parents for everything, it’s extremely tempting to put the burden of the child’s outcome onto yourself. But don’t do it. True, your child might appear to be on the road to disaster, but please don’t take on a weighty load of fear.

Yes, you do have a responsibility to respect and love your children. Yes, you pour yourself into training them and teaching them the rules. You are responsible to them, but not for them. In other words, parents are responsible to teach, to train, and to love their children, but in the end, the children are responsible for their own choices. Please don’t put the burden of their future choices onto yourself.

I have friends whose children eventually did spend time in jail. I know these women; they were, and are, dedicated moms. Yet their children made some poor choices during teen and young adult years, and they bore society’s consequences. These moms grieve more deeply than I can begin to understand, and I’ve cried over the sadness they’ve suffered and the blame they’ve faced. I wish I could change our culture of blame. I long to say to grieving moms everywhere, “We don’t blame you!”

Do tears flood your pillow night after night from overwhelming feelings of “I’ve failed as a mom?” Please stop to listen to a gentle question from heaven, God asking you, “Do you think I’m a failure, too?” God, the perfect parent, still has trouble with his children on earth. So even if you could be the most perfect mother in the world, as perfect as God, you can never guarantee the outcome of your child. Rest in the reality that you’ve done what you can to give your child good things, and accept the fact you can’t make Tommy’s choices for him. Don’t heap blame on yourself.


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Read additional chapter excerpts:

Look Inside – Intro, Chapter 1, Chapter 2

Chapter 4 – Broken Stuff

Chapter 9 – Every Child Has a Gift

Chapter 13 – Fearing the Worst

Chapter 27 – Routine Expectations

Chapter 33 – Charlie’s Letter to You