My Teen is in Jail

Posted by Janet Heinsler on April 21, 2015

As told to me:

My son started on a roll with his life when he turned 16. He started out stealing at his high school when he tried to take the "McFlurry" machine (that machine that makes the soft ice cream). He is a sugar addict and just wanted some sugar; he couldn’t get the machine off the shelf and just left, but was later seen on the video trying to rip the machine off.  Life took a turn for the worse because he was kicked out of high school for this.  He has ADHD and hated school so he would not go back to another school when this happened, and thus quit school without getting his degree.  Things then went from bad to worse when he did this.
My husband and I were divorced and my son was living with his father. I had sent him there because I could not handle him at the time.  His father worked full time and was under the impression that he was at a trusted friend’s house, when in reality, he was running around with a group of "bad" teens who were involved with some bad stuff. These kids would steal and then try to resell the items. He was strongly influenced by these kids and went to the laundromat with them as they tried to steal the money machines. He got arrested at age 16 and had to go to court and got community service. Then he escalated into stealing a gun out of a car which got him into the most trouble. He is now serving time in prison but is due to get out this summer.
My biggest worry when he was stealing was that he was going to get killed. He went to the city to sell these items and people were always getting shot there.  I was beside myself every night, sick with worrying that I would get that phone call every parent dreads. Then one night he called me and told me to come get him; that his roommate had stolen a TV among other things and the police were on their way. Little did I know that when I picked him up the big garbage bag of “clothes” he put in the trunk had the TV in it. The next day while I was at work my other son called and said the police were surrounding the house.  I called the police from work and told them where to find him at his dad’s.
Although this was a terribly difficult thing for me to do, I felt a sense of relief when they locked him up.  I knew he was safe and the sleepless nights stopped.  Although there was relief on one hand, there was also a heavy feeling of guilt as I cried myself to sleep every night. I felt like I ruined my relationship with my son and he would never know the love I had for him. I was in denial for a long time as to what was happening.  I found myself going through the stages of grief that Kulber-Ross talks about in her writings about death and dying.
Mom and dads, things may seem like they are irreparable between you and your kids, but never give up. Because of this happening, my son and I have built our relationship back to a closer one than we ever had before. My son at first blamed me for his predicament, but after many letters, calls and visits to the various jails and prisons he has been transferred to, he understands why I did it.  

Believe me, this was no easy feat. As most of you parents know you never stop loving your child no matter what and this was the case with me.  I always put money in his commissary account so he can buy the things he needs at prison and when I visited him I always brought treats. He knows I love him very much. We have also have had several great talks when I visit him at prison.

Again, all I can say to all of the parents who are reading this is if you are having problems with your teens never give up. You may have to show some tough love as I had to do, but this is not the end of your relationship with your child.

I am looking forward to my son getting out of prison this year and I am already helping him get ready for this big transition. He knows he is not welcome at my house but I have arranged for him to live some 10 minutes away where I can have him over for dinner and visit him to do things with him. I have to find out what size he currently is because I will have to buy him clothes since he has no civilian clothes that fit. My son appreciates me now more than ever, and although it will be a little late, I could not ask for a better Mother’s Day present than him getting out of prison this summer.
You may be wondering what I would have done different now that I am sitting here looking back. I would have made sure he got more help with his ADHD so school wouldn’t have been so hard on him. I might have also have seen if I could have gotten him  a big brother to help him with the male role model that he was so lacking.  But all in all, although this is something I would never wish on anyone, it turned out to be a blessing for me and my son. All I can say parents, is just keep loving your kids and never give up on them.