So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

Every family has one. The nonconformist. A kid who contributes to premature graying and an irregular heartbeat. I should have known during my pregnancy that this kid had an agenda of his own. He entered the world two weeks early, using my uterus as a punching bag while I was delivering eighty turkey-shaped cookies to a Thanksgiving party at my older son’s elementary school.

Jack was a passive little prince until the day he broke out of playpen jail and discovered what his arms and legs were for. An insatiable curiosity led to the dismantling of every electronic device in the house. My son never played with building blocks or LeapFrog tablets. He liked forks. And electrical outlets. Christmas and birthday gifts were a cinch. All he wanted was extension cords and Scotch tape. It kept him busy while all the other kids his age were watching Sesame Street. By the time he turned two, we had to hide all the batteries and power tools from our curious little octopus. His fascination with sharp objects and frayed wires is the reason he learned how to dial 911 before he learned the alphabet. Every day with Jack was like a science experiment gone awry, but we embraced his uniqueness and encouraged his out-of-the-box mindset that differed vastly from his three older siblings. Any kid who could dismantle a Swifter Mop and transform it into a fan with flashing strobe lights had to be Harvard material, right?

By the time he reached middle school, the things Jack could do with lighter fluid and a bottle of nail polish remover was the stuff mommy nightmares are made of. This child was the reason I invested in multiple smoke alarms for the house and stockpiled batteries as if Armageddon was near. He thought nothing of building small bonfires in his bedroom, which explains why I dreaded the Fourth of July for years. Jack collected an arsenal of fireworks each time Independence Day rolled around, and had enough to set the entire town ablaze. I was raising a firebug wanna-be, one lit match at a time. His oddball experiments with electricity and fire were enough to keep me homebound for years. 

On the upside, whenever any electronic devices or home appliances broke down, I saved thousands on repair bills. My son was a Jack Of All Trades who looked upon a maze of tangled electrical wires as a “fun” challenge.

There wasn’t much that frightened Jack, and his daredevil approach to life attributed to the abundance of Gray-Be-Gone hair dye I purchased over the years. He dislocated his shoulder at an early age, fractured his wrist (twice) and damaged his left hip, which required surgery and a metal pin placed in the hip bone. He was also hit by a car while bicycling by the beach. Somehow he emerged unscathed, even though his bike was demolished and the car dented. Like a cat with nine lives, my son always landed on his feet. 

During the early teen years, Jack developed a secret side we never knew existed. I’m not talking about the eighty-five chocolate granola bar wrappers he’d hidden behind the couch or the littered trail of moldy yogurt containers in his closet. Our son was struggling in school, but we were so preoccupied with work and raising four children that we never noticed the warning signs that he was failing eighth grade. Jack was a master at intercepting phone calls and letters from teachers, which allowed us to live in blissful ignorance during his entire spring semester. 

And then the unthinkable happened. 

When he was fourteen, my son ran away from home rather than face being grounded indefinitely for a lousy report card. My husband and I were suddenly thrust into the surreal word of every parent’s worst nightmare. Our boy had simply vanished from the quiet streets of our suburban neighborhood.

For hours the police and county officials scoured our house and surrounding areas for our son while family members and neighbors manned telephone lines and computers. There was nothing more frightening than receiving an Amber alert on my own phone about my own child, and nothing more heartbreaking than watching my husband sink to his knees in the dirt, begging God for the safe return of our son. 

Time stood still as policemen sifted through the closets and drawers in Jack’s room for a clue to his whereabouts. Sinking deeper into a cloud of disbelief, my brain was numb to the possibility that I might never see my boy again. The one thought that kept haunting me: Had I told my son how much I loved him that morning before he left for school? My heart felt as heavy as a stone lodged in my throat and each breath a painful reminder that Jack was gone.

After five long, agonizing hours of pacing, hand wringing and bargaining with God, the police found Jack on a Greyhound bus bound for Orlando. He told the officers that he was running away because he was failing school and didn’t want us to know the truth about his grades. My prior fear turned into a confused tangle of relief and outrage over the pain he had caused, not to mention the ten years he shaved off my life. I kept myself composed by keeping my mouth shut against the angry diatribe that threatened to explode from my tongue when my son was escorted home in a police car. 

The following morning after Jack’s foray into the seedy underworld of bus stations, curiosity got the better of me and I upended the heavy backpack he’d been lugging around the state. An unusual conglomeration of items spilled out, and as I contemplated each one, I tried to imagine how he planned to use them:

An orange plastic Nerf Gun with thumbtacks glued to the spongy darts (extra protection).

Five unsharpened pencils.

One small solar panel.

A miniature remote control forklift.

No money, no clothes and nary a toothbrush in sight. I stared at the items before me and felt hysteria bubbling up inside me. I was on the verge of either laughing or crying uncontrollably. In less than twenty-four hours, my world had been turned upside down by my troubled teen, and I had no idea what pushed him into believing that running away from the people who loved him the most was the solution to whatever emotional demons he was trying to escape.

After meeting with Jack’s school administrators and counseling team, we determined that he needed to transfer from his current school to a private academy better suited for his needs.

Jack eventually found his niche in the new school through their music program and web design classes. When he’s not busy building potato bombs or conducting raves with laser lights and techno music, he’s biking his way to the nearest electronics store.

If you happen to see a young man riding down your street in a yellow forklift with a plastic Nerf Gun in his hand, please be sure to say hello to my son.

Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humor book, “Who Stole My Spandex? Life In The Hot Flash Lane” and the voice behind the popular blog, “Menopausal Mother.” Her work has been featured on numerous sites, including The Washington Post, Hello Giggles,The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Ravishly, and Scary Mommy, among others. 

You Don’t Raise Your Babies to Be Little Forever, but I Thought I’d Have More Time

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Little boy peeking over wooden fence, color photo

I can see the yellow blur of the school bus passing in front of my window. Soon my little boy will excitedly burst through the front door with his picture of a giraffe from art class. His big brown eyes will meet mine as I get a toothless “I missed you, Mom” grin. He will tell me everything he had on his tray for lunch, recount the whole soccer game at recess, and share all about that hilarious thing his friend said on the bus. He will then sit on my lap as he takes each school paper out of...

Keep Reading

No Man in a Girl’s Life Holds More Influence than Her Dad

In: Kids, Marriage, Motherhood
Father and daughter on amusement ride, color photo

As I sat outside Walmart watching my husband of nearly 16 years walk in with my 9-year-old daughter to buy me a box of tampons, I realized how blessed I am.  This is real life. Not only does he not care about running into the store and picking up these items, he asks our girls if they want to join him, and they use this time to talk. They talk about real-life—about growing up, changing bodies, what tampons are even for, how they can wait years and years before they need to start dating, how he will be waiting outside...

Keep Reading

My Little Girl Has Big, Brave Dreams

In: Kids, Motherhood
School paper with little girl's handwriting, color photo

My 6-year-old daughter wants to be a soldier.   When we heard from the ultrasound tech that we were having another girl, that was not exactly the career path that popped into our heads.   There’s something absolutely terrifying knowing your child wants to do something big like this. I’m sure I’d be petrified if I had a son with the same ambition, but there’s something extra scary about it being your little girl. There’s something weighty about raising a daughter who wants to be a soldier. But honestly, it’s not a surprise at all. RELATED: God Has Filled Your...

Keep Reading

As My Children Grow, I Miss It All—Even the Sick Days

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler on mom's shoulder

I whisk my daughter through the doors of urgent care and cradle her head as I stand behind three other mamas clinging to their babies. We’re each rocking in different ways but moving nonetheless. The silent, comforting rhythm of motherhood. I see sad, sick eyes from the babies with their heads nestled into the necks of their mama. I’m tired from the sleepless night, and I shift from foot to foot. There is hushing and humming and back-patting. A pacifier drops to the floor. All of a sudden my daughter feels heavy. A vague sinking feeling comes over me, like...

Keep Reading

Life with Autism Is Full of Ticking Time Bombs

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother, father, teen daughter, color photo

Many of us who live with autism are familiar with the comings and goings of the ticking time bomb—one that disappears for periods of time, so much so that we might forget about it. Then, suddenly, this bomb drops at our doorstep in the form of a returning or new obstacle, so intense that it causes us to pause our lives, alter our plans, maybe even change our current paths. For our family, the new challenge has been sudden, piercing, sporadic screams. Not constant, not even often, thankfully, but jolting nonetheless. So here we were, in the midst of our...

Keep Reading

Youth Sports Build Strong Kids

In: Kids
Young girl with gymnastics medal, color photo

My kids are heavily involved in sports. My son plays for an elite basketball team and my daughter competes on an Xcel gymnastics team. It takes up a lot of our time and a lot of our money. Even though prioritizing youth sports seems to be an American norm, we still sometimes receive criticism and judgment as to why we would spend so much of our time and resources on it. (“Don’t you know the chances of your child going pro is less than 1%?”) As I sat at my daughter’s gymnastics meet, listening to the parents cheer so excitedly...

Keep Reading

Don’t Let Anyone Rush You, Mama

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother with two kids at home relaxing

From the moment our children are born, other people make it challenging to stay in the present moment—they start asking questions that look forward instead of at the now we are in. Can you believe how big she’s getting, where did your newborn go? Oh my goodness, he’ll be walking any day now! Are you thinking about preschool? What will you do when they’re both in school? What will you do when your baby goes to college? While these questions may come with good intentions, they’re not helpful at all. We moms need to be allowed to be fully in...

Keep Reading

Dear Child, God Sees All of You—And So Do I

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Mom and young son painting together

Math has always come easily to him. Even from the beginning stages when we counted wooden blocks on the living room floor, the numbers just came to him. “How many blocks are there?” I asked him, pointing to the scattered row of blocks. I expected him to count them. He was only three or four years old. “Six,” he answered promptly. “Yes . . . but how did you know that?” I asked hesitantly. He had not taken the time necessary to have counted them. “Three and three are six,” he replied. And on it went. The math came easily,...

Keep Reading

Kids Crave Your Time, Not Fancy Things

In: Kids, Motherhood
Dad and daughter with basketball smiling

I have four kids, and like most parents, I’m doing my best to give them a happy childhood, but we’re not really an activity family. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good day trip to the local water park or a night out at the movies, but with several different ages and a tight budget, activities or outings are rare for us. Sometimes I end up feeling bad about it, like our kids are missing out, but then I take a deep breath and realize that some of the best moments come from the simplest of things. Lucky for...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergarten Graduate—Wherever Life Takes You, I’ll Always Be Your Safe Place To Land

In: Kids, Motherhood

I cried on your first day of kindergarten. Did you know that? I held it together through the getting ready and the goodbyes—but once I had waved one last time and was pulling out of the parking lot, the lump in my throat poured out as hot tears down my cheeks.  How could you be starting kindergarten? You, my precious firstborn baby. We had some growing pains as we adjusted to a new routine. The school days were so long. I spent my days missing you and you spent yours missing me. We were apart from each other more than...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Proven techniques to build REAL connections