This post has been a long time coming. I've deleted at least a dozen drafts and fretted over basicallyyyyyy every single word. It's time to stop fretting and just post the darn thing! So here we go!
Jason is not coming to Arizona with us.
He's moving back with some of his brothers and his dad this summer.
Ultimately, this was Jason's choice. He basically had the final say. It's a big responsibility for a 14-year-old to have to decide his own future.
We talked and talked with Jason about his options and this big decision. We sat down together one family home evening and made a huge pros and cons poster, which hung in his room for three weeks while he thought about it. We prayed, fasted, consulted relatives, and tried to give Jason as much space as he needed while he thought about it. Sam was great about this whole process, but it was harder for me. I kept resisting the urge to shake Jason's shoulders and shout, "We want you to come to Arizona with us! So just come already!"
He decided to go back to his family.
Honestly, this has been so hard for me. Really, truly. I have cried a lot of tears over this. It might not sound like a big deal to you (he's not my real son, after all), but it's a big deal to me, and I won't apologize for my feelings. Sam told me last week that he thinks I'm going through a tiny version of the stages of grief. He's right. (Why is Sam always right?) We love Jason a lot. He's been living with us for so long, and I always forget that technically he's not part of our real family. I can hardly remember what it's like to be married and not have Jason. Of course I'm grieving! It will be sad to suddenly be 700 miles away from him!
When Jason made his decision, it was at the tail end of a truly awesome week in the Jason Emery is Cool department. Quarterly grades came out, and Jason earned all As (except that one darn 89!). It was his birthday, and he got showered with lots of love from lots of different people. He had a birthday party and had lots of good friends show up to it. He had a band competition and did really well. He had an underwater drone competition and did really well.
I went to watch Jason on his final round of that robot competition. I think I'll always remember that moment. The pool was surrounded by middle schoolers, chaperones, judges, and drones stored in huge plastic boxes. I stood there, balancing a baby on my hip, listening to everyone's shouts and cheers echo off the walls. In the midst of all the chaos, Jason and his team calmly and carefully lifted their little robot, placed it in the water, and began the competition. I thought about all the good things happening in Jason's life lately, all the positive momentum he's built up. I thought, "If you're looking for the good life, this is it. This is it right here, Jason."
And then he told us he was moving back to his family.
If I'm being honest with myself, I knew he'd choose to be with his family from the beginning. But isn't it funny how our brains justify things and hide behind truths we don't want to face? Somehow I was using all the great things happening in Jason's life as ammo for why he needed to stay with us. See, you have friends here! So you should pick us! See, you're involved in extra-curricular activities here! So you should pick us! See, you're doing wonderful in school here! So you should pick us!
But the thing is - Sam and I are not responsible for any of those things. We're not the ones who earned great grades. We're not the ones who built friendships with those awesome (albeit annoying, but aren't they all?) teenagers. We're not the ones who built underwater drones or play the clarinet or any of that.
Jason did all of that.
Jason's capabilities are truly limitless. He can, and will, do anything he sets his mind to. If he can carry this positive momentum to his home this summer, he will be just fine. More than fine, because he also gets to be with more of his family!
I'm doing better every day. I still cry about it. But each day, I realize it was not a personal attack on us when Jason chose his other family. It doesn't mean we failed or did a bad job of raising him. In fact, on optimistic days like today, I'd say we did a dang good job!
Not to mention, we'll get to be a traditional family of three for the first time ever. When Jason's gone visiting family, it's so much easier for Sam and I to connect and be a strong couple. I'm really excited that this will be our everyday reality. It will be great to focus on our little family in Arizona without the added stress of a teenager who needs a drivers license and an eagle scout award and a ride to school twice a week. Heck, I'll be able to wander into the kitchen late at night for a glass of water IN MY UNDERWEAR! (I'm actually really excited about this one. Feel free to judge.)
Whew. Congratulations on making it all the way to the bottom of this post! The bottom line is that Jason is awesome, that he will excel wherever he is, and that nobody should ask me if Claire is going to miss Jason, because I start crying every time I see them playing together these days.