Journal of a Living Lady #329
Nancy White Kelly
Some kids are late bloomers. Bobby is one of them. He came to our home as the last foster child of the twelve we helped raise. Bobby was six months younger than Charlie, the miracle son who was born fifteen years after we married.
At that tender age of five, Bobby was way behind Charlie and all other boys his age. He could not count to five or speak plainly. Sadly, he had never been to a zoo or attended a single day of preschool. The academic difference between Bobby and Charlie was obvious. Charlie’s early precociousness and Bobby’s developmental delays created a chasm that was a constant challenge to bridge.
Having a different last name caused Bobby embarrassment at school. He desperately wanted to be a Kelly. When he was ten we officially adopted him. Bobby Ray Whitaker became Robert Lee Kelly.
Buddy retired. We moved to the mountains just as the boys were beginning high school. Interestingly, Bobby decided he wanted to be called Robert by his peers.
Charlie excelled in school; Bobby had no use for it. Then puberty came calling. Our sweet Bobby turned into a troubled and troubling teen-ager. His hair and clothing were outward signs of rebellion. School attendance was as spasmodic as he could arrange. Tobacco, weed, traffic tickets, and egging a neighbor’s house kept us on a first name basis with the sheriff’s department. Though he dropped out of high school, I stayed on his case until he earned a diploma through correspondence. Charlie went on to succeed in high school, college and beyond.
James Dobson once wrote that when a boy hits the teen years, parents should put him in a barrel. When he is 16, they should nail the cover shut. Jest or not, we can relate. It seems that the happiest day of our lives was when Bobby turned 18. He wanted to be on his own and we were more than glad to give him that opportunity. At least we would no longer be legally liable for his actions.
Because of his out-going personality and mechanical ability, Bobby seemed to get a job easily, but he never kept one for long. The excuses were endless. Buddy and I vacillated between enabling him and tough love. He lived at home again a couple of times, but it was difficult. We had our rules and he had his strong will.
Though nowhere near ready for responsible parenting, Bobby and his very young teen-age wife had a baby to support…stereotypical kids having kids.
The years have dwindled by now with many ups and downs. Though disappointed, we never lost hope that someday Bobby would grow up and be a productive member of society. We also prayed that he would return to his church up-bringing.
Last year maturity finally tapped him on the shoulder. Bobby set positive goals including financial stability and training in law enforcement. With his wife serving in Iraq and practically single-handedly parenting two children, his life has not been easy. But this time he persisted. Week after week he called home with a report of his written test scores, all passing. He ran the mile in good time and passed the physical agility tests. He excelled on the gun range. It all looked promising. Buddy and I held our breath.
As I write this, I am happy to report that Buddy and I have just returned from Bobby’s graduation in Forsyth. He looked nice in his freshly-ironed uniform and his badge, awarded the next day, shines as brightly as his countenance. He now as a new goal: a degree in criminal justice.
As I said, some children are late bloomers. Buddy and I are glad to have lived long enough to see this flower-child blossom into the responsible young man that he has become. And, the best news is that last week Bobby and his children were in church.