Learning just a bit of down-to-earth information about Kyle, I was less intimidated by his downcast looks and pierced brow the next time he stopped by. I simply asked him not to smoke in or near our home. Sometimes a cigarette is just a cigarette. "Understood. Sorry about that," was his polite-enough answer.
In the weeks since, Kyle and I still haven't progressed to the warm give-and-take I have with Gabe's other friends, nor have I extended a dinner invitation. There's still a chilly wall between us, but I've learned to deal with any flashes of trepidation by continuing to think positively rather than assuming the worst. A University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, study of 1,500 teenagers found that adolescents are overwhelmingly less likely to pressure one another to do wrong than to support one another's efforts to do well. Plus, I know Gabe has a solid foundation, a strong center, and a history of using good judgment.
Ultimately, Gabe will choose his own friends, and he'll learn a lot from it, even from the mistakes. More important, I don't want to jeopardize our mother-son relationship, especially since he's spring-boarding to college soon. For now, even though Kyle would never make my A-list, when he comes over I always make eye contact, say hello, and ask him what's going on -- as I do with all of Gabe's welcomed friends. The door, I've decided, stays open.