Tough love

We told our oldest son that he had to leave our home.  There were many reasons. Due to respect for his privacy, I will not go into details on the blog.  Please trust me when I say that we gave him many chances and tried many different things that would enable him to stay.  This decision was not easy.  We have the support of our family and friends, his service providers, and others who know us personally. For now, he is living with an extended family member until housing options come available.  He’s safe.

It’s been the toughest time in our family life.

What is the hope in this?  Well, I’ve pondered several lessons that I’ve learned as a parent.  These were things I already knew intellectually; but the time finally came to enforce and give serious consequences.

So, here are the lessons.

1. Being a doormat is not helpful for anyone. It is extremely important that my kids, special needs or not, respect us, our home, and our parental authority. Otherwise, the disrespect of others will carry over into other parts of their lives and they may not get jobs, roommates, or friends.

2. Allowing my kids to use their disabilities as an excuse for rudeness, entitlement, and “passing the buck” for their own lives is more detrimental than the disability itself.  Empowering my kids to live to their full potential and be as responsible for themselves as possible is one of the greatest gifts I can give to them.

3. When my children make stupid crazy decisions with negative consequences, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve been a bad parent.  I can listen to, love, converse with, provide for, and give my kids all the tools in the world and set them up with therapies, job coaches, two rounds of driving school, teach them to cook and do laundry, get behavioral services and lessons in self care, purchase med counters and charts with rewards so they don’t forget to take their meds (a hint as to why our son had to leave), provide healthy food and structure, allow them to collaborate on house rules, have family therapy, etc., but if they don’t follow through and use the tools, that’s on them.   This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn and accept.

4. Tough love is still love.  My friend Maria told me that, and I am so grateful for her comment! Enforcing tough consequences doesn’t mean that we love our son any less.  In fact, I believe enforcing consequences shows that we truly love him enough to help him grow up and become an independent adult, even if he chose the most difficult path.

5.  Just because he is no longer in our home doesn’t mean that he’s not he in the family.  After he left, we did a lot of things “behind the scenes” to help him be successful.  This included keeping all of his service providers informed, and they have made sure that he has options.  We also fixed his bike so that he has some form of transportation.  When we were cleaning out his room we found unopened products– and their receipts–  from his massive shopping spree this summer.  We returned the items and put the money back into his bank account so that he has some funds.  We washed, folded, and packed all of his laundry, toiletries, sheets, etc. so that he has fresh clothes and bedding ready to go. His coffee maker and soda stream machine are safe in a closet.  We also provide transportation for him to his appointments when he needs us and always answer the phone when he calls.  When he’s angry, we don’t hang up on him even when it’s tempting.

These have been the toughest weeks of our family life, and we have been through a lot that I have not written about on this blog.  In fact, many of the tough things are the reasons why I haven’t been writing.

So where’s the lighter side?

Perhaps it is that our home is a lot less stressful.  Or that our son seems to be learning that he can’t escape from himself or his issues.   I think he’s already realizing what he had when he was here, even though he has claimed that we did nothing for him and never helped him– typical teenager stuff, but on steroids.

Son, I’m pretty sure you are reading this.  Please know that we love you and only want the best for you and our family.  See you soon.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Shelly Owen on October 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Elizabeth, I just shared this post with Shannon (Gilland) Lemmons. She and Dane are going through a very similar situation to yours with their Foster/adopted son (not sure where they are in the process.) thanks for sharing your struggle.


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