Archive for the ‘Transition to Adulthood’ Category

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.


Showing off his temporary license after the exam.

Showing off his temporary license after the exam.

After a year of practice, two rounds of driving school, and two driving exams, we not only have a high school graduate, we have another driver in the house!

The day of his second test, we ( my middle guy, and I) piled in the car and and my oldest drove first to a practice course in the city.  We practiced parallel parking, which was what “got ‘im” on the first test.  I coached him from outside the car (and made him put his window down so he could hear my harping coaching) and made him do it correctly 12 times before we drove on to the Department of Transportation for the exam.   (Yes, there was something in it for me and my husband.  We were very tired of driving him back and forth to work.  Those 3-11 shifts were getting old. So I was invested in this test!) Not to be left out, my middle guy found branches and kept putting them in the parallel parking spot and instructing his brother not to run over the sticks.

After correctly parallel parking 12 times, my oldest drove us to the testing place, and while he took his test, my middle guy and I went inside the building to renew my own driver’s license renewal and to get my younger son to get his state-issued id.   I kept looking behind me at the door to see if my oldest would walk in, triumphant or dejected, however the case would be.  I was somewhat of a “nervous Nelly.” I  I must have missed him, because when my younger son and I walked in the picture taking room, there sat my oldest, waiting for his picture for his new license! We celebrated as we three got our pictures taken, then we went out for a celebratory lunch. (We discovered right away that we were also entering the new realm of setting up curfew!)

What a day.  My oldest PASSED HIS DRIVING TEST!  On to independence!!! 🙂


Ladies and gentlemen, we have a high school graduate!

Walking in line at the graduation ceremony

Walking in line at the graduation ceremony

It has been a long road, but it has been worth it.

Our oldest (my stepson), who is on the autism spectrum, graduated.   He got his actual high school diploma, and is looking toward a bright future!  Hopefully he will be attending school in January, as space becomes available at a special school here in PA called The Hiram G. Andrews Center.  Not only will he be able to get an associates degree, but he will also continue to learn independent living skills at this residential school.  Yes, residential! We are all excited for this!  🙂

But more about that later.  Right now we are basking in the excitement and the glory of his graduating from high school.  I have not told his story on this blog in order to protect his privacy, but it suffices to say that, when I married my husband, my then little 3-year-old stepson was not expected to ever be independent.  There are many reasons for this, but we are so thankful that he overcame all of those obstacles!  Here’s a little of his educational story:


Celebrating at the graduation party!

Celebrating at the graduation party! Not so little any more!

  • Entered school for the first time at age 9, as a third grader (when he came to live with us).  He didn’t know all of his alphabet or his numbers.
  • Caught up to 3rd grade math, after not knowing all of his numbers, by 5th grade.
  • Was in special education most of his school career.  However, as a senior, was in a regular senior English class!
  • Graduated on time, with an 81 GPA!

When my oldest crossed that stage at the graduation ceremony, my younger boy called out, “It’s been tough, but your made it.  Go, big Brother!”  And that sums up how we all feel. He has overcome much.  We, as a family, have overcome much.  And we are looking forward to what God has in store for him.

Congratulations, buddy.

Ok, who is this kid? Music makes a difference.

As I posted previously, my son plays in the bell choir at our church.  It’s a good way for him to be part of a group, learn to take direction, and make music– one of his passions.  (I give great kudos to his hand bell choir director, who has learned how to work with my boy and been very patient. I bet he was a great band teacher and school administrator prior to retiring!)

The bell choir plays about 4 times per school year.  Usually, I am my busy self and it dawns on me the Saturday afternoon before the Sunday morning performance that my son needs to have his clothes, shoes, etc. ready.  More than once we’ve had to run out at the last minute to get him dress pants or shoes that fit.

This time, however, was different.

I reminded my son, “Hey, remember what tomorrow is?”

“What?” he replied.


“Oh yes!  Mr. F. wants us to wear green.”

“Yes, we are supposed to dress like it’s spring.”

“Oh.  Well, I don’t think you have anything green.”

“Yes, I do.  I am going to wear my Hawaiian shirt because it has green in it, my light brown pants, my brown dress socks, and my dress shoes.”

Waaaat???  Planning ahead?  My son?

After I recovered from the shock, I asked him, “Do you have those things ready?”

“I’ll go up right now and get it ready, Mom. OK?”  He ran upstairs to his room.

“Ok,” I replied. I had to sit down.  This was amazing.  I had this feeling of relief that I didn’t have to do it, but at the same time I felt a sadness that I wasn’t as needed. But mostly I was relieved.

A few minutes later, my son called from upstairs,

“Mom, I need to go out to get a new belt.”

“Why?” I called.

“Well, does my blue belt match my Hawaiian shirt?”

Okay, by this time I was about to faint because never has my boy cared about matching.  But I recovered quickly, and said, “Yes, the belt matches.  There is blue in your Hawaiian shirt, too.”

“But Mr. F says green.”

“I don’t think Mr. F. cares about your blue belt.  He said ‘spring,’ right?  Not just green.”

“Yes!  Okay, thanks, Mom.”


My boy proceeded to lay out all of his clothes, including his socks, shoes, and belt.  The next morning we were actually early for the dress rehearsal because he was ready in record time.  He even complimented someone at church on their shirt.

Double huh.

Music makes him want to prepare and get up in the morning. Music is helping him be independent.  I have hope that my husband and I may indeed be empty-nesters.  And that’s a good thing!

Expectation, crying, and a call from the school

At 7:30 AM,  my son’s learning support teacher called. My son, P,  was very upset and crying.  She was concerned, as this was the second time she had seen him cry in three years.  He said he would feel better if he could talk to me.

The issue: his older brother M did not wear a coat to school.  (Also, another kid reported that M and another student hitting P while on the school bus. So she was going to report my older son and this other kid for bullying on the school bus.  But P. was mainly upset about the coat issue.)


As my husband listened in, I consoled my boy. Here’s a snippet of our conversation.:

Me: Hi, sweetie, what’s wrong? You were crying?

P: Yes.  M. did not wear a coat to school! And Dad told him to.  He needs to listen.

Me: He didn’t wear his coat?  And that upset you? Well, he does that sometimes.  It’s his decision.  It’s weird, but it happens.

P: Yeah.

Me: I’ll have Dad talk to him about it, ok?

P: Ok.

Me: Was M hitting you on the bus, sweetie?

P: Yes.

Me: And who else?

P: “Jake.” (name changed)

Me: We’ll take care of that too.

P: Ok.

Me: Is there anything else? Do you feel better?

P: I feel better now.

Me: Ok, sweetie. You have a good day.  You can start your day over right now, ok?  I love you.

P: I love you too, mom.  Bye.

My husband and I looked at each other and took a deep breath and sighed. My husband said, “Oh, boy.”  I shook my head.  We were  upset by the bullying and that P. didn’t report it himself.  P. was upset by the coat.  So there’s two life lessons that P. needs to learn: letting people make their own decisions and standing up for himself.

I am so grateful that other students were looking out for P.  I’m grateful for an understanding teacher.  I’m most of all grateful for a son who knows that he can call me if he has a problem and for teachable moments.  And this gives me hope.


Middle School Dance

My son came home from school on a Friday and said, “I’m going to the dance.”

I very intelligently replied, “What?”

I tried to get him to see that he would be safer better off and I would worry less he would have more fun if he went to a family game night with us.

No way. He said the dance would be fun.  He needed $4.

My interrogation began. Who would be there?  Did he know what happened at dances?  What friends of his were going?  Would his learning support teacher, Ms. H., be there?  He was quite tired of my questions until I asked him one that he knew.

“When does it start?”

“6:30.  And I want to be there early.  They’ll have snacks.”


I told my husband that our boy was going to the dance.

He replied, “But he doesn’t have any  money.”

“I’ll give him the money,” I replied.

“But sweetie… I’m concerned.”

“Me too. But our boy is asking to do something that other middle schoolers do and I want to support that.”

So we agreed to let him go.

I drove him to the middle school.  We stood outside with a group of very loud kids until the doors opened.  And yes, I walked in with him. And yes, I spoke with the principal and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Ms. H.  Yes, I made sure I had “spies” to give me a full report of what happened and yes, I made him tell me my cell phone number three times in case he got bullied and needed to come home. And yes, I did leave.  And YES, I did worry.

Turns out he had a great time.  He, like most of the middle school boys, simply walked around the dance floor eating candy and drinking soda.  He told me he danced fast and he danced slow.  And he told me that he wants to go to the next one.

My boy is growing up.  He cares now about doing normal middle school stuff.  He’s becoming independent.  And that gives me hope.


My oldest is really wanting to drive.

I’ll never forget the look on his face when he learned that just because someone is the correct chronological age to drive… 16… doesn’t mean that the person will actually get to drive. There are other factors besides age.  His face just fell.  He was so sad.  And I was sad, too… sad that his dream was dashed and sad that I wouldn’t be a reprieve from driving him everywhere and sad that life stinks sometimes.

He’s beginning to understand, however, our point.  My husband made a list of things that needs to be able to do before we’ll even think about letting him learn to drive.  On this list are things such as…

  • No stomping and hitting walls when you don’t get your way.
  • Take shower every day (show some self-care and responsibility)
  • Do your homework
  • Keep your room in order
  • No stealing

I was surprised when, as soon as I got out of bed and went to the kitchen early on a weekday morning, that he told me, “I’ll be driving in two weeks!”


I’m learning to keep my mouth shut and not over react, but this time I said, “Ohhhh I don’t think so.”

“Yes!  I’ve met my goals!”


“Yes.  My room is clean.”

“Was that because you were being responsible or because we had house guests and you had no choice?”

“At least I cleaned it.”

“Excuse me… who vacuumed and finished cleaning it?” I said as I was trying to get my brain going for the day.

“Whatever.  Then I have been doing my homework.”


“And have you noticed any other improvements?”

Okay, first thing in the morning is not the time to ask me this.  So I said, “Not  really.”

“You LIE!” he shouted.

“I’m answering the question.”

“You should have said, ‘No stomping’!  I haven’t stomped for over a week!” He shouted, as he stomped so hard that the pictures started to rattle.

“Well, I guess that good streak is over.”

“It’s your fault I stomped.”

“I see you are taking responsibility for your actions.  Good one.”

See, I’m not the best at 6:30 AM.

“I’ll talk to dad about it… you have no idea what you’re talking about. Just keep your mouth shut.”

“You just do that. Don’t talk to me like that, either.  I’m done talking to you this morning anyway.”

“Why?  What did I do?”


When I think about it after I’m actually awake, we have noticed that he’s doing things more like unloading the dishwasher without being reminded, taking out the trash with out griping, and he was even asked to work when he wasn’t scheduled… I tell myself that he wouldn’t be asked to work if he was being irresponsible there.  Plus, the people at the Food Bank where he volunteers say that he can do the work of two people.

I hope he drives before he is out of high school.

Autism and Puberty… Yuck

That about sums up how I’m feeling about it lately.

My boys, now 11 and 16, are driving me nuts!

Got a postcard in the mail from the school.  My 11 year old “uses his manners!  Says please and thank you! Great job!”

How nice for them!

Last week we were in the car and my son passed gas.  I asked him, “What do you say?” and he answered, “You’re welcome!”


We have definitely entered in to the middle school stage and the rebellion that comes along with it.  He’s starting to say things like, “I want video games and don’t you dare say I can’t.”  Or “Get me some water, MOM!”  The polite little boy I once knew and loved is turning into a smart-mouthed tween that I know and love.

Hey, I can’t help it.  I’m the mom.

Some of it is quite comical. His older brother’s door has a sign that says “Danger… Josh’s Room!”  Philip wrote a note that says, “Philip’s Room. Do not enter unless I give your permission.”  This was on his actual door… at least he used pencil.  So my daughter did her own sign  that says, “No boys allowed unless you ask and I say it’s ok.”  (Click here to see her other messages.)

That stuff makes me laugh.  But sometimes I wish that the other types of rebellion my 11 year old does were more “typical.”  You know, swearing or something.  Instead, I’m finding my earring in the freezer.  No kidding.  And discovering food that he knows he’s not supposed to eat hidden in the bathroom, right in the boy’s “spray” area.  Gross.

Perhaps these are typical; I’m new to this and my one “typical” kid is only 7, so I have nothing to compare.

My oldest keeps “rebelling” by doing stupid stuff household projects that he doesn’t have permission to do.  A few weeks ago he waited until we were occupied elsewhere, and dragged the very heavy free-standing propane fireplace out to the back yard to paint it (on my to-do list, had just got the paint) and “fix it.”  To make a long story short, my husband had to “fix” my oldest son’s “fixes” and was pretty angry about it, too. At least it was painted, even though it cost him plenty in replacement parts.

This happened after a string of such activities like “framing” the attic window in the awesome workshop that my husband is building, and adding a “porch” to the front of said shop.  He also “fixed” some wiring at grandma’s house, which then had to be replaced by.. you guessed it… my husband.  Good ol’ mister fix-it himself to the rescue! 

Once is funny.  Twice, we shake our heads.  Three plus times…. it’s gettin’ old, people!

I yearn for my oldest to do something like get piercings or try to steal my rum or, even better yet, run away from home.  Then I tell myself to be careful what I wish for… we can fix the stove, the window frame, the wiring… but maybe not staph infections or alcoholism or bad-things-that-happen-to-run-aways. 

So my previous posts about getting back to blogging, blah blah blah… ignore them.  I am doing well just keeping up with my home. 

But don’t give up on me.  I still have plenty of stories to share… just have to find a moment to write when I don’t have to worry about freezer-burned jewelry and rewired doorbells. 


Overnighter with youth group

Since my son had such a great time at Camp Amp, I decided that he was ready for an overnighter with the church youth group.


Don’t get me wrong– the youth workers and kids were great.  My son was with his buddy from school.  I think that the event was not the right fit.

We also were in the busy summer season, and as parents we didn’t take the time to get more details about the event.  So, the amount of preparation we could do with him was minimal, to say the least. (Pun intended.)  Then we got him to the race late.  Yes, it was one of those days.

This overnighter was the annual Amazing Youth Race, modeled after the tv show.  It really is a cool event.  I was happy that he wanted to go, and looked forward to his becoming part of a group.

At the end of the first evening (the race was from 5:30  on a Friday to 5:30ish on Saturday) we received a call that he needed help.  He didn’t seem unhappy, but did say several times that he was tired.  Turns out that the pace of the race was very fast and he needed coaxing to keep up with his team.  The driver and the leaders thought it might be best if a parent was with him on Saturday.  They didn’t get “prep time” for Philip, either, I realiced.

On the bright side, he was very happy to get to his campsite and eat tons of twizzlers. 🙂 He was settling down in his tent.

I decided to get to the campsite early on  Saturday morning and let him decide what was best. I was willing to be his race buddy or take him home. When I arrived at the camp, he was eating a very healthy breakfast of Sunchips (he chose that over the healthier options) at a picnic table with the other kids.

“Hi, Sweetie!  Are you having fun?”

“Mmm hmmm.”  (Crunch crunch crunch.)

I let him finish his chips and then took him aside.  “Do you want to race today?”

“Well, it’s very fast. When I run fast it takes all of my energy.  I just want to go home.”

“Are you sure?  I could stay with you and race, or we could go home.  It’s up to you.”

“Yes, let’s go home.”

“Okay, let’s go pack up your stuff and then let’s go tell Pastor J.”

We went to pack up and then we walked to Pastor J.

“Pastor J?”

“Yes Philip?”

“The race is just too fast for me.”

We then talked over with Pastor J and Mrs. H., the other adult leader, what he had decided to do.  They were disappointed that he was leaving, and told me some funny things that he said / did at the event.  They gave him a race shirt and a prize bag to take home.  And of course he grabbed some Twizzlers on our way out.

I think that my boy wasn’t quite ready.  And that’s okay.

I am very proud of him for trying something new.  I’m even prouder of him for voicing his needs.

Way to go, buddy.

Camp Amp

Fun at Camp Amp

Camp Amp was great!  My son loved it.  Camp Amp is run by our local Easter Seals as part of their therapeutic recreation services.

This year the camp theme was “Wild West.” I loved that the camp leaders took pictures everyday and posted them on a message board that we parents could view each evening.  My favorite activity that they did was roping a cow– a leader dressed in a cow uniform and the kids tried to rope him.  Hilarious!

There were campfires, s’mores, afternoons in the pool, rest time, canoeing, and even a hoe down.

When I arrived at the camp to pick up my boy, he gave me a big hug.  And then proceeded to tell me all about camp… the “secret” campfire, the giant slip and slide (which was pretty cool looking), and the s’mores.

It was a great experience for him.  We saw, in 5 days’ time, an increase in his self confidence.  Without electronics, his conversation skills improved.

I am grateful for people who will work with my kid.  I am happy that he is growing up so nicely.  I am hopeful!