Does Your Teen Stay Up All Night and Sleep All Day?

Mine does! I know I’m not alone as a parent concerned with this type of sleep pattern. My son recently turned 19 and is old enough to schedule his own sleep cycle. He is a “night owl”. He loves to play video games during the calm of the middle of the night. He watches Hulu, Netflix shows and Star Wars movies while most of us are sleeping. He Snapchats with friends and Facetimes with his long distance girlfriend (she lives in Canada, we are in California) at 1am, 2am and even later.

As teens head toward adulthood (at least in chronological terms), their lives become their own to manage. They are developing their own sense of self and what’s important to them. The connection with friends has always been easier for my son online, rather than in person in many instances. That was true before he went away for treatment and especially now, while at home during our pandemic.

My son will often stay up until 3am, 4am or 5am and sleep until noon, 1pm or 2pm. This pattern is fairly standard, even with his work schedule, which is right now just one day a week, at the local grocery store. He has complained for a long time that he just can’t get to sleep at night, even with some reinforcement by his taking the natural aid of melatonin.

We know he’s up at night because of the sounds of frequent trips into the kitchen: cupboards opening and closing, the refrigerator door opening the closing, as well as the washing machine for his weekly laundry. We joked with him recently as he started a load of laundry at 11pm, that it seemed awfully early to be doing laundry! He didn’t find it too funny. I guess laundry isn’t funny!

The phenomena of staying up all night and sleeping all day has been reported recently in the media. One commentary titled: Let Your Teens Stay Up All Night, And Other Pandemic Parenting Advice by Marlene Major from May 19, 2020, notes:

“Adults tend to do best with normal sleep and wake cycles. But our teens and college students might actually benefit from living in opposition to our values and expectations.”

Another article in the Boston Globe entitled: “Teens up all night and sleeping half the day. Endless Netflix binges. In lock down, kids carve out whole new schedules” by Hayley Kaufman points out that teens are also struggling during the pandemic and their schedules have turned them into “vampires”.

Ms. Kaufman quotes Dr. Stuart Ablon, the director of Think:Kids, a program in the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital:

“Seeing points of friction through a different lens can provide a lift for parents. Take sleep schedules, for example. According to experts, staying up later and sleeping in fits better with teenagers’ biology. Optimally, teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. Their circadian rhythms tend to make them night owls, something early school start times and bus schedules can wreak havoc with during a normal academic year.”

 

We are fortunate that my son’s school is out of session currently and if he does have classes for college in the fall, they will most likely be online, in the evening. We have also talked to our son about his current sleep patterns and it is clear to us that he is not concerned or worried about the hours he keeps. Having talked to other parents, I know my son is not the only one! As with other behaviors, it comes down to what a parent or family can accept vs what issues they want to take on.

On the positive side, a benefit when he is sleeping during the day, is that the house is very quiet and it is without any conflict. He doesn’t complain about typical noises coming from our kitchen, as we prepare breakfast and use the blender for smoothies. His best self comes out during our common time, in the early evening. We usually meet up in the kitchen and have quick conversations, as his mood or wake-up level may dictate. At 8pm, he is just gearing up for a long night ahead!

Another article from The New York Times published in 2019 called: “When Your 200-Month-Old Can’t Sleep Through the Night” by Perri Klass, M.D. states that their may be many factors can affect teens and their sleep:

“Social media and electronic devices in the bedroom. Intensely caffeinated drinks. The pressures of heavily overloaded schedules, including academic demands, extracurricular activities, travel sports teams, jobs and social lives.

What teen is without these things in their lives? Very few. So it is possible that the valuable “good sleep” is something our teens are missing from their development and may prevent them from performing at their best. The article goes on to say that if something is important enough, then solutions can be found: turning screens at night and avoiding caffeine can help, along with practicing consistent bedtime patterns. We have tried mentioning those ideas and others, like using a phone garage that can “park” their phone and charge it at the same time, during sleep hours.

Except for when our son had no devices at all, during his time away at treatment, he continues to be connected to many screens. At 19, he is now at the helm of decisions on usage. The fact that he purchased his current iPhone himself, and took over his own phone plan at the end of last year, makes it much easier for me to deal with his usage issues. So, it is really is up to him from here on out!

What About the Science of Sleep?

Much has been written about circadian rhythms or the bodies’ biological clocks, the teenage brain and the science of sleep. Another quote from the article above:

“Amy R. Wolfson, a professor of psychology at Loyola University in Maryland, and the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Sleep and Behavior, said that high school students tend to perform better in courses that meet later in the day, and perform better on cognitive tests when they are given in the afternoon.”

Many school professionals have discussed the topic of starting the school-day for teens slightly later, which matches what is known about teens’ biology. It makes sense that since teens stay up later, and they need their proper rest, that learning environments should reflect this information.

Is All Hope Lost?

No, I don’t think so. Part of growing up, especially for the older teen, is what they learn to do for themselves. That would include: healthy choices regarding sleep, eating habits and hygiene. We don’t have to agree on all their decisions, but hope to understand and give them room to succeed and fail. As parents, we know how important sleep is and it may be just a matter of time for those youngsters to figure it out, too! Until then, I will enjoy a quiet house in the middle of the day! Pleasant dreams!

Does your teen stay up at all hours? How are you handling it? Please comment below!

Additional resource about Sleep and Anxiety: All About Anxiety: Why Is It Preventing You From Sleeping? by Rose MacDowell from Sleepopolis

 

Self Care is a Primary Focus

 

Navigating today’s pandemic is a complicated mix of what to do and what not to do. It is certainly a stressful time, especially for those of us with teens who have struggled. It all comes down to the basic idea of self care. That term gets used all the time, yet it can be as individual as we are. Self-care is what we make it to be for ourselves.

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Self Care - 133 Things You Can Do
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What is Self Care?

I refer to an article by By (posted at PyschCentral.com) that defines self-care, called “What Self-Care Is – And What it is Not”. Three key components of self care include: mental, emotional and physical activities that help ground us and make us feel good. The author describes some basics that include proper sleep, nutrition, exercise, relaxing, spending quality time with loved ones, finding enjoyable activities and laughing each day.

In my “normal” list of self care physical activities: I have played tennis and pickle ball, swim, take walks, listen to music, watch light-hearted videos and movies and play the guitar. In today’s world, I can still take walks (so many walks, that my average steps are well over 14,000 per day), and many of my favorite activities, but not all of them.

Under our health orders in our county in CA, there are restrictions involving tennis and pickle ball, and swimming in our public pools. I will get back to those things all in good time and I’m okay with that. My health and those around me is too important to rush it and run into the possibility of more contamination and illness. So I feel good about following the guidelines, mainly because it’s the right thing to do.

My self care has evolved as we navigate our new world. There are so many simple and little pleasures I appreciate and enjoy.

  • Looking at and scanning old photographs
  • Baking my first sour dough bread loaf
  • Planning meals a week out since my shopping is now once a week
  • Planting a few veggies in pots: basil, tomato and padron peppers
  • More Warrior Mom Blog posts perhaps turning into a book…
  • Learning new songs on the guitar

 

Some Ideas to Deal with It All

It is tough to watch the whole world going through this pandemic. It is very sad to hear about the amount of death there has been. I do keep up with news and information, but at some point, we all get saturated and it brings us down. Here are some things I am doing to deal with it all:

  • I try to limit my news watching.
  • I try to find the positive stories of good people helping each other.
  • I try to stick to a routine.
  • I accept that change is always inevitable.
  • I try to connect with friends and family via phone or social media.
  • I try to be understanding to those around me.
  • I try to be mindful to relieve any stress, with breathing and being present.
  • I try to focus on what’s positive around me: the earth is resetting, families are together, solutions are in the works.
  • I like watching funny, creative videos.
  • I am fortunate to be able to keep selling on eBay. The ultimate work from home job!
  • I accept that things are different now vs before the outbreak.
  • I enjoy walking near my house and looking at all the beautiful flowers.
  • I am grateful my son is well and working.

 

The Unknown is Still Unknown

Having been through tough and uncertain times with a struggling teen during the past three years, I draw on the many tools I learned during that time. Just like “we lived our lives” during the past three years, we still don’t know what will happen tomorrow. No one does.

  • We all only have today.
  • One day at a time.
  • We are not alone.

We will get through this AND we need to work at it AND it will take time. (Time is such an odd concept, since we have a lot of that on our hands today.)

Our world has been forced to slow down. There are many people out of work and in need of financial aid. Our health becomes a priority. Staying healthy must include self-care. What does that look like for you?

Things I Want to Add to My Self Care List

  • I want to help others – not sure exactly what that means, but I’m thinking about it.
  • I want to get back to more reading: autobiographies are my top choice. Sally Field’s book is on my list.
  • I want to watch some great, old movies, since Tiger King does not interest me. Perhaps watch AFI’s Top 200 List!
  • I want to make bagels. The sour dough experiment was okay, but I think bagels would be fun!
  • I want to keep sorting and organizing photos and videos. I have so many!
  • I want to write more.
  • Get my bike out and start riding again!
  • Try some new recipes!

Last but not least, I count my blessings every day. It does sometimes feel like we are living in a real life version of “Groundhog Day” (Bill Murray movie), but each day is a gift. I have a loving family and as we continue to hunker down (I do love that expression), we are fortunate to have each other. I am confident that things in our world will evolve into a “new normal” and I am planning to continue with my self care.

 

Hanging in there,

WARRIOR MOM

Welcome to Adulting….My 18 1/2 Year Old Son

 

My now 18 1/2 year old son has been back home for four months. He was away for twenty-seven long months at three different treatment programs (Wilderness therapy, Residential Treatment Center aka “RTC” and a Step Down Program aka “Boarding School”). We are very happy to have him home, and he is doing well. He has recently taken some big steps forward that I’d like to share.

Welcome to Adulting!

The subtitle of this post might be called: “Time to Get a Job”. My son’s subtitle might be called: “My Gap Year After High School”.
Even before the term “Social Distancing” became a common expression, my son spent much of the last two months working his own version of social distancing, by keeping to himself, in his own room. Yes, I understand that is common for teenagers and young adults, around his age to want their own space. I know I did at his age, but he took it to another level. He became a Social Distance Master! He was ahead of the curve, especially since no one knew it would become an important skill!

Our home contract agreement stated that he either needed to be in school or have a job, when he came home. He worked during the months of October, November and December, at the local Best Buy as a seasonal employee. He like it a lot. His employment was over, just after New Year’s, the first week in January. During his first six months of being eighteen, he worked at McDonald’s in Utah and at Best Buy in Northern California. Both were excellent “first jobs” with lots of learning opportunities. And he was able to make some money.

In January, he spent time putting together his application for a vocational college in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He gathered transcripts from his three different high school learning environments and sent them off. He called the school in Canada and asked them questions about the Computer Software Development major he applied to. If it works out, his goal is to begin course work there in September. (With so many things up in the air world wide, we will just have to see how it all plays out!)

In January and February, he made some attempts at finding a job and had a few interviews but none worked out, until this past week. Ironically, when so many people are out of work due to the Coronavirus pandemic, our son is working as a bagger at the local grocery store in town. It is considered an “essential job” and he is following their guidelines about hand washing, keeping hands off his face and the correct social distancing!

 

His first paycheck has yet to arrive, but he has full time hours and is very busy in his duties. This comes right after another success: he finally took his driver’s permit test at an empty DMV a couple weeks ago and PASSED! We celebrated with a dinner at the Melting Pot (when we were still allowed to go out to a restaurant in California). He was proud of himself and very engaged at our meal. He shared funny “memes” on his phone and talked about world events with us that evening. It was really fun!
Next up is signing up for a driving course! Not sure when that will be allowed.

The Definition of “Adulting”

As we welcome our son to his new world of adulting, I looked up the meaning on Dictionary.com.

“Adulting is an informal term to describe behavior that is seen as responsible and grown-up. This behavior often involves meeting the mundane demands of independent and professional living, such as paying bills and running errands.”

He has done the following as an eighteen year old, all on his own:

  • Signed up for the Selective Service (mandatory for US males as they reach 18 years of age.)
  • Got a tiny nose piercing.
  • Opened a bank account and maintained it – complete with a few over draft service charges!
  • Applied for and received a 10 year US Passport.
  • Is working Full Time.
  • Voted in his first Election (the California Primary). No surprise he’s a Bernie guy!
  • Took over his own iPhone account.
  • Paid bills to: Apple Music, Hulu, AT&T, Apple Care.
  • Left his pediatric doctor office to join a new one for adults.
  • Just received his first Jury Duty request in the mail from the county.
  • Did his own taxes on Turbo Tax and Filed 2 state returns (UT & CA) – He’s excited to be getting a refund!
  • Passed his CA Driver’s Permit test.

 

We are very proud of all the adulting steps he has taken. There will be many more to come! One task at a time and one day at a time! There is no substitute for doing it yourself, as the best way to learn how to navigate what lies ahead in the adult world. So far his gap year after high school has included many life skills and lessons! Soon enough he will be grown and flown!

Staying in the moment,

WARRIOR MOM

 

Understanding Our Differences

Understanding Our Differences
Understanding Our Differences

My 18 year old son has been home from treatment since October 1, 2019. Our honeymoon phase lasted about a month, and things started to get a bit tougher for us, as a family. Overall things are still going well, but I have narrowed down our differences into four categories:

  • Perception
  • Reality
  • Expectations
  • Letting Go

We have the continued support of our family therapist (located in Utah), whom we talk to by phone once a week or every other week depending on schedules. My son talks to the same therapist on his own, about once a week. We need our therapist to help sort some of the differences noted above.

 

Perception 

One thing we have discovered is that my son does not like discomfort or anything that pushes him, even gentle nudges. As parents, we try to encourage with suggestions about work, higher education, free time and any number of topics, only to be stopped in our tracks with firm resistance.
He believes that his way is the best way to handle a situation. As he looks for new employment (his last job at Best Buy was a seasonal position only that ended in the beginning of January), he is content waiting for them to contact him instead of being the squeaky wheel.

 

Reality 

My son has sent an application into a tech vocational school in Canada. He filled it out on his own, asked for all his necessary high school transcripts and sent them in as well. We paid for the modest applications fees. Now he/we play a waiting game. We won’t have long, since he wants to enroll in the Spring Term which begins May 6th.I bet you are saying, “Well all college bound kids wait to hear from the schools they applied to.”
That may be true, but he has all his eggs in one basket: Canada or bust. From what I’ve read online, it seems like a fine school. There is the issue of a study/work permit to get into the country. There is the housing issue near a school that doesn’t have dormitories. And truthfully, his girlfriend lives there (okay, he does have motivation!)Good news, my son has a current passport, which he took care of on his own before visiting his girlfriend last December. At least that piece of the puzzle is taken care of, but the reality is that he has many other things to figure out. And he doesn’t want any help from us. That’s fine, but it’s not going to be as easy as he thinks it will be.

 

Expectations 

Who is going to pay for what? We have always said we would pay for his education. As our home contract said, he needs to either be working or in school. Our expectation was that one of those two things would be happening right now, but it’s not. He has not found a job that suits him, for various reasons. (Starbucks is too hard, other places are too far away, not the right schedule, etc).He planned on taking a certain amount of money into Canada with him. Right now, without a job, he has no money. We are trying to let natural consequences take over, but his expectations are that we will help him more than we say we will. He needs to have “skin in the game” as they say. He’s never been easily motivated, which makes this process so difficult.

 

Letting Go 

We are in the middle of his “self-proclaimed” gap year. Long ago, when he was an early teen, long before he went to Wilderness Therapy and the rest of treatment (RTC and Aftercare), his idea was to take a gap year so he could play video games. We did not agree with this idea and yet, here we are seeing a late teen play Minecraft and do little outside of his room. We have let go of just “how” the adulting will play out and when the actual launching will happen for him. We talk to other parents whose kids also might be less mature, and see that it’s not easy. We make no judgments, believe me.If you are reading this with ideas of what we should do, I applaud you for caring, but our current path is to let this play out organically, without trying to put a square peg into a round hole. In the meantime, we are encouraging, trying to keep him engaged in our lives (not easy for a late teen) and making the most of what is positive.We are grateful that he is safe and know where he is, even if it’s his own room. We are grateful that while things are not perfect, he is not doing drugs. We are happy that he very much cares about his appearance, even when he lets his beard grow. (He did just shave this week, not because we suggested it however!) We are grateful for our friends who listen to our saga and try not to fix it for us or for our son. We are grateful to have grown in the past three years with the help of caring professionals. We are still trying to find balance in our lives with continual self-care and perspective.

 

The Strength is in the Struggle

That motto comes from our son’s residential treatment center (Discovery Ranch for Boys) and it is very true! We will get through this time of different perceptions, realities and expectations, as we continue to learn to let go. We try to remember that this part of life is up to the young adult, not the parent. We’ve already been 18, 19, 20 years old…… We’ve already been to college and taken our own missteps. It’s up to them now!

 

We Continue to Love 

Our son will hopefully one day see, that we are in his corner and always have been. He wants to do everything himself, except swallow on the very difficult financial pill of what lies ahead for him. He wants to grow up and at the same time, he doesn’t want to. Sound familiar? It’s not easy out there. So our answer for now is to continue to love him, let him take his time, make his mistakes and see it his way (without the unnecessary “I told you so’s”).I follow the stories of many parents in our shoes and I have such empathy for the difficulties that so many families are dealing with. My heart goes out to them and feel blessed that we have come as far as we have. I also know of others who are lucky to have kids that haven’t “fallen down and skinned their knees big time”. Whichever side you land on, take a moment and count your blessings. Take a look around and know others may be in pain. As I often say, we are all just doing the best we can.

I continue to be a WARRIOR MOM……

It’s Not Always Easy….And Yet We Keep Moving Forward

It's Not Easy, But We Move Forward

It has been two months since our 18 year old son has been back home for good from treatment. It’s been great to have him under our roof after twenty-seven months away. We all have been making adjustments to living together again. Not perfect, but rather a work in progress. We have continued with our family therapy calls with his therapist from Utah, by phone. That has been very important and helpful when we need to bring up difficult subjects and clear the air at times. It gives each of us a voice.

Dr. Tim Thayne, author of “Not By Chance: How Parents Boost Their Teen’s Success In and After Treatment says “The choice to place your teen in treatment was the hardest decision you have ever made. And the second hardest decision you will make is to bring him home again.”

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Very true indeed. There is so much unknown ahead. We have to focus on what is right in front of us, one day at a time. My son is in his self-proclaimed GAP year, which means he has chosen to get a job and work right now. Our communication has been tough at times, since he is at the age when he is trying to break away from us and that isn’t easy honestly, since we finally have him back again. Another way to look at it is, he was away when he should have been home, and he is home when he should be away. A bit of a flip flop for us as parents.

So for today’s post, I want to focus on what positive things have been happening for my son in the past six months:

1) Son passed the CHSPE exam (California High School Proficiency Exam) in June and is done with High School. BIG!
2) Son graduated from his step down program at the end of September 2019. Gave a brief, but important speech acknowledging his successes while away at treatment.
3) Son has looked into college, toured one and began application. Took the SAT, but has decided a GAP year is his path currently.
4) We agreed on a contract of boundaries and house rules for his return home. Still a work in progress on implementation of household duties/chores and our expectations, AND his.
5) Son wrote a relapse prevention plan, which was awesome on his part. So far so good.
6) Son applied for a job at Best Buy while in Utah so he could begin work right when he came home. Had interview beginning of October, was hired and has been working, mostly part time. Increased work hours coming slowing, but achieved his first forty hour week at Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
7) Saved some money, spent most of it on paintball equipment and some clothes. Started saving again.
8) Planned a trip to meet a friend in Canada before Christmas and renewed his passport on his own.
9) Bought his own plane ticket, with his own money!

10) Started his own phone account, is now off our plan and took over payments of his iPhone purchased in August. REALLY BIG!

His independence is beginning, maybe not quickly, but it is happening. Next up is the driver’s license! When I ask about it, his reply is, “I’m studying.” Okay then, there you have it. A lot of good. Most of it slow. He is not the best communicator in the world, but that may not be surprising to those parents out there with boys!

For me, it’s been a process of letting go. In an email from a parent support group that I belong to was the most perfect reminder of this difficult concept. I am sharing it with you below (many thanks to my brave, unnamed fellow support group parent)!

TO “LET GO” TAKES LOVE
by author unknown

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.
To “let go” is not to cut myself off,
it is the realization I can’t control another.
To “let go” is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To “let go” is to admit powerlessness,
which means that the outcome is not in my hands.
To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another,
it is to make the most of myself.
To “let go” is not to care for,
but to care about.
To “let go” is not to fix,
but to be supportive.
To “let go” is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
To “let go” is not to be in the middle, arranging the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own destinies,
To “let go” is not to be protective,
but to permit another to face reality.
To “let go” is not to deny,
but to accept.
To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.
To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take every day as it comes, and to cherish myself in it.
To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To “let go” is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.
To “let go” is to fear less and love more.

My family has come so far, and yet the road ahead is still unknown. We are working on accepting that……

Wishing you Peace and Happiness,
WARRIOR MOM

Homeward Bound…..823 days!

Homeward Bound....823 Days
Homeward Bound….823 Days – Utah to CA!

Monday, the last day of September, 2019 will rank as a high point for my son and us as a family in so many emotional ways. He will be graduating from his step down program after 27 months away from home and we will all drive home from Utah together. It is a truly amazing journey!

It’s been 821 days (as I write this blog post) since we sent our then fifteen year old son to wilderness, way back at the end of June 2017. Fast forward to this coming Monday, the last day of September 2019 and he will be heading home for good! To recap: he will be graduating from his step down program after eight months in southern Utah, along with seventeen months at his residential treatment center near Salt Lake City and before that, 92 days in his wilderness therapy program in southern Idaho. 823 days away from home! Can that even be possible? WOW!

This has been a tremendous journey, as cliché as that may sound. He is ready to begin a new chapter of life facing many of his previous challenges and plenty of new ones as well. Isn’t that what life is about? Yet, what is different for him and for us as a family, are the tools we have gained and the experience of all the hard work that comes with treatment in general. He is one of the lucky ones, and so are we!

We couldn’t have done this alone. We have been fortunate to have been helped by a host full wonderful therapists, advisors, mentors and top notch professionals in this field. They truly care. The programs have tons of experience helping teenagers with their personal issues and work hard to get them back on track. It is a true team effort and is not for the faint of heart, not to mention the unimaginable cost families have to bear.

One good person led us to another good person to another and so we learned to navigate this treacherous sea of “what shall we do next?” with trust and hope and our “gut” feelings. We didn’t know what we didn’t know and with each new interaction we picked up a phrase or new tidbit of information that took us down another trail to where we are today. The road can be long as we can attest.

We are so proud of our son. He is happy again and reports no anxiety or depression. He still faces the challenges of technology use as do we all. He is now finished with high school after taking the CHSPE exam (similar to the GED) and wants to work for a year before heading to the college experience. He is a good kid, not perfect, not fixed as people want to ask, yet a better communicator and compliant to rules and boundaries. We have repaired our relationships and continue to work at it. At 18 years old, his future direction will be up to him.

I don’t want give the impression that our lives resemble a “package all tied up neatly with a bow on top”, but rather, a chance to see what opportunities lie ahead for all of us! This is a chance at a new beginning. And so we begin a fresh chapter with our now adult son living with us again, back home in Marin County and the SF Bay Area, CA. Thank you for reading and for your constant support in our heck of a journey! I will continue to blog and ask you to come back often to check our progress!

Most gratefully and filled with love,

Warrior Mom

The Magical 18th Birthday

The Magical 18th Birthday

At the end of July my son turned eighteen years old! We celebrated by taking a weekend trip and meeting up in New Mexico. All of us were excited to travel somewhere new outside of Utah for a change! It was a nice way to celebrate and we had a great time! We toured the University of New Mexico, ate delicious Southwestern cuisine, visited the Hot Air Balloon Museum and saw many of the location sites used for the TV show “Breaking Bad”.

Eighteen is a “BIG” birthday, since in the eyes of the law, one becomes a “legal adult”.  For many teenagers turning eighteen means “getting to do anything they want”.  That is, until they have to pay for it with their own money!

The transition between seventeen and eighteen years old can be a confusing right of passage. Teens want freedom and they want to be taken seriously. Parents want them to be safe, yet know that their kids have to figure things out themselves. As those kids mature, the world of responsibility can begin to close in quickly, making life a bit uncomfortable. So many decisions about their futures have to be addressed. These important decisions include:  higher education, jobs, goals, travel and relationships. The common thread is that they all require money, something many teenagers do not have in abundance quite yet.

Getting a job is a great way to teach important lessons of what’s ahead for older teens. My son made big strides by getting his first job at a McDonald’s in Southern Utah this summer. He has been grilling burgers for more hours than he is excited about, which is actually great news. He has said that now he knows he needs higher education, so that this entry level job is not his only choice for the future! HALLELUJAH!

The other big news is that just days before turning eighteen, my son passed the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam)! Can I hear an AMEN? School has been a huge challenge for him and this signifies the END of his high school classes! It is a relief as a parent to not have to worry about his credits or lack of credits as he turned eighteen! He is ready for something new and so are we! (Come back to this blog for more info on how his IEP – Individual Education Program worked and didn’t work in his public schooling!)

We are now about to dip our toes into uncharted territory with an ADULT son who is a couple of months away from coming home for good, from treatment this fall. We will get to write the new roles we will assume. We will still be the parents and he will still be the son, but all our hard work over the past two years will be tested in new ways, once he is back. We are excited, happy, scared and “anticipatory” as the boys in his wilderness were fond of saying!

Until then, CONGRATS and HAPPY BIRTHDAY son! I LOVE YOU!

Warrior Mom

2 Years…….Full of Gratitude and Positive Changes

Gratitude
Gratitude

On June 28/29th we will mark two years into our journey. We are so grateful for the time, which has been full of positive change and family healing. When we sent our son to Wilderness therapy with the help of a transport company in 2017, we took a giant leap of faith. We had no idea what to expect. Would this “reboot” work? Would he resent us? Would we get our son back?

Our decision was excruciating. But ultimately after trying everything, we knew we had to do something drastic to keep him safe and stop the downward spiral. He was just shy of his 16th birthday. Today our family can see a future as he turns 18 next month. We all have come a long way!

A couple of weeks ago, our son was home for a quick visit and I asked him a few questions, sort of an interview. His answers might surprise you!


Interview with my son

Warrior Mom: What do you remember from that time two years ago?
Son: I don’t have a lot of memories from that time, since the drugs heavily affected me. After wilderness, my memory got better at the RTC (residential treatment center).
Warrior Mom: What was the worse part for you from that time?
Son: The last part of my freshman year was the worst. I was spiraling out of control. I thought that you should have sent me sooner.

 

Warrior Mom: What are some of the positive parts?
Son: Being sober. My mental health is stable. My happiness level is better. My anxiety is better. My self confidence is better.

Warrior Mom: Thoughts about the two year anniversary of going to treatment?
Son: In some ways it feels short, in some ways it feels long.

Warrior Mom: Do you think that others at your local high school would benefit from treatment?
Son: Yes, I know at least fifteen kids who have been to some kind of treatment. A lot of kids from California are in Utah!

Warrior Mom: What was it like when you visited your old RTC last month?
Son: It was really surreal. It looked the same. Some new kids, a few from when I was there. I liked being there without the same rules. A bunch of us from the step down answered questions about it and what it was like to have more independence and privileges.

Warrior Mom: You also had a chance to go to one of your RTC mentor’s wedding. Tell me about it.
Son: It was really fun. We were no longer just staff and students, instead we interacted like friends. I had a good time. We got to decorate the wedding get away car! It was a long day and we got back around 11pm.

Warrior Mom: You have made lots of friends in treatment. Do you keep in touch?
Son: Yeah, I text them and most of them are doing well. One friend and I have talked about working a couple of shifts at our old Wilderness program next Summer.

Warrior Mom: Wow, that sounds like fun!
Son: Yeah.

Warrior Mom: Can you share some of your current goals?
Son: I want to earn money by getting a job. (He was hired at McDonald’s last week and has completed orientation and two training sessions on the grill so far!) I want to move into the Bridge Independent Living House. I want to go to college. (We are going to tour University of New Mexico in July).

Warrior Mom: We are very proud of you. You should be proud of yourself, too.
Son: Thanks. I am!

We have so much to be grateful for as a family. The past two years have been filled with renewed opportunities for growth, communication and love. It has been joyful and at times tearful. The financial end of it is unimaginable! We have met so many wonderful professionals and had support from family and friends. We have made many new friends who are going through similar journeys. Thank you to all who read this blog. I know writing it helps me and hopefully I can shed some light of hope for others.

It is a one day at a time process. This hits home to me this very moment, after hearing of the passing of one of my son’s most extraordinary teachers today. She was a special person to my whole family. I want to dedicate this blog post to her. Her positive outlook was contagious and she touched all of us who knew her. I am saddened with her passing, yet she was able to see my son in person not long ago and witnessed the 2.0 version of him in action. RIP dear Christy. You were there with us the past two years and of course for all the years before as well. I will miss our weekly walks and your unwavering support. Thank you. My thoughts are with your family.

WARRIOR MOM

The Story of the Turkey Mama

The Story of Turkey Mama

This event actually happened and the best part is that it took place on Mother’s Day. It is eye opening to see how many parallels can be drawn between life in the animal kingdom and humans. I’ll give you a hint….the Turkey Mama is a Warrior Mom too!

In our neighborhood in Marin County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have tons of wild life: coyotes, skunks, foxes, raccoons, deer, peacocks and recently, wild turkeys. They are big birds and hearing them make their “gobble, gobble” sounds in person, can be surprising as well as entertaining.

Our garden is filled with many blooming flowers and newly leafing trees, mainly due to our over the top rainfall this Spring. Our yard and neighborhood at large, has become a newly popular pit stop for a number of wild turkeys. I’ve witnessed them flying over head from the roof across the street to our gravel parking area. I have seen them walking up and down the nearby driveways and hear them often, especially in the early morning. It’s been really fun seeing them hanging around!

Below is a photo of one turkey visitor on Easter Sunday. The brown colored, plainish looking turkeys are the females. On a couple of occasions I’ve seen a pair of male and female turkeys together, but not on this day.


The Story of Turkey Mama

Fast forward a couple of weeks and one day my partner was inspecting the fence along the property line. She almost stepped right on a turkey hiding in the deep ivy. The turkey did not want to be disturbed and made a hissing sound at her. It obviously did not want to be bothered, but why was it there? Just days before a coyote had sauntered through our backyard, in the bright daylight, and perhaps the turkey had been injured by the coyote and was just laying there trying not to move. Another thought was that the turkey was nesting.

After a quick Google search, we learned that turkeys can lay one egg per day, until she has about ten to twelve eggs, with a twenty-eight day incubation period. Then ALL the eggs hatch at the same time. The timing for this event is usually at the end of May into the first week of June. The turkey was probably sitting on her eggs, hiding in an out of the way spot, patiently waiting for them to hatch. We did not know for sure, until the next day.

As I was walking through the dining room after breakfast, I glanced through the large window, at the lower lawn area. I looked out to an unexpected and incredible scene. There was the Turkey Mama and what seemed like a ton of baby turkey chicks.  They were all making baby chick sounds and scurrying on the lawn looking for tiny insects. The Turkey Mama was grooming herself by rubbing her back on the lawn. It was quite a sight! She made a big dirt spot by rubbing out of a section of the lawn.

I yelled to everyone in the house to come see what was happening. We had family visiting that weekend and everyone starting taking lots of photos, as we discovered this heart warming scene. Our Jack Russell Terrier shared our excitement, barking wildly, mainly because we could not let her outside to disturb the turkey family.

The Story of Turkey Mama

After counting and re-counting, we determined that there were thirteen little babies. This mama had her hands full. Yet, in the middle of the chaos, she found time to keep an eye on each one of them. They were scurrying all over the place, some venturing out a bit further than the rest. Others stayed right by her side. She was patient and kind. And they were as cute as could be!

In a blink of an eye, danger arose for the little chicks called “poults”. A blue jay and then a squawking crow came swooping down towards them. The Turkey Mama made an aggressive move toward the predators and the attacking birds flew away for the moment. The chicks laid as low as they could, hiding in the blades of grass to keep safe, popping up when the coast was deemed clear by Turkey Mama. Then she opened her wings and gathered the whole group under her body, which is called brooding. The attacking birds flew by again and again trying to snatch one of babies, and she became the turkey version of a Warrior Mom. No one was going to hurt her offspring! She protected them and then moved the whole group into a safer location away from the crow and blue jay.

The tense moments lasted for about forty-five minutes. When it became safe again, she brought them out to explore other parts of the yard. The chicks watched and learned from the experienced Turkey Mama. She will be the center of their universe for about four to six months. The poults are unable to fly for four weeks and then will roost in trees at night. They cruised all over the yard and it was easy to see who was in charge.

At the end of the day, they returned close to the original nesting spot, but moved on within about 24 hours to a new location. I am sad to say that some of the original thirteen did not survive, but she did her best to ward off the sometimes cruel world. I watched her show her young poults how to do things for themselves. Her job was to teach them, not do it for them. She was also there to protect and defend them. She kept them moving and showed them the way. All of these takeaways were helpful reminders of our “true” jobs as parents. Hopefully we can let our kids “fly” on their own when it is time.

I do not know where they are now, perhaps we will see them walking down the street or hear them gobbling in the next mating season. My guess is that for now Turkey Mama is showing her young everything they will need to know to survive. It was an awesome Mother’s Day. And oh, we also received a FaceTime call from our son in Utah. We told him about the Turkey Mama and her poults and sent him a photo in a text. I think he thought it was cool, too!

Full of gratitude, I am…

Warrior Mom

Goodbye RTC, Hello Step Down Program

The Ranch
The Ranch

This past month has been a very exciting time for my 17 1/2 year old son! He has started a new program in a new area of Utah. This program is what is known as a “Step Down” program in the treatment world. It is a small co-ed, boarding prep school with only 37 total students and a place of many possibilities towards a bright future! Much of what he learned at his Residential Treatment Center (RTC) will be put to the test quite quickly! It will be a perfect place to practice!

We left the Ranch last week on a Thursday and drove down to Southern Utah with a car full of clothing, boots, binders and memories! The exact day and time of the departure was kept under wraps by the staff, as close to the last minute as possible, so the students keep participating and working on their issues. In my son’s case, he had a vague idea of when he would be leaving, but not the exact day and time. We challenged him to continue to put in the work, in what would be his final weeks of his almost 17 month stay. He was ready and we were ready! He had learned all that they could offer and succeeded in many aspects during his time there.

One of the biggest achievements was that he finished Geometry, and took his final test (a re-test) and passed with 100% on his next to last day! Days earlier he had only scored a 47% on that same exam. In fact he passed three tests during his last week, which helped quite a bit. He had been ready to give up and accept a half credit for the course just weeks prior. But we as parents and his therapist pushed him into getting the studying done! We told him that if he completed Geometry, he would never have to take that class again, ever! Geometry was not his favorite subject (and who can blame him for thinking that!) but he did get the job done and WOW you could see his pride and excitement when he told us all about it on his final day at the RTC. My son also shared he that decided to skip his team’s basketball game (his did have a sore wrist, but still getting off campus was always a treat) and so he hit the books in order to finish this daunting math class! It was one of the first times that he directly saw the pay-off for actually doing the difficult work! It was a huge accomplishment!

Another big moment for the kids leaving The Ranch is coming up with a “brand” and having it burned into the wall at the entry of the Administration Building and another on a take-away plaque to keep. There are so many unique symbols from every boy who had left prior to my son. It is considered a very special ritual and as we were landing at the Salt Lake City Airport, his therapist texted pictures to us. We would miss that moment in person, but would be able to participate in the “Goodbye Group” with his fellow students, many staff members and mentors.


 

Making His Own Mark
Making His Own Mark
As we entered the Bunkhouse, where my son had lived since the very end of September 2017, he warmly greeted us with the biggest smile imaginable! He remembered that is was my birthday and even told me, “Happy Birthday”! Those words were the best gift I could receive! I was very moved! As we were getting ready to begin the Goodbye Group, the boys in the bunkhouse all started singing “Happy Birthday” in unison. That really floored me! Even with prompting from the staff, they were able to show their sweet sides to another parent in their group! That put a big smile on my face!
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday Cake from My Son

There is a designated couch at one end of the main room where my son and the two of us sat. He spoke into a small hand held recording device and announced that it was his Goodbye Group, the date and then paused it, as he passed it to the first boy sitting to his right. They each turned on the recorder, introduced themselves and offered words of wisdom, encouragement or memories of my son and their joint time at The Ranch. Some spoke a short time, some a little longer, but all the messages were heartfelt and very thoughtful. The staff members all participated and added their advice and remarks to and about my son. Our son’s therapist had a couple of quotes that rang true as perfect advice for his future. One was from Mohammed Ali, though I can not recall what the quote was at present. My son will get a copy of all these special sentiments and will be able to listen to them later.

As the recorder was handed to me, I was overcome with emotions. I was going to miss this place, even though it was  difficult having my son so far away from home. This place, that was a safe haven for my son. A place that gave him confidence in himself, where he took care of newborn calves, where he rode horses each week, where he did his own laundry, performed in the Parent Day’s Variety shows and succeeded in school! There were so many thoughts and memories swirling in my head, I had to focus on what I was going to say to him as my parting words from the RTC that was his home and school for over a year!

I turned the recorder on, and couldn’t speak. His therapist was quick to retrieve a box of Kleenex as I gathered myself. It was very silent and then tears began running down my cheeks. My first words were, “WAY TO GO!” You did it. It may have been longer than we all thought it would be, but YOU DID IT! I am proud of you. You stuck with the challenges, leveling up and then even leveling down. Participating in all sorts of therapy, more than anyone can even imagine! But what stood out to me was that your effort was there, even when it didn’t look like if from the outside! You wrote us weekly letters, even if they were mandatory assignments. I am so lucky to have a large stack of them. Yes, they were short and somewhat repetitive but they mattered! I looked so forward to receiving the scan of a new letter every Monday! If for some reason it came on a Tuesday, I was beside myself with anticipation of getting that letter. I was always happy to know that you were okay and were even having a good time!

I then told the boys in the room that their parents and loved ones really appreciated getting their letters, whether they realized it or not! My words to my son then returned back to a simple, yet important theme. I was proud of him, because he was present. I know that being away from home was not something he would have chosen. I know it was hard for him. But guess what, it was hard for me too, not having him home. And most importantly, his original goal (that he stated to the Admission’s person on his first day) was to repair and improve the communication and relationship with his moms. I believe as he does, that he accomplished that!

“You did it son! Way to go! I love you! I can’t wait to see what’s next for you and your future! I’m really excited for you! It’s now all up to you! And we are here for you and still have your back!”

The mic passed to my partner who said something awesome to him and I know he was listening from watching his facial expressions. The circle was complete. We then all went downstairs into the CafeA and had some delicious birthday cake that my son had made in the school’s kitchen, along with his therapist. There is a tradition (at the Ranch) of getting a cake on your birthday made with your favorite ingredients and that was true for me too: chocolate cake, chocolate icing with Reese’s peanut butter cups and Reese’s pieces all over the top! What a birthday I had! We said our last goodbyes and hit the road down to Southern Utah. The next day was going to be big! Entering the Step Down program where my son knew he needed be, for now.

In the car, we talked about our various memories of the Ranch and gave tribute to all those people who helped us along the way. We are all excited to see what’s next! Our journey continues….. Stay tuned!

I AM ONE FORTUNATE,

WARRIOR MOM