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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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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……
Routines are seldom exciting. Routines can be rather dull. But our new routine was different than most because our son is away at school. And the school is more than just the normal boarding school because they deal with struggling teens. There are lots of rules and expectations of how to get along. There are levels that one moves up through to get more privileges and freedoms.
Our son began at Level One which is better than some. Since he went to a wilderness program he jumped ahead of the Orientation Level. I’m not clear on all the aspects of the levels but, there is information in the Parent Handbook that explains it all. Frankly, it’s a lot to digest. Happily, our son is doing what he’s supposed to to and getting along with staff and peers. The main thing that he’s lacking is the ability to open up.
Why does he have to open up you might ask? Well in addition to school, they are teaching communication skills, values and goals. In order to move forward, one needs to learn to get to the root of why their parents sent them there. Or as if often referred to in slang, “when the wheels fell off the bus”. The new setting gives the students a chance to work on self-improvement by doing daily and weekly chores among other activities.
Some of the chores include doing their personal laundry weekly, cleaning the house they live in. And yes, that means the bathroom and vacuuming, as well as making their beds daily. Everything needs to be tidy and neat. Try that with any group of teenage boys and you might have some difficulties. But if you want to move up to another level, then these things get done. And a habit will become routine when practiced daily and weekly. So there is a lot of repetition and learning by doing. A mom’s dream environment.
Keeping a schedule can create good habits. They rise at seven am, they take care of personal care, then PE! After that, they eat breakfast. Then they feed their calves. A little housekeeping and then some therapy with their personal or group therapist depending on the day of the week. A little free time, lunch, shower and then school. What? Yup, they go to school beginning at 4 pm every day.
More about that tomorrow, so come back to read about how this school turns education on it’s head!