Thursday, February 1, 2018

Leave me Alone, but Not Like That

My dear son, 

Our relationship is pretty excruciating these days. You hate to see me coming. I might nag you to do something that’s not on your agenda of nothingness. You're chillin. I know. 

I can’t do enough for you and yet you say, “All you want is to be left alone.”  

Well, all I want is to leave you alone. I’m ready get my life back, if I even know what that looks like anymore. Maybe I would like to have a career that grants me some kind of validation that I am more than just a good mom. I’m constantly fighting the voices in this world, including the one inside my head that says, “Raising children is not a career. You’re not an independent woman you don’t bring home a paycheck.” 

Most of those voices have no idea how much work and energy is involved in raising special needs children, taking care of a parent with a husband who travels and is buried in work all the time. We live in a state where we have no family. Just maintaining our mental health is a piece of work within itself. I know the voices are wrong, but they're still there and I fight them all-of-the-time. 

I have given you and your brothers 24 years of my life. For as long as you have been alive, I have put you first. 

(By the way, I told your brother and now I’m telling you, don’t think for one minute that whoever you decide to marry, will do half of the things I’ve done for you or your children. Most women will not give up so much to be everything to their kids.) I was crazy to do it! 

I set the standard pretty high, which is why you all still expect so much from me. You and Kendal still think I’m your beck and call girl --at your service 24 hours a day. Well ...I quit that gig a few years ago but apparently, y'all didn't get the memo. 

You want to be left alone, but when I leave you alone, you call and text me and the texts are not pleasant.  A few weeks ago, I’m sitting in a cafe having a glass of wine, writing. The wine was especially delicious probably because it was paired with freedom from doing things for other people. I was alone and in heaven until my blood pressure shot up after the unpleasantries of your messages. 

You have said things like you don’t appreciate me “being selfish” and leaving. What? So I have no right to do anything for myself? 

You are a legal adult. You love to be independent and disappear by yourself to go write, draw and do homework in coffee-houses all over town --to go hang out with your friends. Well, guess what? I’m human. I need to do things for myself too. I need my writing time. I need the occasional night out or a weekend with my girlfriends. I need to travel —to go see my friends and family. Most of them don’t live here. You’re not the only one who gets lonely. I have feelings too. 

I need to maintain my marriage and date my husband. Have you noticed that many marriages don’t last as long as ours has? We have had some strenuous times while raising you boys, but we stayed together. Mostly because we were too busy with one crisis to another, to get a divorce. 

It is time for me to leave you more often. Just because I leave you for a few days or a few hours does not mean that I am abandoning you. Ultimately, I will always be here for you, just not every second of every day.  

I understand you’re going through a lot of transitions right now. You’re adjusting to adulthood and community college. You’re sad. You miss your friends. 

Traditionally, this is where parents and children part ways. The young adult goes away to college, to the military, a gap year in Europe or wherever the hell you can go to escape the bondage of having parents. Most soon to be 19 year-olds are out in the world, bungling their way through life and making mistakes without the careful observation of their parents. 

Unfortunately, that typical scenario is not where we find ourselves. Thanks to the wonderful challenges that autism brings, we are a little behind the curve. You’re not ready to move away from us completely.  There are still some skills of independent life that you need to acquire.

Being the advanced student that you are, unfortunately means that we were not focused as heavily on independent living skills while you were in high school. Sure, we worked on cooking, chores, laundry and basic self-care. But we didn’t so much work on budgeting and time management. Frankly, I don’t think the high school fully prepared you with the executive functioning skills that you would need for college. 

I get it. You don’t want to be told what to do. My mom lives with me. I don’t want her telling me what to do. As much as you don’t want to be told, I don’t want to be the one telling you. I want you to handle your business on your own. I want you to be out in the world making your own decisions. I want you to be able to decide when you need to get up for class and when you should start planning and executing that paper for your English class. 

I want you to plan your meals and when decide when you want to eat out. I want you to manage your money. It would be nice if you had your own money. It would be nice if you had a schedule for your laundry and for the rest of your life. I want NOTHING to do with any of that. Yet, I am consistently pulled into the intricacies of your life when you are not handling everything. Like when you wait until the last minute to work on a paper for school.  When the shit hits the fan, and you're panicking, I become fully enthralled in the fallout as if everything is my fault.  

School is 100% your responsibility, as it always has been. When you go to work, you can't call me to solve your issues there. You will have to find other resources. College is practice for that. You have to collaborate with professors, counselors and other students to come up with solutions.  

We live cooperatively as a family. You still need me in a lot of ways (mostly for money and rides). We have to consider each other when our lives are still intertwined. This in a nutshell is our conflict. It’s big. It’s messy and there are no quick and easy answers. We are stumbling all over each other with our righteous resentment for the roles we find ourselves in. 

What you may not realize is that I’m going through a transition too. I’m in a period of  letting go of the job I’ve been doing for your entire life.  

Taking care of you, being your second voice, your advocate, your cook, your maid and your life manager has been my job. We are transitioning away from that, with you taking on more responsibility for yourself.

The thing is, I know you can do this! You’ve always been an independent, conscientious student. Now we just need to meld that together with some adult-living skills --blending the responsibilities of your daily life with school. For some reason the thought of that seems to be freaking you out. But I know you can do this!  

In order for you to grow into the man that I know you will be, I have to let go of some things that have been a part of me for a very long time. I have to let go of control. I can’t walk in your shoes. I can’t cocoon you from the ugly, adult world. You are half-way in while your other foot is still in the door of the home you share your parents. 

I’m straddling the line between treating you like an adult when in some ways you are still a like a child. You still have needs to be met. You are struggling wanting independence not being quite ready to let go of your childhood.  I have been your lifelong caretaker. 

You have actually said, “I hate this dynamic.” I can totally understand that. I’m not in love with it either. I don’t want to be micromanaging your life any more than you want to be micromanaged. We’re in a transition. We are both learning and we are both letting go. 

This transition stage is a mixed bag of nuts (heavy on the nuts) for both of us.  

We will get through this. I hope that we can try to be compassionate and patient for what each of us is going through. We have to work together to treat each other with dignity and respect. Otherwise, someone is going to get hurt …and it ain’t me! 

When we get it all figured out, you will be an awesome, adult, human being who will conquer the world. The mountain feels insurmountable now, but the only way to climb it is one step at a time. I’m with you. I'm behind you …just from a little more of a distance. 

I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t push you to leave the safety of this nest. I love you too much to treat you like a baby. I have to treat you like the man that you want to be.  A man who is out contributing to the world —changing things for the better. I can’t wait to see you soar. 



This is Us
Me always joking around and you so serious.