Parent Coaching, Parent Mentoring, Parent Support, Residential Treatment, Wilderness Therapy

– lots of new and exciting things are happening

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Parent Support, Residential Treatment, Wilderness Therapy

The day you have to just hold your breath as a parent and hope it turns out okay.

Our son arrived in wilderness safely, thank god. I was convinced something horrid was going to happen, like a plane crash and I was going to have to live with that the rest of my life.  My rationale mind left the building months ago, and was secretly replaced with severe anxiety, anger, high stress, and just plain old crazy.

It seemed that neither he nor I could do anything in the emotional states we were each in.  I look back and realize that we were at such odds that sharing the same physical space was killing both of us.  He needed to be away from me, as much as I needed to be away from him.  It was like the mere sight of each other brought us both rage and anger.  The reality was we were both suffering from hurt and disappointment.  It was sad for me, I was the adult, the parent, I should have never allowed it to get this far. 

I was feeling guilty, numb, sad, and mostly frightened. The fear was not for his physical safety; he was strong I knew he could survive the elements. My fear was that of failure; his failure and my failure.  What happens if this is all he gets in life?  What happens if this is all I get as a parent?

I was exhausted, exhausted of being scared for him and of him. I was exhausted for covering up the realness of what our life was.  I was exhausted from making excuses with my family.  I was exhausted with trying not to be mad at him, myself, and anyone whom I came into contact. I just wanted to be left alone and go to sleep.

From the very beginning I realized this was not a kid problem, this was a family problem.  We all needed to work on our stuff separately and then rejoin and work together. And with that realization for the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt like I could finally breathe.

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support

Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

I have searched and searched and to the best of my knowledge “Quirky” is not in the mental health diagnostic manual. So I would very much like social workers, psychologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, teachers, priests or even the garbage man to stop telling me, “Don’t worry he is fine, he is just ‘QUIRKY”. I swear I was going to rip off their lips so they could never speak again.

My mother’s intuition runs deep, and often I question it because field experts, (okay maybe the garbage man, wasn’t considered a field expert, but the rest of them were in my mind), would provide information that while technically correct, just didn’t “feel” like it was spot on for my kid.

My “gut” was only capable of telling me something was off, it didn’t allow me to know what the “off” was. Very early on in the game of parenting our pediatrician shared the one thing he learned very early in his 50 year plus practice. Listen to a mother, she knows her child.

He explained “Most often I can diagnosis solely upon what a mother reports, I then do a physical exam to confirm what I am thinking. He said, “never doubt your mothers intuition, more often than not will be right.” Thank you Dr. Kolsky, words to live by, and they probably saved our sons life.

My son was a c-section baby because he was breech, in retrospect I should have known the future was going to be dicey, he obviously wasn’t ready to meet the world and literally put his feet out to stop it. Despite his in-utero gymnastics, he was born healthy, and general was a very easy baby, this kid was totally playing me, I now know.

The mother’s intuition kicked in when he was a toddler. He went through the terrible 2’s, but he was an overachiever at it. I always felt his responses were disproportional to the event, but then again everyone told me, he is a boy, he is toddler, relax, he is normal.

Yes, he was “normal”. He couldn’t be in a bathroom when you flushed the toilet, it was too loud. I know we had the “good toilets” the ones where you could flush golf balls down and all would be okay, but seriously it wasn’t that loud. He hated tags in his clothes and god forbid you try to alter a routine he went ape shit. If we said we were going to the playground he had to go, it didn’t matter that it was the middle of a hail storm. Flexible this kids was NOT. Motherhood wasn’t feeling so great to me. Where were those cute kids on the Toys R Us commercials, they were always happy.

He was strong willed, brilliant, and impulsive. I learned very quickly that if I didn’t have an eye on him at all times, it wasn’t going end well. I realized this during a routine visit to the CVS to pick up a prescription, for his then 6 week old brother, whom I was lugging around in that car seat carrier that felt like it weighed 200 pounds.

As you may know the pharmacy is always at the back of the store. So as I am picking up my prescription, he starts to move slowly to toward the entrance door. I told him, no stay with mommy. I am not kidding when I say he stopped, looked me dead in the eye, smirked, and ran like a bat out of hell toward the front door. My eyes became huge, and big ole post pregnancy c-section mom, dragging the car seat carrier, screaming, “Stop him”, at the top of my lungs while trying to catch up with him. He passed no less than three people who did nothing but watch him run, and then me plod after him. Do you know that little bugger made it out the front door, and as soon as his passed the sliding doors, he stopped and looked at me and smiled. Yeah he smiled alright, as I dragged him by the arm back to the pharmacy, and wondered what I did to deserve this.

Oh, it is funny I know, but repeat scenarios like this every day and it was exhausting, and not very funny. Not a week passed where my phone didn’t light up with the schools phone number. I will honestly tell you, I would stare at the number, and take a deep breath, and then put on the unconcerned mom voice for whoever was calling me; you pick, the nurse, the teacher, the principal, hey even the gym teacher got in on it. This kid living on the red in the light signal behavior charts.

If I felt like total crap, I could only imagine what he was feeling being in the direct path of all these people. By second grade he had developed a reputation as the difficult child. He would never get into real trouble but “quirky” trouble. He couldn’t sit still, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, he didn’t like to follow directions, especially if they didn’t make sense, in retrospect I see, he was me as a child.

The straw that broke the camels back involved chess of all things. Yes, chess the board game. We enrolled him in an after school chess class because he liked it and apparently was quite good at it. Unfortunately the rule was, you had to sit while you played, he couldn’t or wouldn’t. He liked to stand and watch others after he had his turn. He came home one day and announced he had been thrown out of chess, and he was to never ever ever come back.

Oh, my little drama queen. I told him of course Mr. X didn’t say that, I am sure he said something else. What 7 year old can get a story right, right? Ready for this, he didn’t. I called the chess teacher who confirmed almost verbatim what my child had reported. He said he can’t follow the rules and he is the most difficult child he has ever had, he is not permitted to return, nor enroll in any class he would teach again. OMG, talk about weighing a mother down, if I had a fainting couch I would have landed right on it. Okay, when your kid gets tossed from chess class, and that is the response, we are way, way beyond quirky. Something is wrong.

Solution oriented mom kicked into gear. I was going to find out what was going to get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately, I almost destroyed our relationship in the process. We had him evaluated, and I was convinced he was, pick any of the diagnosis’s that were popular then; ASD, OCD, Aspergers, Autism, if Leprosy was one of them I would have thought he had that as well. I didn’t care what the diagnosis was, just tell me what it is so we can start to work on helping him and us. I believe not having a diagnosis is way harder than dealing with a difficult diagnosis.

His evaluation cleared him of every, including Leprosy. The result was a kid with an extremley High IQ, with a processing issue and Adhd. I was like, winner winner chicken dinner- my kid wasn’t stupid and we had a diagnosis. I was a mom on top of the world, waiving my hands in the air, saying oh yeah, oh yeah.

Now how do we fix this shit? So much easier said than done. Over the course of the next six years, we tried counseling, executive function coaching, processing coaching, parent training (oh that one wasn’t pretty at the time, lets just say I wasn’t very open to that one), mentors, yelling, screaming, punishing, acting like the police, threatening, and being everything but empathetic, compassionate or understanding. We tried every drug made for adhd, he would be a little better but never as good and I thought he deserved to be.

The next two years from 13 to 14 were wrought with oppositional defiance, destruction to walls and doors, verbal abuse, terrible family relationships, siblings hating each other, spouses hanging on for dear life, and me just wanting to run away. We tried to avoid family gatherings, it was too hard. Family members judged us to be horrid parents. We were constantly asked, why doesn’t he want to socialize with everyone else? Why is he doing this? Why is he doing that?

It became emotionally exhausting and hurtful and we started to retreat. The anticipation of the holidays and being subjected to the inquisition was overwhelming and depressing. I preferred my messed up little life to stay in the secret confines of my dysfunctional home. To say we were all at a point of not communicating would have been an understatement, we were living like people in a boarding house with a common kitchen. There was no talking, laughing, nothing, only venomous words between whomever was bold or stupid enough to speak out loud. In mere seconds we all turned to vultures attacking the speaker.

The unofficial motto of my family became, “Keep the Peace with him at all costs.” We walked on eggshells 24/7. This sucked, and the reality was, we weren’t even at rock bottom yet.

Mental Health, Parent Support

“Wilderness Therapy” does it really help anyone?

Have you even gone through such a life changing horrible event that you couldn’t imagine that there was one other soul “out there” who could possibly understand what you were feeling? Of course you have, we all have.

My “story” began when I was born and continues to this day, because clearly I am not dead. I have had many adventures and mishaps, all have shaped who I am, but the most profound moments have been wrapped up in being a mother to my sons.

I know there are tons of “blogs” by great moms, telling us how to be great moms, and even supporting us with wonderful quotes and pictures etc etc. I think that is awesome and often would look at these lifestyle parents in awe. I was jealous honestly that they were pretty and so pulled together and brilliant or any other positive words I could think of that day. That was not me by a long shot. I can describe myself a a dichotomy, outgoing but shy, bold yet easily intimated, very insecure, and desperately hating any form of change. Yup, I was a little “off kilter” I guess, but hey I am what I am.

I am the woman who when working full time, being married, and raising kids, was out of my freaking mind. I was always stressed, tired, overweight, anxiety ridden, and lots not forget to put impatient and angry put those on the list as well.

In retrospect I realize I didn’t do it well, I did it to the best of my ability that was for sure and I am not taking about the work or family individually, I am talking about balancing them together. I thought I did, I was a Rockstar at work, and because it was “easy” I continued to put my full force into it, who doesn’t want to feel successful, right? Well the one thing that I did not feel like I was good at or maybe confident, is a better word, was in my ability to be a Rockstar mom.

Thus the beginning of a very long journey that is still in progress today because I am a mom to two amazing young men, who I have never felt closer too, but it wasn’t always that way.

Life has a very funny way of altering our course doesn’t it. This is the story of the shift of the winds and the new life that was brought to me over the last two years.

My hopes in sharing are to help others not feel so alone, make you laugh, maybe sometimes cry, but always closing the computer feeling better about your circumstance than you did 5 minutes before.

So what was the big life changing event that occurred you want to know, well it was the dirty little secret of thousands of parents across the world. DRUM ROLL PLEASE: I had my at the time 14 year old son transported (aka Gooning, horrible name for great people) to a wilderness program in the woods of Georgia last year. We said very little to him that dark early morning, nothing more than you are going to Georgia to get some help. However the real dialog in my head sounded way more like this:

Surprise you little shit, these nice to men are here to escort you to the fucking woods, where you will stay until you get your head out of your ass because you are making me, and the rest of the family insane with your behavior and we have tried everything to help you and now it has come to this. I truly hope they can help you and us as a family because I don’t know what else to do, other than to stand by and hope you don’t die.

They took him at 5:30am, we were told to leave the house in-case he started screaming out an trying to negotiate with us. We picked up our sleeping other child and did what any parent in that situation would do, we got in the car and drove to a Dunkin Dounts, to feed our empty souls with coffee and donuts. Before we could get our coffee, the text came: He is fine, he did great. We are in the car on the way to the airport. We will be in touch when we board. This is it, we did it, what kind of horrible parents are we, having total strangers take our kid because we couldn’t manage him. What has our life become? We went back home and spent literally the remainder of the day in bed. My husband on one side, me on the other, and his traumatized brother in the middle. We were numb. It was May 19, 2018, the day Prince Harry and Meghan Markel got married. It was bad, we all sat in that bed for hours watching that wedding, we were so numb, we didn’t even think of changing the channel. Our new life was about to begin.

And you might ask, the significance of the title Letter to My Son. Well from that first day the only way we communicated was through letters, many many letters. These letters were profound on both our ends, opening and healing wounds that we knew existed and some we didn’t. I will share some of those with you, in hopes that somewhere someone can benefit from the journey we are on. Remember this:

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start” Nido Qubein

Parent Support

Intervention-Is it time to remove a child from your home?

To do what you ask? Well does sending the thing you love the most in the world and would lay down your life for count? I think so, what about you?

Trust me when I say there is so much shame in even thinking, researching, looking on the web or speaking to anyone about this. What kind of parent am I that I can’t handle my own child. I was convinced the world would judge me, especially those closest to me.

Everyone else in my family seemed to raise healthy well adjusted kids, it had to be me. How sad is it to fail at supposedly one of the most natural things in life, being a mother.

I was instructed he needed nothing other than any prescribed medications. He would be taken out of bed and they would go. No shower, no brushed teeth, no breakfast; only taking enough time to get clothes on him, get him out of the house into the car, and then onto JFK.

My last act to prove to myself that I wasn’t a totally shitty mother was to make sure that there was a neatly folded pile of clothes on his desk so he didn’t have to figure out what to put on when Ricky Ray came for him.

Okay, lets be serious, Ricky Ray, WTF, how about a Robert or Keith, a “normal” name not some person with two first names; was Ricky Ray going to man handle him, drag him into the car, abuse him, I didn’t know. I had totally lost it at that point, I was bat-shit crazy, and I was condemning the poor man because of his name, which was so not me. (For the record, Ricky Ray was awesome and perfect in so many ways, and I will get into the discussion of Transport services in another post.)

So, I put out a t-shirt, sweatshirt, socks, and sneakers, and of course a clean pair of underware, because you know clean underwear is very important, especially in the freakin woods, where he wasn’t going to shower for weeks.

My son stole my last opportunity to hold out the olive branch to him. As later I found the clothes were still neatly piled up, never touched. He chose his own clothes. I shouldn’t have cared beyond him putting clothes on, but I took it so personally; like somehow him not wearing the clothes I left out was his last attempt to say “Fuck You Mom” as he walked out of our house and lives.

Why was he torturing me like this? Couldn’t he even allow me a shred of decency by putting on the clothes? Nope, not this kid. I was thinking this is yet another reason why you are going away, you only care about yourself. As I stood there looking at the empty bedroom, knowing my son was in a car on the way to the airport with strangers, my blood pressure rose fast, and the tears fell even faster. WTF did I just do, and I just thought…

Please God, let him just get there safely, let this work, because if it doesn’t,I don’t know what else to do. I swear I will give it everything I have to make it better. I need him to be okay, I need me to be okay, I need our family to be okay…………..

I then retreated to my bed and watched Harry and Meghan get married, and I thought, don’t have kids.

Parent Support

Are you a “Rock” to someone?

One morning this week I was up earlier than usual and I decided to use my time to drop a package I had for my friend SD. She only lived down the road it is a five minute walk at that.

As I stepped out my front door I was immediatly struck by the sunlight and how it was bathing our cul-de-sac in such a way it made every blade of grass and flower just explode with life.

As I neared SD’s house I stopped for a moment and did a 360, looking around at the snow capped mountains and everything that was at that moment noticing a giant red landscape rock in a yard I was passing, I wondered why hadn’t I noticed it before?

I delivered my package and headed back home, continuing to think about that rock. However this time when I passed the rock I stopped and I stood there just observing it, I was fixated by it. At one point I was concerned the homeowners would come out and find this crazy woman enthralled by a rock. I took a picture, started walking again continuing to contemplate the rock.

I immediately felt peace as I stared at this rock. It reminded me of water rippling in a brook. I never noticed that rock before, maybe I didn’t need to but this morning I did. As it brought me a profound sense of calm and peace. As I walked away I felt lighter, happier, and more joyful. Pretty weird for me to have that reaction to a rock.

It is now five days later, and tonight I found myself thinking about that rock yet again. I pulled the photo up on my phone, and the moment I looked at it those same feelings washed over me. It was Pavlovian theory at its best-stimulus was the rock and conditioned response was peace and joy. I am not going to question it nor try to figure it out, I am just going to enjoy the fact that I when I look at it, it makes me feel like a better person.

And let me not forget Happy Mother’s day to all the mom’s out there and every other person who takes on the roll of a mom in someones life, know that you are their rock. I wish you peace and joy on Sunday and everyday.

Parent Support

Score one for homework and relationships.

Last night I was sitting outside trying to get my son to focus on the task at hand, which was to pull together an outline of sorts for his final English paper for the school year. It’s 7pm and we are sitting on the patio with the computer open ready to create greatness. Not really, but was at least hoping for some words on a page. Us working together has often been a recipe for disaster, often ending in yelling and crying; him yelling and me crying.

I was starting to get impatient as he did everything to avoid starting, yet I remained silent. He then went inside and got a blanket and wrapped himself up in a like a burrito with only his face sticking out. Now, we are talking about a 16 year old boy here, not a toddler.

I was thinking about walking away, and he then looked at me and smiled and said; “Mom, this is really hard for me, I am trying”. I burst into laughter, it was just so funny, and then he started to laugh as well. It broke the tension and we got to work. I will admit, he didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked, but the time we did work together it was productive and stress free.

I wondered this time, why I was able to tolerate his lack of focus/desire, whatever you want to call it. I realized after the fact that his admission to me that it was hard for him and he was trying, was the key.

My frustrations with him were not because he couldn’t do something, they were because he always presented with that it didn’t matter. However, when he acknowledge it was hard for him, it made me pause and appreciate his vulnerability. It made me want to help him more, thus have more patience with him.

I am not saying it will always work this way, but for this one time, it was great, and it provided me with some insight to his inner thoughts.

On the homework scale I would give it a 6, but on the connecting with my child in a healthy way, a 10.

I hope you find a 10 somewhere today.

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support, Teenagers

The positive of Covid-19. Are you experiencing it too?

We are in what I hope is the downward trend of this pandemic. Included in the numbers of infected, hospitalized, and dead, are family members of people I love and care about.

Covid-19 has brought many things to all of us; stress, anxiety,uncertain financial status, and massive unemployment. Undeniably this is all awful and people are scared.

However what we never hear about on the news broadcasts are the positive things that have occurred in families, and we aren’t talking about it because we feel guilty that something good is happening to us in the midst of all the uncertainty and sadness.

Covid-19 brought back a simplicity to our lives that many people were desperate for, and yet they had no idea they needed it so badly.

I haven’t been this calm, relaxed, or fulfilled in what seems like forever. You see my life went from what felt like driving a car at 70 mph to a screeching halt of a leisurely Sunday drive in about a minute.

At first it is weird, but now I like it. I am not stressed out that my kids will be brain dead from too many video games; as even they have became bored with them.

Lack of ability to socialize in groups has taught my children the pleasure and serenity of taking a walk, shooting hoops, and even laughing. It has taught my sons that while friends are important, you will always have your brother, and in quarantine that is really important.

We have had more meals as a family this month than we probably had in the last 2 years. A opportunity to connect and relax and laugh together.

My kids are relaxed as well. They don’t seem as stressed as when school is open in its traditional setting. While I am certain they aren’t learning as much as they would in a brick and mortar school, they are learning life skills that have fallen by the wayside because it was just easier to do it myself. Because parenting and teaching takes time and patients, of which many of us had little of driving at 70 mph.

The sunday drive has my kids very interested in what I am making for lunch and dinner because there aren’t many other options. They have even began to do some cooking themselves. And have even started to taste the food they are eating instead of just trying to inhale to get back to whatever they were doing.

I have had the opportunity to model doing hard stuff for my kids, and asked for their help. Yes, one mother and one 16 year old boy can carry a full size refrigerator and oven into the basement. Yes, one mother and one 14 year old boy can assemble 90% of a basketball system themselves. I have had them drilling and sawing, using wheelbarrow, and hedge clippers. I have been organically teach my kids how to make things as they embarked on building garden boxes so we can start our first garden.

They have learned the difference between needs and wants. Needs have us leaving the house, (toilet paper and groceries) and wants have us sticking home.

Tiktok isn’t as interesting to them right now because nobody is really doing anything, it is mostly exercising and dancing up steps. Since no one is out and about my teens are not suffering from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Basically, Covid has forced us to figure out what is important and what’s not. I now know I have enough time in my day for all the important things, and enough energy left over to be the best mom, wife, and friend I can be. If I start piling on all those other things that used to suck up my time and stress me out, I will fail to be the person I desire to be. I only have so much time and energy in one day, and despite my thoughts of being Wonder Woman, I now know I am not.

So Covid-19, you nasty horrible virus, I never would have thought that you were going to teach me anything, and yet I am humbled enough to say you have.

I desperately want the spreading of sickness and death to stop, however I am equally desperate to not lose this feeling of connection, peace, and joy that I have found in a much more simplistic life for my family.

Stay safe.

Parent Support

“Tubthumping”- I get knocked down, but I get up again……

This Wednesday proved to be yet another day that would test my mettle. We are in the midst of a pandemic and we are all worried about our own safety at that of our loved ones.

Yet even with what feels like a huge weight I will always choose and manage to be optimistic and continue to shoulder through. I would like to believe I am one of those people who rise to the occasion when I get slapped down, but maybe I just haven’t been knocked down enough to change my attitude, right?

Well, Wednesday afternoon was my test to see if I was going to walk the walk. Like many people my husband has been working from home for the last several weeks. I usually don’t see him surface from his basement office until about 6pm each night. Around 5ish on Wednesady he walked into our bedroom and shut the door behind him, in such a manner that alerted me to the level of seriousness.

He announced he just lost his job. Not a furlough, but a turn all your stuff in and don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, loss.

I sat and stared at him in disbelief. I asked him if he was okay and then I did the only thing I knew to do, I burst into laughter. Seriously, I have no idea why, maybe is was nervousness or maybe it was just, hey yeah why wouldn’t I think that one more thing would dog pile us.

Two years ago before my growth journey started I would have flipped out at the idea of no one in our house being employed, let alone in the middle of a pandemic. You can’t make this up, so I think laughter was my most appropriate response. At this moment I realize how much I have grown emotionally; as a woman, wife, mother, friend, and entrepreneur.

I feel okay, and maybe I am naive; however at this moment I am comfortable with my naivety. We are no worse off than any of the millions of people who recently lost jobs, have family members who are ill, or have loved ones on the front lines of dealing with this pandemic.

It would be insulting to all of the people who are really struggling for me to feel sorry for myself. We are all healthy and together; we are blessed. And while I would prefer to not work and to continue to focus on my family, we do what we need to do to support our family. I am still very employable should I need to do that. We are team and you do what you need to do to keep things moving.

And while some, including myself, might have thought this would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, it turned out to actually be the furthest thing from the truth.

If anything I feel like the song Tubthumping from the English rock band Chumbawamba . It is become my internal theme song the last few years. And depending upon your age you may not have ever heard of this song that was published in 1997. Pay attention to the refrain as that is what will resonates with everyone these days.

So, on Wednesday I realized I have become a better version of myself; and I wouldn’t trade a moment of my life, even the last two turbulent years for anything. I have learned that no matter what struggles may come my way, in whatever form, I can and will handle them. I am fierce and will not be f**ked with because…….I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down……… I will always choose to see the good in people, the silver lining, and opportunities at every turn and still get where I need to be.

So put a smile on your face, dance around your house to Tubthumping and spread some joy to those around you and have an awesome day.