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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Finding A Girlfriend

“Why aren’t girls attracted to me?”

“Why can’t I find a girlfriend?”

There isn’t a week, probably a day, that goes by when one or both of the boys don't ask me these questions.

What I hear when they ask is...

What’s wrong with me? 
Why don't people accept me?
I just want love and affection like everybody else. 
I’m a nice guy. 
Why does it look so easy for everyone else?
I'm lonely.
Am I ever going to be happy? 

The truth is finding love isn’t easy for everyone else. It only looks easy from the outside looking in.  Especially, on social media where the boys are constantly looking in one form or another.

Kendal, my 22-year-old son was smart enough to shut down his Facebook recently. I don’t know if it will last, but I’m happy and proud that he made that decision for himself. Every day being overwhelmed by images of the things you feel like you don't have in your life, is a trigger for depression.

Blue also shut down his Facebook, but he's still on Twitter and Instagram.

For Blue, it's not just about the girls. It's about friends. It's transition from high school to community college. It's friends who have disappeared. Support systems lost. Teachers he talked to every day. There were so many teachers who supported him. He talked with them before, during and after school. Teachers always understood him more than most peers. He is beyond his age in maturity and the things in the world that he thinks and wants to talk about. He thrives on being social.

In reality, relationships are so fucking complicated.  Love can be the best thing ever.  It can also be awful when it falls apart. It can make you feel high and then turn around and make you completely crazy, unravel you, make you more nuts than you already are. (I'm totally not talking about myself here.)  If you don’t have the maturity to handle the emotions, love can unglue you.

My dear sons, I know you think you want love, but maybe you don’t. You have enough issues figuring out your transition into adult life. Women will make you lose focus. You will feel good for a while and then you could end up feeling god-awful. Like underneath the table, hiding from the world, awful.  Like going into the mental-hospital-awful. Or possibly sending your mother-to-the-mental-health-hospital-awful.

You really can’t afford to completely fall apart. I don't think I have the strength to watch you fall apart, again. So maybe it’s better you find love when you’re ready to handle it. You don’t want to hear that. No one wants to hear that. It's like saying to a diabetic, "No candy, cookies or cake for you!

Kendal has had a couple of mostly benign relationships. He gets upset when things don’t work out, but he has definitely learned from each experience. He has actually been the one to break it off when he realizes that he isn't getting what he wants out of the relationship anymore. He doesn’t fall apart completely, only slightly.  Of course, that could be attributed to the fact that he hasn’t really been deeply in love. He's has had deep, infatuation with... Oh-my-God! I actually have a girlfriend! I am finally validated in this world! 

At this point, he is confused because he has worked so hard on losing weight (100 pounds plus) and has only had one brief relationship since then. He doesn’t realize that a good body and a nice smile do not “entitle” you to a relationship. The world owes him nothing in the love department. Plenty of people are alone for years and maybe, they’re better off.

He has worked so hard on sculpting his body. He has a killer smile (when he uses it). I'm sure he wonders, why aren’t the girls just flocking to me?

If I must say so myself, Kendal is good looking and he knows it.
Blue is also quite handsome, but he has no idea.
Kendal is aware that most men in our family typically have no problem finding women (i.e. his older brother --quite the ladies man).
He's just as handsome, so why is he alone?
It a valid thought. There is no answer though. That doesn't keep him from looking for the magic formula.
Why can't someone tell him?
More specifically, why can't I tell him?
I'm supposed to have all of the answers to life's questions.

I don't think either of them realizes that there are many complexities to human relationships. I don’t think I have even touched the surface of teaching them these things. Is that even my job? I don't really know.

I don’t know if it’s even possible for me to teach either of them anything anymore. Most of their lessons will be learned through real-life experience. Mommy doesn’t have the magic touch anymore. In fact, I probably have the antithesis of magic —more like the jinx, the trigger, the person-who-makes- everything-worse (according to them). Yet they won't leave me alone.

Why can't I find a girlfriend? Here are some of my stock answers...

  • Stop looking. Love will find you when the time is right. They HATE this one, but it doesn't stop them from asking me over and over again. 
  • There's nothing wrong with you. There is something wrong with the wrong girls you have approached. 
  • You will find the right girl and when you do, you won’t have to turn flips or do tricks. You won't have to pretend to be someone else to get her. 
  • You won’t have to play games. She will love and appreciate the unique human-being that you are.
  • Work on yourself! Fill up your life. Move forward. Make progress. Make friends --just friends. They may introduce you to someone. 
  • Serve others in some capacity. Volunteer! You never know who you'll meet.
  • Get involved in groups of people who share mutual interests. Have you been to Is that still a thing?   
  • Dating advice on You-Tube and social media is complete bullshit. Don’t believe the hype. They don't even hear me when I say this. 
  • What applies to “most people” doesn’t apply to you. You are different --good different. You are authentic. You say what you mean. You are looking for genuine love. You probably hope for sex, but you will be totally upfront about that. And please wear a condom. In fact, wear two! 
  • Always smell good. Always be prepared to meet the love of your life. They think this one is absolutely ridiculous. 
I just hope whoever you eventually find, she will take care of your heart. I know you better take care of hers or you’ll have to answer to me.

I pray that if there is fallout, it won’t be so god-awful that you can't handle it (or I can't handle it).

In the meantime, go to college.  Keep working. Build a career. Figure out who you are. Fill up your life with friends and people who give you mutual respect.

I promise you, the rest of the world is not as shitty as high school.  It’s a tough place, but just keep swimming. You will find your tribe.

Your mother is just like Oprah. All of this I know for sure.
(Actually, that's complete bullshit, but I hope so anyway.) 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dear Transition Team,

Look. I get it. Four years later —you’re sick of my son. He’s combative and
argumentative. He can be straight out rude when all you’re trying to do is help him.  He will argue with you the whole time that he's doing exactly what you're asking him to do, but it's still a time destroyer and a major energy drain.

Guess what?  Twenty-two-years-later, I’m sick of him too.

Don’t get me wrong. I am your biggest fan. I appreciate the work you have done with him. While he was no picnic, you have always had his best interests at heart. You have worked with him patiently, with love and kindness. You have carried him a long way from where he was at the age of 18 when he entered your program. A program by the way, that I thought he didn't need, but I let go of my ego and pride and did what was best for him. 

We all know that behavior is communication. Okay, I’ll admit some of his behavior is just pure asshatery. What can I say? He’s a dude. He’s 22 and full of testosterone. He hasn’t had a real girlfriend yet (if you know what I mean...wink wink).

However, most of his behavior is based on autism, lack of filter, fear, anxiety, and self-loathing.  His fear is based on the unknowns of exactly what the next chapter of his life will look like. Most of his anger is because of mood dysregulation. Also, he doesn’t really like himself. He doesn't even fully appreciate the gorgeous body he has sculpted and developed through weight-lifting and a healthy diet. The kid dropped 100 pounds and he still focuses on his problem areas and why he's just not good enough.

He is quite aware that he is different and has always been treated that way by many of his peers.  He has insecurities because things that are simple for others are quite difficult for him. He still deals with the trauma of his entire high-school experience.

I’m sure you know how much our experiences in middle and high school can affect us for the rest of our lives. I still remember the names they used to call me. I think I finally started to get over high- school in my forties. I finally realized exactly who I am, authentically. Screw those high-school bitches who were insecure and tried to make me feel the same.

Okay. You are tired of trying to help him. I’m tired of trying to help him. You’re tired of his entitled, unappreciative attitude. I’m sick of it too. You've had enough of his endless rants about why everything in this world sucks. I’m actually like, way beyond sick of it.

The difference between us? I don’t have the option of being done with him. There is no option of giving up. My time with him doesn’t expire at the end of this school year. I have a lifetime commitment here.

I pray every day that eventually he will meet the wonderful open-hearted woman of MY dreams who will love him and put up with his shit for the rest of her life. But based on his behavior right now, that seems like a long shot. For now, it’s me. I am his person. He has his father, his brothers and a few good friends, but I am the bank in which he deposits of all of his worst crap.

So recently your team came up with this job option for him that I didn’t feel was workable. Frankly, there were red flags all over it. You’ll have to forgive me for speaking up and saying, “No that’s not going to work.Actually, you don’t have to forgive me. That is my job.  
You see, I would be on the receiving in of the middle of the night phone calls when the shit hits the fan.  His father and me, we pay the legal bills, and the hospital bills when he falls apart and has a major meltdown.

According to what I read about this job and this particular moving company (Yes. I vetted them by doing my own research. Actually, my son did the same. Only he doesn't always make the best decisions and look at the whole picture. ) Money is his motivation. My motivation is his overall mental health. He has had friends who have worked for this company and they did not have anything pleasant thing to say about the experience.

Let's make a list of the red flags:
  • He would not know his schedule from day to day. (They call in the day before to see if they’re on the schedule).  For a person who thrives on routine and knowing what to expect, constant schedule changes would suck.
  • It's not exactly full-time but there "could be overtime" and yet there are no benefits such as paid time-off. How is this even legal?  
  • They can doc your pay if you break anything during a move. (He damn near broke his toe in the first weeks of his current job by dropping a door on it.)  Remember? Focusing is not his strong suit. 
  • There is also possible interstate travel.  Now I’ll admit at first I got excited about the opportunity for him to travel —far away from me, but then I woke up. I realized this dude can’t remember his phone charger to save his life! His phone is always dead. He thinks the best option when he leaves his phone charger somewhere is to go buy another one, even if buying another one, leaves him completely broke with no money for a ride to get home from work at 10 p.m. (the time for him to take his meds.) 
  •  This is a guy who impulsively spends money and rides across town to get something to eat, also spending his last dime. Managing his finances is a constant work in progress. 
The job you helped him find may be great for some young fellow with zero skills and strong muscles, who is desperate to earn quick, (not so easy) cash while being taken advantage of by a moving company that needs cheap labor. My son is NOT that person.

There are so many things that need to be taken into consideration before we throw a boy with autism, ADHD and mood disorder, into the fire of a job that is a pure set up for failure. He has two part-time jobs currently. Is either of them the ideal situation? No.  Sometimes they change or cut back his hours. But for the most part, these two jobs are working for him so far. And mind you …he has those two jobs because I insisted that he fill his time constructively.

I would love to see him in full-time employment and have him live on his own, but he is showing me in more ways than one lately, that he is not ready for all of that. He will get there but he’s not there. It’s quite frustrating and disappointing for all of us.

I felt a subtle insinuation from our recent text messages and e-mail threads, that you and frankly other professionals, who work with him think that maybe I am too “overprotective.”

"We just need to let him feel the “natural consequences of his actions. Let's just see what happens." Sink or swim. Throw him into the deep water. He's a man after all!

Well, he gets plenty of natural consequences. Trust me. However, as his mother, I can not and will not throw him into a situation that is not healthy for him if I can help it. He has enough of that in his life already.

I mean do you think I want him living in a group home? Hell no! I don’t. But it was a boundary issue for us and an excruciatingly tough decision that had to be made, both for my mental health and his. The experience of living there has been a cross between hell and life on earth, but he is growing despite the less than ideal environment. The staff and their program at the group home really suck eggs. They don't get paid well and you can tell by the job they do.

Fortunately, he knows how to speak up for himself and he has his father and me to continually advocate for him. God always seems to put other positive resources into his life, like you have been to him over the past several years. I can’t be all things to him that he needs. It really does take a village to raise a difficult child.  I will continue to be as much to him as I humanly can, until the time that I leave this earth. And at this rate, it may be sooner than later.

Meanwhile, I will continue working to maintain boundaries with my son.  I will continue to protect and nurture myself, while always trying to do what is best for both of my young adult children.

Have I mentioned that I have another high-maintenance son with a whole additional set of transition issues going on at the same time? My life is a real recipe for nut soup.

Yes. I want him to work.  He thrives in a work environment more than any other place. Yes. I want him to be as independent as humanly possible and not just sit around taking handouts from the government because let’s face it, they suck too.

You’re going to have to trust that I know what’s best for him, despite the deadline for your services. Luckily for you …you get to say goodbye to him in May.  I can’t lie. I wish there was a deadline when I could say goodbye or at least farewell, see you next year. I'm still praying for that angel to come into his life and take over.

I am confident that together we will figure out a path to get my son through his last few months with you.  We will set him up for the additional services and resources that he will need to get himself through to the next phase of his adult life.

Again, thanks from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done and continue to do for young adults with special needs in our community. Some things in life, just take longer than the designated time that you have to give them.

By the way, I have still have my insecure moments when I think I am doing this all wrong.  But I know deep inside, I am one hell of a mother. I stand by all of my decisions, all of my actions and inactions, my protecting, advocating, my stepping up and stepping back, drawing boundaries and sometimes having them crossed.

I am doing the best that I can for a very difficult young man who will always be my child. A lot of mothers would have just walked away by now.  Don’t think there are not days when I want to run screaming. But I’m still here and will be when you’re gone.



p.s. You can tell from this post how much I like the word suck. :) Feeling a lot of suckiness lately. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Best Mom Ever

I may or may not have threatened to “murder” my son this week. Being the literal person with autism that he is, he may or may not have taken me seriously. 

It was one of those days that we’ve been having a lot of lately. A day where he is laying around like a slug, on a school morning and on into the afternoon --like he doesn’t have a care in the world. The world is zooming by on a Wednesday afternoon and he is completely unfazed. 

I have to leave to run an errand. So, I tell him to get ready.  I would drop him off on the college campus, while I'm headed in that direction. 

The errand is to meet his brother at the barbershop. I happen to owe him twenty-five dollars (another story).  His brother, (age 22) also has autism and takes medication. However, he has already gotten up and made himself breakfast; packed his lunch; volunteered at the Food Bank; gone to school, (transition class) to workout at the gym and then walked to the barbershop. All of this, while Blue has barely eaten breakfast.  Not that I’m comparing my children because you’re not supposed to do that. Everyone has their own journey. Blah. Blah. Blah! 

Thirty minutes later, I’m ready to leave. I go to his room to find him laying back in bed!  Not dressed. Not ready to go! It’s 1 o’clock in the mother fracken afternoon!

“What are you doing?”
“Well, I don’t have to be there until 3. So I just thought I’d take Uber.” 
“I’m offering you a free ride NOW! Get your ass up!” 

Generally speaking, I am a non-violent person. The only real fight I’ve ever had in my life, was with my brother when we were kids. I  may or may not have gone after him with a knife and ended up cutting myself in the process. I would not admit to this in a court of law. Besides, it was self-defense. I think.  Well, he did something to really piss me off.  And there had been years of torturous, relentless teasing that went on. To include, once giving me Ex-Lax, telling me it was candy.  At the very least, if I had been arrested, it would have been justifiable homicide.
Gentle Mom
I am the gentlest mother you could ever meet …mostly. I don’t remember ever spanking my kids.  I was mostly one a 
time-out, natural consequences kind-of-mom. Although, I may or may not have grabbed one by the collar as a teenager. However, I did not strangle him. As I said. I'm a non-violent, kumbaya, namaste kind-of-mom.  

I am not a yeller and screamer like my mother was. But boy! On this day, I wanted to scream!
Instead, I fumed on the inside and did not lose my shit, until I dropped him off. I sent this text to his father. 
Only, I didn't send it to his father. I accidentally sent it to my son! 
That’s it. It is decided. I am the best Mom EVER! 

Yep! Mother of the Year!
He had a few other choice words for me...which I will not share here.  He was NOT Happy with me. Of course, I was NOT Happy with him either. 

I was extremely frustrated in the moment. I considered myself yelling via text at his father (lucky hubby right?) so I didn't yell at my son, which in the moment, probably would have made matters worse.

I am actually very concerned about his intense sleeping habits. The next course of action is a sleep study, which he actually requested from his doctor. Here we are again, trying to piece the puzzle together. 

Is it the medication? Is it depression, anxiety, avoidance behavior? Is it a sleep disorder? Does he have a life-threatening illness? Or is he just being incredibly lazy? This has never been his character.  Something ain't right ...a mother knows. You know what they say, "behavior is communication." 

It doesn't seem normal for an 18-year-old to need more sleep than I do at age 29 (wink, wink) and I need a lot of sleep so that I remain Zen, Namaste and all of that crap. 

So …off to doctor this week to get blood work, evaluate meds, do the sleep study and figure out what’s wrong with him, so that I don’t actually have to murder him. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Keep it Moving

I spent four days this week listening to Kendal talking about his future...
  • moving out of the group home
  • moving into an apartment and better yet (or worse yet, depending on how you look at it) 
  • moving back home. 
He’s trying to convince me how good of a deal that would be for all of us.  It would save “us” so much money. Which is the translation for —I wouldn’t have to spend my money on my needs. I would have more freedom to spend it on my wants. 

-It’s going to be too expensive for me to live on my own.
-Why can't I just move back home?  
-Why are you holding a grudge based on how I used to act when I lived here?” 
Um …because you traumatized me —for years.  
-I’m not like that anymore. Besides, I’m busier now. I wouldn’t be here all the time. I work two jobs. 
-Maybe I could go back to school and save money because I live here.” 
-What if I don’t have enough money?
-If I drive, what if I get a ticket or get into a car accident? 
-What if the apartment isn’t close enough to everything?
-What if I can show you how much I’ve changed over the next 6 months? Then would you let me move back home? 

He has been his usual relentless self with these questions and statements on repeat, on a loop over the past several weeks.  When he sees my face, he takes it up a notch.  He must have my attention. 
“Mom. Mom. Mom,” all day long! 
“I need to talk to you. This is important.” I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but it’s important. 
“It’s about my life.”

After all of this extra time with him this week (because he’s taking a break from the gym) I found myself wondering how I ever accomplished anything when he lived here?

I also wondered how in the hell I got myself into having him at my house 4 days in a row?

The time he spent at home brought back not so fond memories of when he lived here. Between the incessant talking, the meltdowns and fights with his brother, arguments with his dad and my mother, I don’t know how I ever put a coherent thought together much less, a sentence or a blog post or an essay that made any sense. 

Thinking back, I realize that I was writing for my life. It was all I had. It was survival. I didn’t have a therapist. I was too busy taking him and his brother to various therapies to think about myself.  Writing was and still is, a part of my therapeutic process.  I don’t think I could live without it. 

As for Kendal, with any change in life comes with anxiety, fear and “what-ifs.” The same thing happened before he moved out the first time and with each job change or transition. 

“I’ve changed mom. I’m not the same person I was when I lived here,” he says. 

And he’s absolutely right.  He has grown immensely. He’s working two jobs (part-time). He cooks, shops and takes care of his daily living without prompts (mostly). He makes social plans with friends and is involved with a group at his church. He even plans ahead when a movie is coming out and buys his tickets ahead of time.

I attribute this growth to not having me around as a savior and a distraction. I feel like I am his kryptonite.  (I wrote about that in Top 10 Reasons You Cant Live Here for 5 Years a few years ago before he moved.)

I am the person who pushes him. I am also the person he can always count on. At the same time, it’s like both boys think I am an extension of their brains and they want me to continue doing my part of their thinking.  That impedes progress. 

I am so beyond ready for him to move out of the group home. In my opinion, the agency sucks. They don’t meet all of their responsibilities and I believe their staff is counterproductive for him in many ways. For instance, he told me a couple of days ago that one of the staff said, “You’re no different from the rest of these guys. Most of them have tried living on their own, and they all end up back here.” 

I don’t know if I believe that is exactly what was said. I mean what adult in a position of helping people would say something so incredibly shitty, right? Yeah, these bitches probably would.

Things get lost in translation sometimes with Kendal. Whatever the case may be, somehow, he is getting the message that living there for an extended period of time is inevitable. That is not the message I want him receiving.

Kendal can come across with an air that he’s better than other people. Of course, he’s not. But, I have raised him to want more, and to speak up for himself.  Sometimes people in authority don’t like that. Especially, if it means that he is making their jobs harder because he doesn’t just accept whatever bullshit they try to sell him. He gets that from his mama and his grandfather (Hollywood). *Smiles with pride. 

The ability to speak up and self-advocate is something that the group home staff don’t seem to be used to clients doing. It seems that they are used to serving folks who go along with the program and let them completely control their lives and their money. My son is not that person.

I want continual progress and eventual independence as much as possible for him. He wants that for himself. Of course, as far as he's concerned, it would be a lot better if he could have the best of all worlds. Independence, while we spend most of our money to make it happen. Not going to happen.  

His intensive sales pitch almost had me sold on his moving back home temporarily.  
And then I woke up! Hell No! You are not moving back here. 

I told him if worse came to worse, and we couldn’t find a better option, he could move back here to the house …and I would get my own apartment! Sorry dude. If I can help it, we will NOT live together again. I’m trying to get rid of your brother! Why would I let you come back? My goal is zero people that I once housed in my uterus, living in my house. 

I tried to sell him with the pitch, “Girls would rather date a guy who has his own place as opposed to one who lives with his parents.” Eventually, you want to get married. You need to be used to being independent first. 

Who am I kidding? I’m not ready for all of the drama that comes with dating. But then again, how will he ever find a wonderful woman to eventually take him off my hands completely? 

I would rather see forward movement instead of backward. So, I will trust that he will continue to grow and thrive with more independence.  

Besides, I have dreams and goals of my own. Having him live here again would push my dreams further away just like his being here more this week, has pushed my “to do list” behind schedule (more than usual).  

By the end of a full day with him talking and repeating, I remember the reason that I am so in love with “not talking” these days.  I crave solitude and quiet.

I remember why my phone stays on silent —the ringing causes me trauma.

The good news? Spending so much time with my son this week motivated me to get my ass up and out of the house to yoga more than I usually do.

Our time together also made me more determined than ever to move him to the next stage of independence, which will be his own apartment —not back home.

Having him move is scary for me too. However, I realize that success comes from taking the steps that scare us the most.  My friend Oprah taught me that. Yep! Me and Oprah are totally pals. 

This is Us

Friday, October 27, 2017

Kinda, Sorta, Adult

It’s early on a fall morning. My eyes pop open before I want them to.  My mind is already off and running with thoughts.  Blue has an appointment scheduled with his Academic Coach. He’s supposed to get up early to go catch the train. I don’t hear any movement outside my door. My bed is exceptionally cozy since it's finally feeling like fall in late October. I did not sleep well, so I'm still pretty tired, but nevertheless, awake.

I decide not to get up to wake him, rush him out the door, and get caught up in the transportation issue that has been created by his oversleeping. Instead, I will let him deal with the natural, life consequences of being late or missing his appointment.

I find myself consistently pulling back from saving him from himself. It takes mental energy to watch him tread water, yet not moving forward. I want to throw him a life raft and pull him along, but that's really not my job anymore. He's an adult. Kinda. Sorta.

He had this massive paper due last week. It wasn’t supposed to be massive. It was only supposed to be five pages. But he thinks profoundly --in great detail.  It was too hard for him to decide which elements could be left out. The paper ended up being double the size required and also being turned in late. Luckily for him, his professor could see his enthusiasm over the subject and was willing to work with him by giving him a time extension.

For weeks, he kept coming to me with his frustrations and anxiety. I would steadily refer him back to use his resources at the college. "I'm not in college. This is not a paper by consensus. Too many cooks spoil the soup, and in my opinion lead to more anxiety and confusion," I told him.

I consistently referred to my confidence in him. "You have done this before. You are more  than capable of completing this paper."

I was exhausted from watching him procrastinate and fret. I think I was happier than him or his professor when he finally turned it in.

It's not just school. It's the everyday life skills that he's having a hard time with. On his 18th birthday, I gave him the gift of washing every last stitch of his clothing. I also told him, it would be the very last time, I would ever do so. He hasn’t had an empty laundry hamper since then.

One day last week, he came down the stairs wearing swimming trunks, a swim shirt, and flip-flops.  Again, it’s October. He was on his way to go out and get some lunch and work on his paper at a coffee house.

“Are you going swimming?” I asked.
“No. I’m just tired of wearing jeans and I don’t have any other clean shorts.”

No shit. Sherlock! I say that I lot lately.

I was just on my way out of town for the weekend.  It killed me, but I didn’t look back. “See you on Sunday,” I said. “Hope you have some clean clothes by then.”

It’s depressing watching him leave the house looking homeless half of the time. I am definitely no longer in charge.

The other day, I met him out at Starbucks.  He clearly had not combed his hair before he left home that morning.  Yet, he insists on wearing an “afro” these days. Why do you want long hair if you don’t want to comb it? Clearly, I don’t get it. I try so hard not to say anything every day, but it’s not easy for me to ignore. I am that mom ..the one who has a really hard time minding her own business.

I know that being rebellious about the way you dress and wear your hair is a typical thing that teens do. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to watch.

I always made sure my boys were clean cut and neat when they left my house to go out into the world. Being black boys in a mostly white world, I never wanted them to be perceived as someone to be afraid or leery of. They already stand out because of their stature, and by simply having brown skin. They don't play the game of smiling and being nice when that's not what they're feeling inside. That combination can get you killed in this America.

But like I said, clearly I am no longer in charge of his appearance or his hygiene. All I can do is give him information. Ultimately, it’s up to him if he uses it. I don’t think when he leaves the house, he thinks about what day it is,  much less, what would happen if he were stopped by cops and has red eyes, and untamed hair, dark skin, and fleeting eye-contact.

This is my third time at this rodeo with an 18-year-old.  Most boys go through the phase of having no idea who they are, and what they want out of life. They know the next steps should involve more education, but transitioning from one phase to another seems impossible.

My 29-year-old would rather stay up all night playing video games than to be a responsible college student when he was 18.  He did finally earn his degree many moons later and thankfully his extended education was paid for by the Army National Guard.  The difference between him and Blue is, I could kick him to the curb …out of the nest when he decided to take his time growing up, knowing that eventually, he would fly.  He may have flailed around a bit, but he would figure things out.

My current 18-year old would rather eat and sleep his way through this transition into college. Because of his autism and anxiety, it won’t be as easy to push him out, sink or swim, fly or fall.  I may have to get a little more creative about how and when I push or exactly where I push him to. He will still need support. It may just be better if it doesn't come from me.

One thing I know for sure from these three experiences, with three different 18-year-old, brown boys --they may need a push but eventually, they will figure things out. And I think, all the faster if I’m not around to watch their every move. I have to take away the safety net or at least make it slightly less visible.

This is his personality least with his mama.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Raising Adults

Excuse me while I think out loud. 
“This job is stupid.” Driving grown-ass people around all day. For free.  
It feels like a waste of brain power. 
It's a huge time suck and takes a lot of energy.  
I want to use my brain for more than this.  

I’ve had plenty of jobs throughout my 52 years of life and I’ve always had the privilege of walking away when I was ready to move on.  Turns out you can’t quit motherhood when you’re burnt out.  I’ve been a mom 24 years and I’m over it already.  I love my kids more than life, but I’m ready to love them from more of a distance. 

It’s hard to have a front-row seat to this movie that is transitioning to adulthood.  Autism makes it seem like it’s moving in extra, painfully, slow motion. 

The boys are technically adults now (18 and 22).  Because of their autism and anxiety, neither of them drive yet.
It seems like all I do is drive them, give them money, and supervise the spending of money. I’m just so over it.  Especially, since they don’t really want to listen to anything I say. 

When kids turn into teenagers, it's like your voice is on mute. You're constantly talking, but nobody hears a word you're saying.  Yet, they still need your help.

Kendal is 22 and would very much like for us to stay out of his financial business. 
“Don’t be monitoring my account and looking at my spending!” 
That is until he runs out of money and needs help. Then it’s...
 “You’re going to let me suffer?” 

Um …dude, I don’t have anything to do with your suffering. You make choices, YOU live with the consequences. You can’t keep screwing off your money and then ask us to fix it. 

The 18-year-old, Blue, is really just getting a taste of money management and budgeting. He's kind of a big spender for a dude without a job. He loves to eat out. He doesn't want to cook, although he knows how, because he doesn't want to clean up after himself. Right now it feels like all of those independent living skills I spent years teaching him are blowing in the wind. 

His executive planning is crap.  I must admit, mine isn’t much better. I am definitely not the most organized, methodical person in the world. But it's my job as his mother, to help him. Whose bright idea was it for me to help other adults manage their lives? I'm clearly unqualified. 

Blue seems to have no concept of cause and effect. I try to help him keep his life in order because his lack of planning ends up affecting my life —costing ME time and money.  

For example, he doesn't get up on time.  
Which means he doesn't have time for a proper breakfast. 
He ends up eating on the run (this costs money).
He doesn't take meds because he didn't eat and rushed out the door. 
He ends up not taking morning meds at all that day. 
He ends up having trouble sleeping that night and subsequently getting up the following morning. 
He has an early appointment the next morning and needs a ride, which includes a stop for breakfast (more money) so that he can make it to the train station on time.
This means I get up extra early to take him to the station (5 miles away) because I don't want him to miss the appointment with the Academic Coach. 

Of course, he doesn't want to listen to me when I try to get him to plan because I’m nagging him. 
Believe me, dude, the last thing I want to do is nag you. Please run your own life, so I don't have to help! Only you don’t seem to have any idea of how to do that. 

Sometimes I want to say f*#%-it-all! 
I want to run and hide…
One --so I don’t have to watch this bad movie anymore…
and two --so they will stop asking me to do stuff. 

I think that Blue would function better if he didn't have me around as his safety net. 

I don’t remember anybody teaching me budgeting, and planning or even driving for that matter. I learned out of necessity for survival. I learned by doing. I wanted to spend. I got a job. I wanted to go to college, I applied and figured out how to pay for it. Of course, I didn't have autism, but I'm pretty sure I had undiagnosed A.D.D. 

Maybe I coddled them more than I should have. I’ve always been here for them. The stay at home mom —their advocate, their beck and call girl.  Now I’m pissed because I’m ready to quit and they seem to be in no hurry to grow up and be independent. 

Wait a minute. That's not exactly true. Blue has been taught to advocate for himself. He has always set goals and gone after them, most of the time without prompt. He has actually always been VERY independent.  Maybe that's why this is hitting me so hard.

The past two years there has been a kind of regression with those independent skills. Part of that reason has been social dynamics, heavy on the male/female relationship learning curve. The other part I think, is that growing up just plain scares him.

Kendal has come a very long way in the past few years. Having him move out, to the group home, which I still hate, did kick him into grown-ass-man gear.  He's working two jobs and now looking at apartments. 

They both have their driver's permits, but neither is in any hurry to drive. Anxiety is the main culprit.  For Kendal, most of his anxiety is related to the actual cost of driving. He doesn’t want to pay for insurance, gas and, “What if I get a ticket?” 

They both use Uber until they run out of money or the ride is too far and too expensive to pay for. Then I become their personal driver for appointments and errands. Knowing how much Uber charges, I realize I could be rich from all the rides I give alone! 

There is essentially no public transportation in our small city (a suburb of Austin) besides Uber and Lyft, which is better than before when there was nothing. Some of these damn roads don’t even have sidewalks. 

There is a train and bus station about 5 miles from here that will get you down into the city of Austin. But you have to be able to get to the station on your own, via bike, a ride or whatever. 

If you’re on a limited budget, or you have a disability and you don’t drive in this little city, you're screwed. I don't even know why they call it a city. What kind of city has NO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION?  

Of course, I also drive Ms. Daisy (my mother) to her appointments, grocery shopping and wherever else she needs to go.  I do all of her errands, picking up meds, doctors appointments, going to the post office and such. 

I know. I'm whining. I'm venting. That's what I do here sometimes...well, a lot of the time. But, hey these are my confessions. 

Driving is but a metaphor for my life. 

I could easily change it to cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, the care and feeding of adults who don't appreciate it. All of the ordinary things that I do on any given day, none of which, stir my soul or leave me with a sense of fulfillment. 

I am an age where I am longing for something more.
My authentic-self is screaming to come out from behind these layers of other people's crap.
I have some ideas about what I want.  
But I can’t help but wonder, is there enough time in between drop-offs and pick-ups to fulfill my dreams? 
It seems like there is always an interruption, a need to be met, that does not belong to me.
Is fear holding me back? 
Am I holding my self back? 

I am learning to say no more. 
I am learning that self-care is like water, essential to life. 
I am determined to feed my soul with more education, whether it be reading or going to listen to a group of women speaking about empowerment. I did this last week. I felt like such a grown-up woman. 

Together Live Tour
Glennon Doyle
Luvvie Ajayi
Abby Wambach and More! 
In my head I know, just do it. Take one step and then another —one at a time. I don't have to have a map. I just need to get moving.  

It's just kind of hard to figure out my life when I'm so busy helping my young adults figure out theirs.
Aren't their people you can hire for this?
There should be.
I have this feeling that it will never be my turn if I don't take it.
No one is going to hand it over willingly.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Being Social

I’ve changed. The experience of motherhood, marriage and moving away from Los Angeles, where I grew up has made me a completely.different.person.  There are subtle traces of the girl I once was, but they aren’t clearly visible. 

I was the most social person you could ever meet. My phone was always ringing with an invitation for lunch, dinner or some other social gathering. 

I had friends from the neighborhood I grew up in, friends from school, friends through mutual friends and various places that I worked. I’m talking good, quality, friends who stuck with me through the different stages of life. I am blessed to say, most of them are still with me even if it’s from a distance.  When we see each other, it’s like no time has passed.  I treasure my friends, each of them adds a unique experience to my life. 

I still enjoy being social, jut not that often. I am selective with my time and who I choose to spend it with. Let’s face it, I don’t have a hell of a lot of social time available. My local friends are sparse, few and far between with the closest of them all —miles away in Houston.

More than anyone’s company these days, I enjoy my own. I love the quiet, my own thoughts, doing exactly what I want to do, not compromising with anyone. That’s because my every day is one big compromise after another. 

I spend my days having conversations that I don’t necessarily want to have. I try to minimize the number of conversations with Kendal. Our goal is one phone call a day, but sometimes he comes over …and it’s on. Talk, talk, talk rinse and repeat. And I mean repeat the same mindless words over and over again. He worries out loud and likes my undivided attention while doing so. 

Blue, my 18-year-old son, likes to process all social situations with me. It doesn't matter what else I'm doing. He wants my opinion. That is until my opinion doesn’t really agree with his or until things blow up in his life.  Then I can be properly blamed for everything that goes wrong.  He says to me everything he doesn’t get to say to his friends because then they wouldn’t like him anymore. The problem with that, is sometimes I end up not liking him. I love him always, but like…not so much when he's exploding on me.  

No matter how matter-of-factly I think, this is not about me. He’s upset and can’t manage his anger. This is a part of autism. Humanly, it’s directed towards me and it feels like it’s about me.  I end up absorbing a lot of negative energy and it’s draining. 

I love my husband and sometimes, I enjoy talking to him, especially when we are alone. He is the best part of my life. I love him unconditionally. But in the day to day, I don’t always want to talk. I’m spent.  And he can be like the kids with over-communication.

Maybe being a writer, makes me prone to want to communicate that way. In order to write, you have to spend a lot of quiet time with your thoughts. I love when I can work through my feelings and say what I want to say without interruption and quite frankly, without feedback and opinions. 

And then there is my mother —her feelings are hurt when I don’t feel like talking to her.  I love her and enjoy her company (mostly) but you know how mothers can be with all of that lovely unsolicited advice. Now that her mind seems to be doing well, she’s always adding to my “to-do list.” *Insert eye-roll here.  Honestly, most of the time it's not about her that I don’t feel like talking. It’s about my head being full of thoughts, worries and unsolved problems. Sometimes, I need silence just to process everything that’s going on in my life. 

The adults in my house say that I’m not very nice. I’m grumpy -always in a mood. 

You're damn right I'm grumpy! I have every right to be. Try being all things to four other people, two of whom have exceptionally high needs,  all the time, and see how grumpy YOU are! 

Last night was a family dinner to celebrate Kendal’s 22nd birthday.  I honestly did not want to go. It was my husband's idea and at first, I thought they were going to have a guy's night out.  Then he invited my mom so I felt obligated to do the right thing as a mother and go. *another eye-roll here.  To be honest, I didn't particularly want to celebrate his birthday since he barely acknowledges mine or my mother's birthday. He knows better than that. I always asked for a hand-written note or a handmade card when he was growing up. It's not about the gift, but the acknowledgment.  I'm a grown-up so off we went to a family birthday dinner.

Sadly, our quirky autism family does better with one on one situations than we do as a whole unit.  It's like, each ingredient of the casserole is great by itself or perhaps combined with one other ingredient, but when you put them all together in a dish, it's a disaster.

I didn’t want to listen to them all talk —at once. It’s not fun —everyone competing for the mic,  the debating, the constant correction, the talking to Kendal with condescension (my mom and my husband). I try really hard not to talk to him that way. When I talk to him, I try my best to treat him with dignity.  The key word is —try. I’m not always successful because he can wear through my last nerve. My few little patience are shot.  However, I think I am the best listener in his life, so he talks to me the most.

It may not be right, but I carried him in my uterus and I spend more time and energy with him than anyone else on earth. I've earned the right to lose my patience with him.  I just hate when other people do it. It may not be politically correct for me to feel this way about his father and my own mother.  It may not be fair, but it is what it is. I like what I like, and I don't like what I don't like. 

Anyways, I say all of that to say, that the girl who was once the most social person you could meet —who was the one out of my family of five siblings, who was the glue that held them all together, who made sure that we got together frequently for family dinners and parties now,  can hardly stomach having dinner with my own immediate family. How is this my reality? 

Yes. I've changed. I'm not as social as I once was.

It's a difficult thing to admit.  A simple dinner with my immediate family makes me want to pull my own hair out. But hey, these are my confessions... 

I did survive dinner although I was thoroughly irritated by my husband by the end of the night. I won't get into the details of that. Insert eye-roll here. 

I celebrate that my son has made it through 22 years of life without being physically harmed by his mother.

I still love my husband and I still have my sense of humor. 
Happy Birthday my complicated boy.