When a Good Parent has to be a Bad Guy

MartyTheThinkerI have never been more proud of my oldest son, Marty, than I am right now…but, to reach this point, I had to do the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  This is not me speaking metaphorically.  This is the literal truth.  Today, I had to turn my back on my son when he was saying he needed me.

As many of you know, my oldest, Marty was diagnosed with OCD last year.  What many people don’t realize is that OCD is an anxiety disorder.  What is a simple bump in the road for you or me might seem like an insurmountable challenge to someone with OCD.  To put it simply, when anxiety takes hold, a sufferer can lose all belief in their ability to overcome the latest challenge.  It is not rational.  It is not fair.  And, it sucks to see your kid go through it.

Today, we helped Marty move into his room at Lenoir-Rhyne to start his freshmen year of college.  We did everything right helping Marty to prepare for this change.  He worked with a counselor. He has all the supplies he needs. He can have a successful year at college.  But there is no denying that a life change of this magnitude is stressful for anyone…let alone someone with OCD.  The closer it got to time for us to go, the tighter wound he became.  We ended up heading over to the counseling center so he could get some help getting through the panic he was feeling.  Marty begged us to come home.

I knew it was the anxiety and panic talking.  I also knew that Marty has the skills to have a successful year at school.  To enable him to do that, Vic and I had to look him in the eye, tell him that we love him but we weren’t bringing him home, and we had to turn our backs and walk away.  I knew I was leaving him in good hands.  The counselor was sharp and she was committed to getting him through this.  Despite all that, I have never felt more horrible and have never felt more like I was deserting my child.  To put it bluntly, it SUCKED.

I stressed the whole way home…and it turned out to all be for nothing.  By the time we got home to Cary, we had a phone call from Marty.  If you didn’t know what he had been through, you would have thought he hadn’t a care in the world.  I know he is still stressed and anxious but he said that if he can make it to this time next week without a major meltdown then he thinks he can do it.

I have never been more proud of him and the resilience he is showing.  I love you Marty and I can see great things happening for you.

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The Start of a New Adventure

MartyYesterday was a busy day.  We packed up all Marty’s stuff…his clothes, his books, even his few stuffed animals.  Today, we left Cary with Marty and a van full of stuff to get him started on his new adventure.  Tomorrow, Marty moves into his dorm room at Lenoir-Rhyne.

I am so thrilled and excited for him. L-R is going to hold so many fabulous adventures for him and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for him.  I am so very proud of the strength and determination he has shown this past year.  He told me “I’ve missed out on so many things.  I refuse to miss out on college.”  And, he did it.  He not only made it through high school but he did well enough with grades and test scores that he has an academic scholarship.  I know I’m repeating myself but I am incredibly proud of him.  That said, I am going to miss the hell out of him.

As an 18th birthday/leaving for college present, I made him a t-shirt quilt.  The center of the quilt is a nice cream colored cotton and it has messages from every friend and family member that was at his birthday party back in February.  It is surrounded by the backs and fronts of t-shirt from the important events through high school. I hope whenever he sees his quilt, he knows how much we all love him.

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Take Charge

LR_TakeChargeI have so many thoughts and feelings swirling through my head as we get ready to drop Marty off for his first year of college.  First and foremost is “Holy shit…where did 18 yrs go?”  Yeah, really.  That is what I am thinking.  I remember when he was little enough to be held in one arm and now he doesn’t really need any holding at all.

Second, I have a sense of relief.  Marty has been through so much with his health challenges and the emergence of his OCD.  It is truly a relief to realize that he has overcome these challenges to a level where he won’t just survive in college but he has overcome to a level where I truly believe he will thrive.  I must admit that a small amount of the relief I am feeling is personal relief because helping him learn to cope with his OCD has taken a huge amount of time and effort from me…and, then I feel a little guilty because I’m feeling relief over his leaving for college…aren’t I just suppose to miss him?

I also feel proud.  Proud of Marty and the young man he has become.  Proud  of the whole family because we haven’t let life’s challenges derail our growth or our ability to love one another.  Gabe definitely isn’t ready to have his big brother leave.

I have constant checklists running through my head.  Lists of school supplies, lists of dorm room supplies, and lists of personal fill every square inch of my brain.  And, of course, in addition to all the normal stuff, I have the lists of OCD/germaphobia coping materials running through it all…cleaning supplies, latex gloves, etc.  I remember shopping for college stuff with my mom but I certainly don’t remember the myriad of details that seem to be crowding every corner of my brain.  It is kind of overwhelming trying to go through the lists of the necessities of life (with lots of help from Marty, of course).  I know he isn’t going to college in outer Mongolia.  I know he is only going to be three hours away.  I know there is a store in walking distance of campus and, if push comes to shove, Amazon can get it there in 2 days. But, it’s not easy to be logical and rational when it’s your oldest baby going off to college.

I also feel a great sense of pride, security, and satisfaction when I think about where he is going to be going to school.  Lenoir-Rhyne is a great school.  I have every confidence that he will come out of there with an education that will let him pursue his dreams.  It also makes me extremely proud that Marty selected a school that will nurture his faith while exposing him to a diverse student body at the same time.  The sense of security comes from the fact that L-R is a small school.  It is small enough that if you need to contact the main university office, they will recognize your student’s name.  It truly is a school where you are NOT a number.

Despite feeling the trepidation all parents feel when their oldest goes off to school, I truly believe Lenoir-Rhyne is a school that will allow Marty to grow and learn and thrive.  I believe it will allow him the chance to explore his passions and to truly figure out what he wants to do with his life.  I truly believe it is a community that will give him the security he needs to take risks and the resources he needs to pick himself up and keep going if any of those risk turn into stumbling blocks.  L-R will let him take charge of his life and his future.

What more can any parent ask for?

For Our Kids

Y’all, this post is from a group supporting a cause near and dear to my heart. As y’all know, my kids all have an alphabet soup after their names…ADD, ADHD, OCD.  Sometimes those of us with kids who have these issues (or those who suspects their might be an underlying issue affecting their kids) struggle to understand just what it means and just how it affects them. Here is a place you can go to figure it out.

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The new school year is on the horizon, or maybe your kids have already started, either way it can be a fun but trying time for parents and kids alike. That can be especially true if you have a child who struggles with school, attention, and focus, amongst other behavioral challenges. It’s never easy getting kids transitioned into a new school setting. Been there, done that! Understanding and advocating for our children is so important.

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One in five children struggle with issues related to reading, math, writing, focus, and organization, yet many children with learning and attention issues do not have a diagnosis. The adults in their lives often have a hard time understanding their issues due to misconceptions and a lack of information and resources. As a result, children with learning and attention issues often face both academic and social challenges. Sometimes returning to school after a long summer break can bring out some pretty tough emotions for kids.

If you are sitting there reading this, stressed out and feeling alone, don’t be. You are definitely not alone. There are so many others who have been sitting right where you are. Understood is an organization that was created by a coalition of 15 nonprofits, and its content and tools were informed by a survey of more than 2,200 parents of children with learning and attention issues. Understood offers free daily access to experts through chats and webinars, a safe online community that encourages parents to reach out to and learn from each other and a suite of specially designed, first-of-their-kind tools that will help you prepare your child for back to school and cope with everything that comes along with it.

Understood provides parents with clear explanations about learning and attention issues. The resources they provide will give you advice on how to help your child cope with those issues when returning to school and throughout the school year. It offers practical advice for parents on everything from how to partner with their child’s teachers, Back to School preparation, and help with homework to how to cope with the anxiety that comes with back to school. Here are some of the tools that you can utilize to discover what Understood has to offer:

  • Back to School Preparedness Countdown – Start the new school year off right! There’s a lot going on—and a lot to keep track of. Download this one-month planner, which has daily tips to get your child with learning and attention issues ready for going back to school.
  • General School and Learning Section – Read through each section to see what we have to offer. Complete your profile and let us show you how we can help.
  • How to Help a Child Cope with School Anxiety – My son is anxious about going back to school, and the closer we get to the first day back, the worse it gets. He’s been acting out and throwing tantrums, saying he refuses to go. What can I do?
  • Working With Your Child’s School – Parents often don’t want to bother teachers in September and October. But talking early in the school year can set the stage for strong communication throughout the year. Here are topics that can get the dialogue going.
  • How to be an Effective Advocate for Your Child – As a parent, you are your child’s best education advocate—until he’s old enough and informed enough to speak up for himself. You know your child’s strengths and challenges, and you can help identify and push for the resources your child needs to succeed. Here are some tips to help you advocate for your child at school.

Maybe you are a parent of a struggling child, or even a friend or family member who is watching the struggle from afar. Understood has resources for everyone to learn how to help these kiddos face these challenges together. The You & Your Family section helps families with practical solutions and advice for social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. This may give you more opportunity to prepare them for the coming school year, as well as engaging in fun family activities.

Children, family and education are such an important part of life. Sometimes you have to take the hard with the easy, the bad with the good. If you know someone who is struggling, be it a parent or a child; encourage them to check out Understood. They may find exactly the help and inspiration that they need!

Disclosure: I am sharing this as part of a Bloggin’ Mamas Social Good Campaign conducted in conjunction with Element Associates. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

My Wake Up Call Has Come Due

MartyThree years ago, I wrote about my 6:30 wake up call, about how surreal it seemed seeing Marty off on a major trip without the family.  Somehow, in my mind, that trip became symbolically and irrevocably tied to the idea of him going off to college.  You would think that 3 years of thinking about it would make that transition of him going to college a little easier, but it does not.

Maybe I haven’t adjusted to the idea because the intervening 3 years have been filled with turmoil for Marty.  Marty’s panic attacks, a return to homeschooling, and the roller coaster ride of  him developing OCD, getting diagnosed, and learning to cope with it have been the focus of my job as a mom. All that just overshadowed the normal growing up and getting ready for college.  Or, maybe there simply is no way to really be ready to send your oldest child off to college.

Taking this journey with Marty has taught me so much.  It has shown me some of the things we did right as parents and it has shown me where I have made some rather large mistakes.  But, more importantly, taking this journey with Marty has shown me that my boy, our boy, is strong.  He is resilient.  He has it within him to overcome a lot.  I am so proud of him.  I just have to remember that he doesn’t always need us to help him.  Sometimes he needs me to give him that encouraging shove so he can figure it out on his own.

In only 11 days, my wake up call comes due.  Vic and I will drive Marty up to Lenoir-Rhyne, help him move in, and drive away. It’s been three years and I’m still not sure I’m ready.

I love you, Marty.  I can’t wait to see the wonderful things your future includes.