icRKphJXQm-ezth8lntKydifkDg The Loose Screw: December 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Parenting Adult Children (even when they don't act like adults!)

Yes, I'm back. It has been almost three months since I posted anything. The last time I posted was just before my oldest turned 18. Yes, there is a connection. The past few months have been exhausting, hair-pulling, and heartbreaking. I didn't have the time or energy to get anything done but the basics that had to get done for my family to run. I think I also didn't know what to post, because my mind was so wrapped up in my child's problems.

First of all, I certainly do not agree that when a child turns 18, they are an adult. I feel the time until they are adults varies, often with girls maturing before boys, but not always. But unfortunately, legally they are adults, and unless you have hidden them away their entire lives, they know this fact.

In a nutshell, this boy, my oldest, has had a rough life medically. Seizures, delays, different emotional problems, etc. After years of diagnosing, the diagnosis that made the most sense was Aspergers, the highest functioning on the Autism Spectrum. We were hoping, and still are, that he will have a normal adult life, but we knew it wouldn't be easy and we were prepared to let him live with us as long as necessary. Never did we imagine things would turn they way they did.

Its funny, people have lots of advice and stories to share about their children's childhood, from babyhood to teenager. But I've noticed that you don't hear much in the way of adult children. No cute stories or tried-and-true advice. I'm starting to understand why!

Our oldest son is a good kid-no smoking, drinking, etc. His idea of a fun evening is a church youth group. As most Aspergers kids, he does obsess on things, and his biggest obsession is his unicycle. Last summer, at our city's July 4th parade, he met a unicycle group. These are all adults, and he quickly became friends with a 19 year old in the group, who is a high school dropout but holds a job. Quickly his obsession became even worse.

Disrespect has always been his biggest problem. We've worked on this his entire life, never making much headway. Yes, we are somewhat strict, with love, and hold our children accountable. Grades under 'C'-grounding until it is brought up, disrespect is also grounding, to name a few. We had prepared our son for this upcoming birthday, telling him that even though he was legally an adult, that as long as he lived with us, in our home, he had to follow the rules like always. This was especially true because he had not yet graduated from High school-he was a senior.

Well, the big birthday came, disrespect ran rampant, and over time he refused to go to his classes or do any schoolwork. No job, no license, no diploma-stupid! But we could not convince him of the mistakes he was making. The mood in our home was not peaceful, and the younger kids were getting the raw end of the deal. After he left for the weekend a few times, with us not knowing where he was, against our instruction, we knew things had to change for the sake of our other children. We did convince him to enroll in Job Corps, and he will be moving there in January. We pray that this will be what he needs to finish High School and get a trade. Unfortunately, we had a few months to wait before he left. So, we decided to move him into our 1968 trailer in our yard. He now has complete independence, but needs to tell us when he is leaving, we provide his food and showers and bathroom, but he spends no time in the house relaxing. It has been hard, but much better for the younger kids, and we hope he is learning a lesson. Since he doesn't drive, he doesn't go places unless a friend will come pick him up. And guess what??? Friends are busy with school, work, etc. Unfortunately, we haven't noticed much of an attitude change in the month he has been in the trailer. He can walk in the door and pick a fight with a sibling in moments. We are praying he can mature and change while he is away at Job Corps. Although it feels awful to put him out in that trailer, it is much better than kicking him out to the streets, and wondering if he is alive day after day. At least this way we know he is safe most of the time, and we have some breathing room with a peaceful attitude in the home.

So, that was the condensed version. I'm reading a book right now called 'The Power of Praying for your Adult Child'. I've learned a lot from this book-besides that I need to be praying a whole lot more, that the worrying about your children never ends. It doesn't end at 18-it just changes throughout your and their lives. I pray my son will find peace and happiness, and that we as his parents will have it as well.