Tag Archives: teenagers

Mind Control

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” Romans 12:2 NKJV

As I sat during last night’s football game, I had to continually reprogram my thinking. Yesterday was the first football game of the season. Unlike last year, my youngest son Lan had no interest at all in sitting by me. About ten minutes after our arrival the first words out of his mouth were, “Can I go sit by my friends?”

His request was not unexpected. He is growing up and now in high school. However, I have to constantly battle within my mind that he is not in elementary school or middle school. I have to constantly remember that he has shown increased maturity and responsibility.

He will never learn how to correctly behave in social situations if I am constantly whispering in his ear what he should and should not do.

So, I have absolutely no idea what happened in the first half of the game.

Aside from a few glances over at my older son who was in the stands with the band, my attention was keenly focused two sections over. Lan was talking with one of his school mates and hugging and speaking with his former teachers.

I watched him walk up and down the stairs, waving hesitantly to various people he knew. He was always in eyesight. My husband sat down beside me and sighed. “He’s fine,” he moaned. Lan may have been fine. I was not.

Last night was definitely an exercise but for me more so than Lan. I had to exercise faith that he would be all right, not just last night but in these next four years of high school. I had to exercise patience because watching him socialize while not under my direct supervision was nerve-wracking. I was surprised at my level of anxiety. I was also proud at Lan’s willingness to mingle.

I’ve prayed that Lan would find good friends. He has a few but none of them go to his school. He will have to make new friends. I will have to allow him the opportunity to do so.

I know it is God’s intention to answer my prayer. I just have to get out-of-the-way and allow Him to do so.  I have to trust God for this to happen. I prayed while sitting in the stands.

High school is often a time of angst under the best of circumstances. We all want to protect our kids when it pains us to see them branch out. But there is no way any of us can learn without failure. Lan will never reach his full potential if I don’t allow him to try and fail.

I have to remember he isn’t the same child who would wander in pre-k. He isn’t the same child who was terrified of crowds. He has grown and I must too, if I’m not to lose my mind.

Sometimes we can have our minds so programmed to one thought that we are reluctant to change. Always realistic, I must look at what he can become not how I’ve viewed him in the past. I must change my thinking if I am to “hand him over,” so God can do even more.

I wrote recently about letting go. Last night showed me I’ve still got a ways to go. Letting go means relinquishing more and more of my parental control and gaining more and more control over my thoughts.

This change is uncomfortable, nauseating and even painful. But it is necessary for all of our sakes. If Lan is to grow up, I can’t hold him in.

My husband saw one of his teachers last night who said Lan was doing just great in his class. I breathed a sigh of relief. I have to change my thinking so I am not surprised by the very things I pray for!

God has gotten us thus far and I’m confident He will see us through high school and beyond. I just have to remind myself of miracles past every time I get that gnawing knot in my stomach.

Lan came back to my seat at the end of the game just as my husband instructed, even before the timer was done. He maneuvered the crowd just fine. There was no major fiasco. No catastrophe. We survived.

It is indeed an effort not to view the teenager towering over me as the little kid I’ve sheltered for so long. Lan and I have moved on to a new season in life and ready or not it is here.

For once it is not Lan who needs to be mature and adapt. This time it’s me.

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Kids can be…

This week as I skimmed my Facebook page, my attention fell to all the first day of school pictures posted.  Most of these were from my hometown where school starts later than here in Georgia. I quickly noticed the pictures had something in common.  All of the kids going to kindergarten or elementary school wore big smiles and their faces were aglow with anticipation.

In contrast, the kids heading off for their first day of middle school looked hesitant, wary and were marked with trepidation. I could relate to their lack of enthusiasm. I remembered exactly how they felt.

Three years ago now, I dreaded the first day of middle school for my youngest son, Lan. He was so eager to head off and join his brother in middle school. I, however, was a nervous wreck!

I didn’t share his enthusiasm of starting that next chapter of his life. Every other moment, it seemed, I found myself immersed in yet another news story depicting the callousness of kids today. Facebook nightmares. Bullying. Suicidal adolescents that fell through the cracks. My head throbbed with thoughts of everything that could go wrong. The overwhelming thought that hammered away in my mind was that kids can be so cruel.

My oldest son already attended the school and unbeknownst to me dealt with his own bullies the previous year. I just found this out months ago! This finally explained why he was hardly inclined to look after his brother. Cam was worried about himself! Sure enough, not even a week passed before a boy stepped in front of Lan and started questioning him.

A funny thing, or rather a blessed thing occurred then. One of the neighborhood kids stepped up to the perpetrator to defend Lan before the kid could get all of his words out. Kennedy’s defense of Lan set the tone that he was not to be harassed. With no prodding on my part, the other neighborhood kids also watched out for him throughout his three-year tenure in middle school.

Ramone in particular, would even let me know when major assignments such as science projects were due. Lan habitually would neglect to tell me of such pertinent information in a timely manner! In a day and age when most kids entering middle school were striving to get in the “in crowd” a good number of kids reached out to Lan and considered him their friend.

Lan’s confidence increased. He stayed after school to take part in art club and comic book club. He wanted to socialize. This was a major accomplishment!

Lan worked hard his second year of school to earn a place in the “A” band with all of his friends who were honor students. He wanted to go to Festival and compete just as they had done the year before. He set a goal, worked hard and achieved it.

I learned of many kind deeds well after the fact. The first day of middle school I fought back tears. Upon his eighth grade graduation, I let them flow.

In the last days of school, Lan’s principal saw me and asked if I would be attending the awards ceremony. I’d always done so for my oldest, a high achiever, and would do so for my youngest as well. Lan had just mentioned the day before that he did not think he would get any awards. He was rather sad about it. I told him it did not matter, not to worry and instead enjoy all the end of year activities with his friends.

Well, as my husband and I sat in the bleachers with the other parents, the principal began to explain a special plaque awarded each year. The Mandy Young Award is given annually to the eighth grader that overcomes some difficulty with a good attitude. When Lan’s name was called, he quickly made his way up front, especially so, for someone not expecting anything!

The gymnasium erupted in applause and kids stood chanting for him! Lan waved his hands to the crowd as they cheered, as if he were the president or some celebrity. It was quite the sight. I would have laughed if I hadn’t been crying.

Landon not only survived middle school, he thrived! Once again, a single thought hammered through my mind.

Kids can be so kind.

Letting go…

After dropping my youngest son off to high school this morning, I pondered, “at what point along this path did I gain peace in regards to letting go?”

I am not at all suggesting that I have given up on his development or have relegated myself to the status quo. Instead, I sit here in a rare moment of silence realizing somewhere along the way I finally let go of the frustration and worry that continually dogged me with every decision I made.

I still think about decisions I make, commitments I have and how they do revolve around the needs of my kids, yet the desperation I once felt is no longer there.

Somewhere within these last four years post Asperger’s diagnosis, I have miraculously (and it is very much a miracle) let go of the frustration and implications that haunted my every move.

Part of it, I believe, is the realization that my stressed out state was overflowing onto the other members of my family. They can’t function well if I am running around like a warden and cracking a whip like some crazed dictator. Lan has enough to deal with and doesn’t need the frustration of a “crazy mother” on top of that.

I always worried about making everything the best it could be, nagged my kids to meet set goals, badgered my husband to adhere to the list of commands I deemed crucial, all in my failed attempts to better control my situation.

Autism is such an uncontrollable condition, not always the same on any given day.  Often, you don’t know what you’re going to deal with before the day is done. A broken leg is simply a broken leg. You suffer through it, work around it and eventually it heals. Unfortunately for us, autism just isn’t that simple. Its intangible characteristics don’t have clear boundaries, often transforming, evolving and changing us as well….if we allow it.

Somewhere along the line I decided to stop allowing Lan’s diagnosis run all over me. He was doing fine. I was the one socially and mentally imprisoned. I’m not sure when it happened, but I am extremely grateful for the transformation. I finally managed to accept the peace from God that I’d been praying for. It had been there for the taking; I just wasn’t smart enough or mature enough to take it!

We will never see how much God will do until we admit to ourselves just how little we can do within our own power. I’ve witnessed miracles both great and small. Sometimes it is the smallest ones, like a good grade on a quiz or an awesome picture he draws that bring the greatest joy.

In the past, I was always looking ahead to meet some goal, get him through the school year, develop a certain skill, or make him responsible that I often lost sight of the present. Lan has a certain catch phrase, “what’s wrong with that?” which is his usual response when I scold him about doing something I think he shouldn’t be doing.

Well, the mad tyrant that possessed me for so long subsides as I decide more and more often that there is nothing actually “wrong,” with the behavior I berated. Lan’s behavior for my over-correction was never anything crucial or disrespectful. I would often chide him for things I would find silly like dancing in the middle of the floor to his own internal music or devising some crazed concoction he deemed to be lunch, usually the very sight of which made my stomach churn.

I have realized Lan is often correct and sometimes there is “nothing wrong.” He may not do things the way I would them but that’s okay too. Letting go and allowing my child to express himself (within suitable boundaries, I’m not that far removed from my old self!) allows me the freedom to stop trying to control his every move. The release of my iron grip allows me to breathe a little and actually relax.

There was one point in my life where I don’t think I relaxed for years. I was in survival mode and it is very easy to stay there if you aren’t careful.  The challenges of parenting, in addition to all the other stuff life threw my way, kept me very much on the defensive. The problem with my survival mode was that it became permanent and not temporary.  I was always trying to anticipate and manipulate the future. This frantic and desperate state left me hopeless to enjoy my present.

In my quest to make everything “right” I got overzealous and failed to appreciate some of the strides made, large and small. But I’ve gotten better for not only my sanity but his as well. I was actually able to let go enough for Lan and his brother to fly up to Maryland and spend a week with their grandfather this summer. It was only a two hour flight but it may as well have been a world away.

I received an email from my father-in-law this morning describing how he enjoyed the kids’ visit and how they did just fine. My world didn’t break in two while they were gone. Lan had a wonderful experience with relatives he rarely gets to see. Letting my kids go it alone, without me, wasn’t easy.  However, it was certainly good for them. Some things cannot but taught. They must instead be experienced.

My child is now very proudly in public high school among his peers. He practically runs from the car to get inside. I will admit I can waver from proud to terrified in any given day. But, I am learning to let go of my fears as well. Cautious? Yes. Fearful?  Not so much.

The previous school years are becoming a blur, having passed so fast.  I don’t want to “endure” his high school years, I want to enjoy them. They too will be gone so soon. Every football game he so energetically cheers for, his fascination with school mascots, his enthusiasm at being part of the crowd, I want to celebrate. I can vividly remember years ago when he would hold his head down and shy away from people. He’s growing up. I’m growing…wiser.

Letting go the vise grip I once held gives Lan and I both permission to try new things and even fail. I don’t have to hold Lan’s hand upon every venture, milestone and accomplishment he seeks to achieve. It is more important that he knows my hand is available; always near, should he ever need to grab hold.