Friday 18 November 2011

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Well, not really breaking up, but breaking apart. At least that is what our family feels like, now that Nicholas is living away from home for the first time. Like all transitions, this one has its stages. First it was happy excitement. That was followed by stoicism. Now, we have tears and "OK, this has been an interesting social experiment. I want to come home now. Mum, please, I want to come home."

Jim and I visit Nick nearly every day. Our extended family and close friends all visit for hockey games, playstation or just to hang out. Nicholas is not lacking for company.

I was thinking that it is more like this: imagine that you have been in a bad car accident in China. There are people taking care of you, making decisions about painful procedures that you do not understand. No one speaks English. I think it's like this for Nick - of course he understands what is being said, but everything is new. Everything that is familiar is gone - poof.

Everyone will have played charades with the family at some point in their lives. Inevitably, there are those who intuitively make connective leaps of imagination to guess impossibly complicated answers based on a few vague gestures. Those are the winners. Then there is the cousin or brother who stares at the words on the slip of paper, groans, laughs, begins to awkwardly count syllables, then gives up. Nicholas is used to being surrounded by people in the former category. We know all his little gestures, tongue clicks, eye rolls or hand movements - we can put together complicated messages using his secret code in no time at all. We are his translators.

I know that we will be OK, but right now we all feel a strong push and pull. I know that visiting Nick every day gives him comfort, but is my hovering making his settling in more painful and less efficient? Today, I have not visited Nicholas - I have had two routine doctor appointments, I've done the grocery shopping and I've cleaned the house. All day long, I have worried. Is my baby safe? Is he happy? Are his eyes glazed from the exhaustion of trying to communicate with people who do not understand his language?

Yesterday, I gave a pep talk to Nick. I said "you are a great optimist. You have never been faced with a challenge that you didn't meet. We can do this, because we choose to. Every day, we must choose to be happy and we must not choose to be miserable. Each day, it's a choice. Growing up hurts sometimes - that's why they call them growing pains".

Now, I must work at applying these lessons too. Two years ago, I had to face this transition with Natalie when at 17, she crossed the ocean to attend university. Now, I have to trust that my boy who is so dependent, will be alright without me. There is no doubt about it, breaking up is hard to do.


BLOOM - Parenting Kids With Disabilities said...

Hi Donna: Thanks so much for sharing this post. It's so important for those of us who aren't yet at this stage to understand the process.

You made a perfect analogy to the charades in terms of Nick suddenly being with people who don't get his 'language.' I can't imagine how frustrating and infuriating that must be.

I think we underestimate just how perceptive we are to our child's needs -- how finely we are able to "read" them.

It helps to understand this process from the parent and adult son perspectives.

It is sooooo hard to let go to enable our child to make these transitions. I can only compare it to the first time Ben went away to camp -- at 15 -- or to putting him in a mainstream school this year. The urge to protect is so great!

I look forward to hearing more as Nick gets more settled and as those around him get to know him better.

I haven't heard from Eva yet, but I did post a blog by one of her colleagues today -

I'm so glad you told me about Eva and her book -- Cognitive Disability and its Challenge to Moral Philosophy.

Take care! Louise

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Donna. I have been thinking about transition too. I wish I had some advice, but I don't have any words of wisdom. I just wish everyone the best. Even some of my friends whose children have gone off to college are dealing with home sickness as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank-you, soooo much for sharing your story with us! As, mothers we like to protect our babies and my heart goes out to you and what you are having to face.
I wasa foster mom to children with special needs and it is hard. God Bless You!