I love him unconditionally. In fact, I even like him! He's charming and fun and totally entertaining. However, this kid is giving me gray hair - and that, I do not like. Note to self: make an appointment for a root touch up immediately. Who needs premature gray? Not me. I'm too vain.
Needless to say, my youngest child is once again in crisis, although this picture does not indicate such - he's a good faker and he can put on a happy face when the situation requires it to be necessary. The picture was taken on his 17th birthday, so clearly, he experienced a moment or two of happiness.
However, the real truth is that he is hurting and he is struggling to the point of daily panic attacks that are full blown with breathing problems, hyperventilation and body quakes - not pretty. The recent crisis is caused by a sudden reality check that portrays his world as crashing down around him. And he is finally recognizing the consequences of his past actions are a direct result of his own poor decisions and choices. He has a court date for drug possession on April 24. In the meantime, his drug test came back positive. He is flunking his classes and he may need to repeat all of his junior year in high school. This week, he was so angry that he crashed through his bedroom door and busted out the entire frame, thus damaging my house in a way that will require much repair and several hundred dollars... the door is fine... the frame and the walls are trashed... shattered... splintered... and damaged beyond a quick repair.
In the daily life of a 17 year old - these things are HUGE, and they are a wake up call as to what real life is all about. And in the meantime, he is not handling the realities well. He's experiencing daily panic attacks, a severe lack of self confidence, isolation from his friends, and an overall sense of helplessness. I'd like to say, "welcome to adulthood," but in this instance, that would be totally inappropriate considering that he is still fighting his autoimmune disease and he is still in need of weekly infusions that require 4 hours of needles hooked up to his belly as gamma globulin flows into his body. He's fighting his health care every step of the way, and it is not fun, and certainly not something a "normal" teen should have to deal with. So, in a way, I understand where his anger and frustration come from. But still, it does not give him a free pass to give up on life and rebel at every turn.
I'm not offering these observations as an excuse, because John is 17 years old and he is now of an age where he must deal with the consequences of his actions. However, it is all too much at one time. Isn't that the way life is? All or nothing? I never have understood why things happen this way. And for the mother of troubled child, the result is gray hair and many nights of stress and worry. I am beside myself with feelings of failure and lack of the skills to help a child in need of so much more than I am qualified to give. So I give love. And more love. And even more love. But I'm also mad, and that is where the feelings of guilt come into play.
Clearly, I'm in over my head as to how to deal with these problems. I do the best I can, and yet my heart aches all along the way. I am well aware that my time is ever drawing near when I will no longer be able to control John's medical treatments, nor will I be able to solve his problems (okay... admittedly, that day has long since passed, however, I still like to think that I can help him out once in a while). And, thus, my reality is that I am deep in the trenches and I am doing everything I can to survive this battle.
Anyway... that's where I've been. My absence has had nothing to do with my personal surgery... the surgery went relatively well and I've not heard back regarding the pathology reports, which in my mind means no cervical cancer cells, so all is well in that regard. The recovery took longer than expected, but I'm a slow recovery person, so the side effects of illness and discomfort were not a surprise. By about day seven, I was on the mend. Thank goodness, because, honestly, I don't have time to think about it. I've got my hands full with this child and that is about all I can handle at this moment in time.
Overwhelmed. That's putting it mildly. I'm in so far over my head that I don't know where to turn. So I pray. And I pray some more. And all the while, I hope for answers as I continue to trust in God. Last week, I received an answer to prayers in an unexpected form: a neighbor showed up at my door asking me to walk with her. Well, at the time, I was emotionally in a really bad place, so I declined the walk. But she stayed and lent a listening ear. In the end, I poured my heart out to her and I felt so much better for facing my fears and being totally honest with Suzanne about my shortcomings and my fears. She was an angel in disguise, and for that, I was blessed.
After she left, I realized that my prayers were being answered in an unexpected way: all this month, Jeff has been asking me to walk with him and our dog Buddy. He thinks I need more exercise and that I need fresh air to clear my head. Also, my Mom has been mentioning walks a lot - along the same lines as Jeff... fresh air, clear my head, exercise, getting out of the house, etc.
So I guess it was a sign from those who love me (and from God) - all these people saying, "walk, Kelly, walk." I' ve since walked for an entire week. Walking with Jeff is pleasant - and I only have one rule: no hand holding. I'm sorry... but when I see people walking their dogs and holding hands at the same time it makes me wonder how the heck they keep their balance. It's not a midnight stroll, for crying out loud... it's a walk with the dog and for exercise. So no hand holding allowed. Jeff thought it was a funny rule, but he agreed to abide by my request since the goal was to get me off my butt and not to turn the ordeal into a date. Later, when I tripped on the sidewalk, he realized that my hand holding rule was a good rule to follow! Note that I've since tripped at least once every single day that we have walked. Jeff is now laughing about my rule, and I think he appreciates that I brought it up in the first place!
After a full week of walking, my legs are sore and my body is aching, but my mind is clear and I am in a better place than I've been in months. Good thing - since the door incident happened just this week and who knows how I would have handled it if I were still in my dark place with feelings of parenting failure and lack of faith in how to proceed.
In other news:
My sorority girl at a Chi Omega Alumni sponsored luncheon (Alyssa is standing in the back row - center girl wearing a salmon colored blouse). She is doing so well at GMU, which, in turn, makes me realize that I must have done something right at one point in time. Whew. Another blessing!
I titled this entry "In the Trenches" and I know that I am not the only parent of teens who feels this way. Some days are more than I can bear to think about, and other days I find myself holding on by my fingernails. But when all is said and done, I will forever love my children unconditionally, and I will never stop believing in them... thus, I will continue to hold on, even if it means slipping once in a while, because as long as I don't let go, I am not losing the battle.
However, this parenting thing is far more challenging that I ever dreamed possible, but it has also helped me build character in ways that I never knew I was capable of... because, really, who wouldn't have to swallow all of their pride and still stand tall when escorting their wayward child to a court appearance and a mandatory drug test? I have eaten more humble pie this past year than I thought was possible... and yet, I'm still standing. I'm in the trenches... but I'm still standing. And at the end of the day, that, in and of itself, is a blessing.