When my son was a baby I had a series of mundane temp jobs. One of those jobs I happened upon a boss who was also a single mom. Older and much wiser than I and likely seeing that I was only making ends meet she offered some advice. She told me to go get myself more educated and land a career. She said, don’t wait. Do it now while he’s young because “he’s going to need you so much more later.”
I took that advice. When he turned three I landed my first real career job at an ad agency. For the next while my son would be taken care of by institutions and in-home daycare while I worked full-time and attended part-time school.
For his fourth birthday, I got him a Joe Louis with a candle stuck in to blow out. Still making ends meet yet, in a nicer home.
For his seventh birthday we had a memorable birthday party that included a visit by “Hiccup” the European unicycling-clown. A step-up and living somewhere much nicer than before.
When he turned eleven, his party was filled with flying trapeze, a giant screen to play Super Mario Cart and a 10 kid pile-up on a Sponge Bob Squarepants Pinata filled to the brim. Things were much, much better.
It went that way for a while until something unexpected happened. Grade 11 hit and along with it, opportunities to do what all the kids were doing — smoking pot. Seems harmless enough. But what we’ve discovered since is that there’s small percentage of teenagers who once they smoke, it chemically unlocks something bad in their brain. The next thing you know, you’re not dealing with a naughty teenager anymore, you’re dealing with a psychotic one. For real. It’s taken me a few years to understand and only this past year to accept this.
And then, came the stress. Induced by a demanding career and dealing with a relentlessly troubled teenager. It has truly taken a toll. I recently resigned my director role at an award-winning ad agency. Something had to give way and it clearly wasn’t going to be my son’s psychosis.
It’s now a few months away before my son turns twenty years old and, having just completed grade 14 (as we joke) things have not been looking up.
Being there for my son is not the picturesque images of applying for university or getting his first job that I had dreamed of. It’s just hard stuff.
I’ve not known what to do for a long while now. Could I just keep him safely tucked in my basement and live-out days that no family sitcom show could ever pull-off as being funny? Could I simply kick him out for any number of shitty things that occurred in past few weeks? Past experience with these approaches told me that neither were going to help. Not in a good way.
A goal was needed. A positive goal that despite a mental disorder, any highly functioning, resourceful and smart kid like my son could do. Together we planned a trip across Canada. Once it was all set, he said to me “Mom, I feel hopeful now. Thank you.”
Yesterday my nervous-as-hell boy got on a Greyhound bus. It’s been a rough start but, he just texted to tell me “the countryside is beautiful on the road to Winnipeg” And then, I cried, for probably the 40th time this month.
I have never experienced truer words as spoken to me from that wise woman I met so long ago. He does need me now more than ever.
That said, I’m now that woman and a bit wiser than I was back then. After having to deal with things I’m not qualified or equipped for I know that he needs me to NOT be there too, in a positive way.
It’s only day two of this plan in action. Please let it be the positive push my boy needs because I have so many wishes for his upcoming birthday! An epic party with new-found friends. A place where he’s living well and beating down his psychosis. On his way to becoming the incredible man I know he’s destined to be.