Categories
Adult Children Parenting

When Raising Capable Adults, You Don’t Have to Follow All the “Rules”

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I’m not immune to other mom blogs. Quite a few of us roam in the same circles, and I enjoy hearing different views. It’s how we all become better parents, but it’s also the perfect breeding ground for insecurities. Regardless of how old your children are, you will second guess things you did ten years ago, yesterday, and parenting choices you’ll make ten years from now. There are many different types of mothers, and there are times I’m reminded that my views are polar opposites of others.

Nothing like reading an article and convincing myself that I’ve failed, right?

With my two youngest children having eyes focused on college, I’ve come into more articles about raising capable adults. Guess how many of those awesome tips about raising kids into adults I’ve used? None. Que the panic, because Parker is heading to college this fall.

Except, once the panic died down, I realized that all five of my kids are capable. Three of the five are adults that either been to college, the military, had careers, and are living independent lives. Kira is building a life of her own (despite still being under my roof) with a husband and what will be two children. They’re all alive, so I can’t be doing that bad of a job.

There are no hard and fast rules for raising capable adults.

If you’re still doing your teenager’s laundry, they will eventually figure it out in college. Perhaps you cook all the meals just out of ease and habit. Does that mean the second your children move out that they’ll starve? Absolutely not. They’ll find a way to make a meal, even if dinner is peanut butter and jelly until they make desperate calls to you for instructions on how to cook chicken nuggets. The internet has a lot of information, and maybe they will open a recipe tab instead of a YouTube one.

I’m convinced that a lot of learning how to adult is by being an adult. I can teach basic skills like laundry and cooking, but honestly, my kids can always learn that later. I would rather teach my kids other important lessons while they’re under my roof, that are even more important when raising capable adults.

Kindness.

Compassion.

Loyalty.

Perseverance.

Inner strength.

A sense of adventure.

Their own voice.

The importance of family.

Am I still running forgotten homework and lunches to my last high school student? Guilty. But I’ll leave it to her college professor to handle the next forgotten homework assignment. Let someone else teach simple, but necessary, lessons. I’ll stick to teaching love and kindness to my very capable adults, because honestly, everything else will sort itself out.

Categories
Parenting Special Needs

Raising Independent Children, Part Two

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Letting Derek join the Army was hard, but nothing prepared me for the kinds of decisions we would have to make for Kyle.

Kyle was born with Down syndrome, complicated by the fact that he was also born with an almost total hearing loss. While the doctors were finally able to perform surgery when Kyle was 7 to restore his hearing, by that time, he was speech-impaired. We tried everything to improve his speech – therapy, sign language, and even a $7,000 piece of technology that let him speak in picture symbols, which he used to repeatedly ask for McDonald’s french fries all day every day.

Kyle was – and is – an extraordinary person. He has a delightful personality, a devious sense of humor, and a really fabulous growl that he uses when people piss him off. He is awesome.

We advocated for and fought for Kyle in school after school and with service after service. We made sure he received the care he needed and deserved wherever he was.

How do you know that you are doing what’s best for someone who has a limited ability to tell you how he is feeling or what he wants out of life?

Dave and I are very good at reading Kyle…but we never dreamed that we would leave him in Utah when we moved back to New York. Some people think what we did was cruel, but we know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that it was the best thing we could do for our son.

When we were living in Utah, Kyle reached a point where Dave and I could no longer effectively care for him. Part of this is because Utah sucks at caring for the disabled – the waiting list to get services is about 10 years long. Since we couldn’t lift Kyle when he fell, couldn’t get him in and out of the shower, and had about 9 years left on the waiting list, we started looking for alternatives and found one in the form of a group home – a skilled nursing facility that provided work, activities, oversight, and caretakers and complete accessibility (Kyle reached a point where he could not even get up and down the stairs in our home; the only showers were up or down stairs).

Kyle loves his home. When we still lived in Utah, we would bring him home to visit. He would be happy to see us, but after a few hours he would ask to go “home.” Home for him was no longer with us – it was his place, with his friends, and his new family.

When we decided to return to New York (for a variety of very necessary reasons), there was simply no way we could tear Kyle away from his new life, even though it was difficult for us. He found his path. It was up to us to respect and honor – and support it. Just because he is disabled doesn’t mean he isn’t perfectly capable of letting us know his wants and needs.

Categories
Adult Children Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Teens and Tweens

Raising Independent Children, Part One

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

During our oldest son’s junior year in high school, he decided to look into military service as an option after graduation. Reports of young men and women dying in service were on the news regularly. However, we had always tried to teach our son to be independent and think for himself. He had strong convictions about serving his country as well as practical reasons like getting college funding.

We went with him to meet with the recruiter, and asked nearly as many questions as he did. We left the recruiter’s office and explained to our son that it was the recruiter’s job to “sell” him on joining, but that he was free to change his mind and go to college or work after graduation. Most importantly, we told him we would support his decision and then we let him decide what to do. (That doesn’t mean I didn’t go to bed many nights and fear for his safety).

Helping our child grow up into a happy adult meant allowing him control over his destiny, even when it was not what we pictured for his future. He had always wanted to be a math teacher, and now he wanted to become a soldier.

He ended up spending 10 years in the Army, including an 18-month tour in Iraq and three years in Japan before, during, and after the tsunami. We were proud of him even as we continued to lose sleep worrying about his safety.  Now, he is out of the Army and happily working in the private sector. He is happy—happy with his life and his choices.  That’s all we could ask for. Getting him to keep in touch is another story!!