It never gets easy … saying goodbye after visiting your child at a therapeutic boarding school.
Having gone through this with Ben when he was at a residential treatment center, I should be a pro at saying goodbye. Not even close!
My husband and I just spent three days with Jack. He earned off campus privileges and spent two nights with us.
It was an awesome visit!
In the last five months Jack has grown in so many ways – socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. This visit in particular validated that we made the right decision to pursue a therapeutic environment for Jack to help him develop healthier coping skills.
Knowing we made the right decision for Jack does not ease the sting when it is time to say goodbye.
I have gotten better at being in the moment during our visits. I try hard to clear my brain of the to-do lists waiting for me back home and to truly be present. Although hard, we try not to talk about graduating, coming home, and what’s next. Instead, we chill, explore, laugh, and enjoy family time.
I am pretty good at staying in the moment until the last day of the visit. When we wake up that morning, there is a palatable sadness in the room. Knowing that Jack feeds off my energy, I have to work extra hard at managing the sadness and holding back the tears.
We have learned to not ignore these emotions. We have gotten better at talking about sadness and choices.
We can choose to let the sadness ruin our last day together or we can choose to acknowledge the sadness and work a little harder to enjoy the day and create special memories.
We did make the most of our last day and explored a beautiful part of the state. Jack caught a few “rare” Pokémon. We found a cool book store and had dinner over looking a lake and the mountains. At the end of the day, we took the scenic route back to campus.
When we arrived at the boarding school, we helped Jack unpack and then said our goodbyes. Jack headed to the dining room to meet up with the other boys.
All things considered, it was a smooth transition until …
An hour later Jack called. He was sobbing and wanted us to come get him. He was mad at himself for how he treated his family over the summer and apologized profusely for not appreciating all we do for him. Although, I am guessing most 11 year-olds do not appreciate all that their parents do for them!
Jack “would not” survive one more night away from home.
The following is part of a letter I sent Jack early this morning while waiting to board the plane for home. I am so proud of Jack for doing the hard work. I am equally proud of my husband and I for having the strength to make the most loving, yet incredible difficult parenting decisions.
Please PLEASE always remember …
You ARE an incredible kid who is loved by so many. No one is mad at you.
We know you love Ben … we also know living with a brother who is challenged by autism and mental illness is NOT easy and can be very frustrating.
You did NOT choose to respond the way you did when Ben came home; I was also feeling anxious and depressed.
We ALL make mistakes; you are taking accountability for yours and learning healthier coping skills … that is HUGE.
You are learning to be resilient and flexible; WHEN you get frustrated with the kids and the expectations, practice the coping skills you are learning. Remember what Coach Allan says, “Practice makes permanent.”
We WANT you home and you WILL come home after you have worked through the program levels (maybe not all of them, but close).
Your levels work IS your homework. The more time and energy you put into the assignments, the quicker you will progress through the program; there are no short cuts.
And PLEASE be kind to yourself. No guilt, no remorse … just focus on all you have achieved in the past five months and dream about all that is to come!
Jack, you’ve got this! I love you with all my heart!!