by Daphne Reiley
I am a caregiver — my husband and I have two teenage boys (14 and 17). While some might wonder why I consider myself a caregiver, I know that other parents of teenagers will understand.
Just recently, we had to set a new boundary for our 17 year old. We had been allowing him a great amount of freedom to go and “hang out” with friends, most of whom are all in a band together, that live within 20 miles of our home. We know these kids and their parents and have felt reasonably good about the boundaries. Our son knows to call and let us know where he is, when he moves from one house to another, and when he has to be home.
Last weekend, he announced — after having been gone most of the weekend already — that he wanted to drive to Monticello to see one of his friends in a play at his school and then have dessert and return home. Now, from our house, Monticello is 1-1/2 hours away. It was dark already. Our son had never traveled there before. Cell phone service is extremely spotty between here and there. He had never even changed a tire on the vehicle he would be driving.
So, when he came in and made this announcement, we had to put some serious brakes on the discussion. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy. He referenced his recent freedom as a reason to allow him to do what he wanted. After much discussion revolving around the reasons why we thought this was a bad idea, a case of unfortunate timing, etc., etc., he asked why, then, had he been allowed so much freedom lately if we didn’t trust him to get to Monticello and back
What followed was a wonderful, affirming discussion about the reasons for our trust. Our son had followed the rules and had built up our trust in him and in his general decision-making capabilities. We explained that the decision on our part to not allow him to take this trip was based upon a need to “reset” the boundaries of his freedom. He had proven his reliability close to home and those boundaries were “reset.” Now, he needed to take the time to demonstrate his responsibility for these longer trips by accepting our judgment in this case and by perhaps using better judgment in the timing of the next trip he wanted to take. We discussed what that would look like and he was a little surprised at what we would accept for examples of responsibility.
Our conversation ended with everyone happy about the result. Yes. Happy. I looked at my husband and smiled. We had “done it.” We had navigated a somewhat tricky conversation with our son and it had resulted in a good outcome. This is new territory for us as parents, as caregivers, of a young man who will, sooner rather than later, be let loose upon the world! I believe my husband and I both know that this won’t be the last such conversation and that the next may not go so well. Yet, the result of this conversation has given us hope.
In caregiving, small steps, small victories should be celebrated! No matter the sort or degree of care you are giving — celebrate. Growth and development — both within ourselves and within the one for whom we are caring — is possible. So much about caregiving is hard work. When that hard work pays off, it is such a nice thing to sit back and breathe and say, “Yay!”
It is Thanksgiving this week. My prayer for you is that you find time to celebrate the victories, praise the growth, and find rest and renewal.