Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How Do You Know Where to Draw the Line?

My mom used to always say that the hardest part about raising kids was when they turned 18. At the time I didn't believe her because I thought the hardest part was the part I was in that day!

But now that my kids are grown, I know exactly what she means. For almost 20 years you protect and nurture and teach and discipline and love and coax and support and legally overnight, you have to let them fail. You have to stand back and watch them make poor choices, watch them suffer the consequences, watch them... sometimes... fail. It's a horrible conflict of interest. It goes against everything you've been doing, everything you known.

You can advise. You can offer encouragement. You can give your opinion. But ultimately, you have no power. The choice is 100% theirs.

Beth is obese. You already knew that. We've slowly been making changes in our lifestyle by cooking less food, trying to use smaller plates, etc. Chuck has lost almost 100 pounds the last two years. There's still a lot of work to be done, but we do celebrate how far we've come. But Beth hasn't lost any. In fact, she's gained weight the last two years.

She had a doctors appointment last month and after talking to Beth for a few minutes, the doctor looked at me and asked me if I was able to get her to eat healthy food. I hesitated for a minute and said that she was 28 and asked him if his parents were able to get him to eat healthy when he was 28.

He smiled. Then he laughed. "My parents couldn't get me to eat healthy as a kid!"

Her job coach sent me as email saying Beth needs to drink water while she's at work. It's hot and she needs to stay hydrated. We talked to her about it and suggested she bring her Disney travel mug to work. She can fill it with water there. I think she did that twice. She occasionally brings water but usually likes Sprite or Diet Root Beer instead. They even bought her a clear cup at Starbucks! Complete with straw! I think it was a hint.

Sometimes when we're dishing up for dinner, I'll do Beth's plate. She tends to put on too much and ends up eating every last bite. (I sometimes read, in awe, your posts about not being able to get your kids to eat. That was never an issue with Beth.) I suggests different foods for her to buy when we're at the grocery store. I always ask her to dance or exercise at some point during the day. I really do try. But she's 28 years old.

Where do I draw the line between continuing to treat her like a 7 year old and letting her be an adult and make poor choices, like we all do at times!!

Some people have said that I need to step in if her choices are causing harm, like the over eating. And sometimes I do. But I've been parenting for 28 years and sometimes I just want a break. I don't wanna parent every moment of every day anymore.

Then the other day I read the Jenny Hatch story. Have you heard about it? Jenny is 29, has Down Syndrome and wanted to live with her friends, a married couple who own the thrift store where she works. Her mom and step dad became her guardians so they could decide where she lives. Her mom just felt the group home was a safer choice for her. So they went to court and Jenny won. Her friends will now have guardianship and she will live with them. Only time will tell if Jenny's mom was right.

I felt sorry for Jenny's mom. We've all been there, 'I know my child better than anyone else...' doctors, teachers, friends? And now she's had her guardianship taken away. I can only imagine how devastated she is.

On the other hand, if Beth was so determined to live with them that she'd take me to court?? I think she would be okay living with friends. I would have encouraged Beth to live at the group home, but if Beth said she really wanted to live with her friends, I would have let her. She's an adult!

When that 18th birthday rolls around, everything changes. Your relationship, your influence, your authority. But when that child has special needs, it's hard to know where to completely let go, where to just guide, and where you'll still have to have authority. It's hard to know where to draw the line.


ckbrylliant said...

Cindy, this is so tough. I really have zero advice. I think the example you and chuck are setting is one of the best tools. Is she closer to one of her sisters than the other? Is this something they could talk with her about? Does she enjoy learning about food and why we eat certain foods? I am just posting thoughts I am having, not judging in anyway. She is an adult and she is in charge of what goes in her mouth. Losing weight is SO difficult for everyone but I can see how this takes it to another level. Does anything in particular motivate her to exercise? Would she like water aerobics? Praying for you both in this matter.

My name is Sarah said...

walking this walk right beside you and I have no answers. none at all, but I do so fully understand.

I have kept very quiet on the Jenny Hatch issue until I have read all I can about it. Part of her story makes no sense to me as it seems her mother has not been involved with her for some time. It seems mind boggling to to me that a family can be so out of touch that it takes a court to decide this. It has been somewhat frightening to me to read some of the comments on the situation. Jenny seems like a rather together woman, much beyond Sarah's capacity, but still I have to wonder if "all power to her" is the right message.

My name is Sarah said...

btw that was Joyce speaking. I thought I was signed on my own account.

Michelle said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! What you've said makes so much sense - she's 28! What else are you supposed to do? You can't force her to drink water or make different food choices. It sounds like you're doing all the right things w/encouraging her to make healthier choices and suggestions w/her travel cup etc. Sometimes I find it hard to know when to draw the line w/my 10 yr old :)

Angel the Alien said...

I feel like I can see both sides of the story. I don't have a cognitive disability, but I do have severe ADHD and Aspergers, and don't always make the best choices in life, especially when I was in my late teens/early twenties. There was actually time when my parents considered getting guardianship of me when I was already over 18... but it would have been my worst nightmare! My mom still tries to tell me what to eat, to get more exercise (like Beth, I love pop and don't much like to exercise) what to wear, how to do my hair, how to talk, etc. I feel like everyone deserves to experience being an adult, to the highest extent that they can. If someone has such a severe cognitive impairment that they can't communicate at all or get themselves fed and dressed and whatnot, that may be different. But for people who have conditions such as Down syndrome, autism, etc, they should be allowed to be independent and make their own decisions as much as possible as far as where to live, what to eat, etc. Also, many people who DON'T have cognitive disabilities make very poor choices as adults, too, and all their parents can do is try to encourage them to do the right thing. So... I think if I were you I'd be doing just what you're doing, trying to teach Beth about health and encouraging her to make healthy choices, and being a good example, but in the end letting her be in charge of herself!
Whoa sorry for the long comment!!!

Becca said...

Sooooo grateful to you, Cindy, for sharing these issues. You give so much good advice, even in your indecision. It means a lot to me, in preparing for Samantha's future. I was just reading Linda Atwell's blog the other day about her own realization that she needs to stand back and let her daughter make her own decisions about her appearance/clothing choices, even though they're so different from the choices she herself would make for her daughter. Growing up is growing up, regardless of ability/disability, and parents walk a fine line no matter what. Please tell Beth Sammi and I say hello and send our love!! Hope we can see you all again some time!

I am said...

I can only imagine how difficult that is. I'm seven months in and I know how completely James has captured my heart, how hard it is to hear him cry even if I know it's what's best...ugh. I'll be praying God grants you peace as you have to make these decisions!

Mary Beth said...

I have been deeply pondering and praying about this very issue as well. My daughter (Becca) with DS is 22, and like you, I don't want to micro-manage her life. She is getting older and I am tired of doing it. I struggle with where to draw the line, how much to expect, how much to allow, until I become way to stressed out over it. She is the oldest of 3 girls (my others are 19 and 11) and as I see my 11 year old out-thinking her it is hard. (My college-girl by-passed her long ago.) The hardest part is that she acts like she would rather NOT grow up, so I feel like I am constantly pushing her forward. No answers for anyone, but just know others are on this same journey! :)