This week, please enjoy this guest blog from Attorney Alice Taylor, mother of Evan and Chair of the Charles River Center Board of Directors. Its message is universal as it conveys the transition of a loved one leaving home.
When our son Evan finally moved into a group home 3 years ago, at age 29, I started rediscovering aspects of my life that I had been forced to ignore, or at least not devote as much attention to as I would have liked.
I made a list:
- Getting up when I wake up, not when he wakes up – or in other words, sleep
- Really being able to listen to an interview on the radio
- Making only one dinner meal each evening, and focusing on different ingredients and cooking techniques
- Reconnecting with friends – going out for coffee or a glass of wine, or just having a long phone conversation
- Going to a restaurant that is not in the “family friendly” category
- Taking trips and planning activities for myself only – DC last May, Baltimore next month
- Reading, including books by moms and dads of special needs kids
- Participating in online forums such as the National Council for Severe Autism
I made a list for Evan, too – something he would probably not consciously sit down to do – of ways that he has grown and benefited from being out of our home. Here’s what I think would be his list:
- Learning to live with roommates, getting along with people who are not a part of your immediate family, and gradually coming to call them friends
- Trying new foods (occasionally)
- Doing his own laundry
- Making his way in the neighborhood, getting to know the folks who work at his bank, the drugstore, the ice cream shop, the barber, and the MBTA workers who drive the bus
- Having an array of activities, and not only what Mom has to offer; going to the community pool
- Voting in a town that has a town meeting instead of a city council, with elections in the spring instead of the fall
- Becoming more emotionally flexible, and, in general, learning how to be more of an adult.
You could say this is a win-win, in terms of improving the quality of our respective lives.
But it is also essential.
We don’t work so hard for day, employment, and residential programs only to make our loved ones’ lives better and more meaningful, and to give their parents more free time.
We do it because we know that our kids will outlive us. And we know that many of them will struggle, all their lives, with their intellectual and developmental challenges, and they will need help.
It’s the right thing to do.