November 8, 2013 by Angel Pricer
His tearful, plaintive plea to come home traveled through the telephone line and straight into my heart. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to beam myself to his side and enfold his shuddering shoulders in my warm embrace. I would have settled for putting the pedal to the metal, erasing the states that separate us and easing the transition; except, it wouldn’t.
Guiding my son through the pain of missing home and reassuring him it’s all part of the plan would have been impossible, were it not for the fact that we both know it’s where he needs to be right now. My words calmly delivered the same message over and over. “I want you to be home too. I know it is hard for you. It is hard for me too. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing right now, and I am too. I am so proud of you.”
This was how it went on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, right around 5 p.m. each day. This is “room time” for my son and the five other boys who live in Meadow House at The Hunter School. Each boy has his own private bedroom and time spent there is not a punishment. Instead, it’s part of a daily routine that gives them time to themselves while the house parents prepare the evening meal. It’s also giving my son the opportunity to learn an important skill; the ability to self soothe.
The fact that our frequent phone conversations are free from the litany of expletives I’ve deflected over the years speaks volumes to me. The vulnerable voice on the other end of the phone is a relatively new development, making its debut last Friday as my husband and I flanked our son at the green conference table in the school office during our hour-long farewell. And as hard as it is to bear, this pain, and his ability to express it in a form other than rage, is a significant sign of success.
Yesterday, he called me around 3:00, then again at 5:00 and I called him for our standing 7:00 date. Our last several conversations boast next to no tears and lots of exuberant explanations about his experiences in the classroom, on field trips and at Meadow House with his new tribe. He continues to enjoy academics, had a great time going to a gym where he ran and jumped on the longest trampoline in the world, watched BMX bike racers (and got a few ideas to try on his new bike), and hiked to the top of a mountain for the first time ever. He’s doing things at Hunter that he would have been extremely resistant to leave the house to do while he was still at home.
I talk to staff every day. They’ve been taking it slow as he adjusts to room time, providing lots of support and using part of that time as a means of getting to know him on a one-on-one basis. I am grateful that they are enjoying getting to know my son while still maintaining the structure of the program.
At home, my youngest son continues to find new ways to express himself through art, play and storytelling. He is making good choices, having fewer tantrums and finding it easier to be cooperative…most of the time. He enjoys talking to his brother on the phone and talking about him and all the things he wants them to do together on our Thanksgiving visit. My daughter and I have had some good heart-to-heart talks; she’s gotten a new part-time job and is getting ready to schedule placement testing for college. She may have a new boyfriend (and I like him!). My husband and I are still breathing and processing all that has changed, with lots of hugs and humor.
Sometimes, pain is part of the plan. And moving through the pain with love lets us see the light of a new day.
Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net