The Thing About Choices

Let go of the past and know you did your best at any given moment.

Today I responded to a post on a FB group for parents of children with OCD and anxiety. A mother was requesting advice with regards to her son who was being bullied at school. She was considering pulling him out of school and wanted others to weigh in.

My reply to her post was rather long, because her situation was one that I was presented with not too long ago when Jake was in high school. Now that Jake is nearly 22, he and I have had several conversations about our decision to homeschool.

What parent hasn’t questioned the choices she’s made for her children? Add special needs to that equation and the ante has just been upped. The choices seem to carry more weight. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I ruin him? What if I’m wrong?

The What-If game is a dirty game to play. It’s a game I own a lot of stock in and, let’s just say, the return on my investment isn’t going to make me rich. I have wasted so much time and energy rethinking my choices for Jake over the years. Come to find out, so has Jake.

He often talks about all the things he missed out on by not going to a brick and mortar school. School dances. Class trips. Clubs. Basically any kind of socialization. This was a huge topic of conversation when we made the choice to homeschool Jake. I knew he would miss out on some key high school experiences, but I also knew that he wasn’t learning anything at all, and he was having trouble finding his tribe. I also argued that not all forms of socialization are good. And I firmly believed in every word I said, every argument I countered.

I made every effort to replace those experiences with local groups. But they all fell short. Jake was just too smart, and on such a different social path than his peers. He is an old soul. He doesn’t really understand his generation and the way they act as a whole. I wonder if it would’ve been any different if he’d remained in school?

The things that I didn’t consider that he’d miss out on were tests, taking notes, and homework. None of those seem like such a big deal, right? But going to college has forced him to learn those skills rather quickly. And they are skills. He’s doing just fine it just took him a minute to get up to speed.

So when Jake and I talk and he says that he “missed out on so much” I feel like I let him down. I made the wrong decision, and he’s paying for that in spades. But then I think of all the things he gained from being homeschooled. He was able to follow his passions (higher maths, and sciences like Quantum Physics) and focus on them. He didn’t have to deal with all the extra stuff being fed to him. He was able to learn at an accelerated pace, rather than following the pace of an entire class. And these are things he’s grateful for.

And yet I still feel guilty. The only consolation that I have is that I made the decision that was right at that moment in time. It was a mutual decision. It was what Jake wanted, and it was what I wanted for him. And, honestly, that’s really all that matters.

As parents we spend so much time second-guessing ourselves, beating ourselves up, and carrying the weight of regret around like it might make up for what we now feel was a “bad” decision. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m here to tell you, eight years later, it doesn’t. There is no relief that comes from feeling regret. It changes nothing. All is does is make you physically, mentally and emotionally sick.

What we have to remember is this: at the moment of your (now regrettable) decision, you made it feeling wholeheartedly like you were making the best choice out of the options available to you.

There is a line from the song “Move On” in the musical “Sunday in the Park with George” that is what I want you to take away from reading this.

“The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.” Read that several times. Let it sit inside your heart and offer relief.

No matter how you feel, no matter what you think in this moment, the choosing that you did for your child was never wrong. It came from a place of love and that’s all that matters.

Remember that. Every time you find yourself feeling guilty remember that. Every time you feel like a bad parent remember that.

Be kind to yourself. Make the right choice today for you, and choose to remember that.

And if you’re interested here is the song in full.

He’s Not Broken Excerpt

EPSON MFP image

An excerpt from my upcoming book, He’s Not Broken: A Mother’s Journey to Acceptance

I have a photo of my son Jacob in the pilot’s seat on his first flight. He was six-years-old. His hands are on the controls, with the pilot’s hat perched on his head. It’s one of my favorite pictures of him because you can see how happy he is. His face was alive with excitement, no trace of anxiety or sadness to be seen, no sign of Tourette’s, or OCD. In that frozen moment, he was just a regular kid having the time of his life. 


We got in on a Thursday and everything was going fine. By Thursday evening Jacob’s mood had darkened. As we were getting ready to go to dinner, he started crying.


“Momma, I can’t not love you and Daddy, right?” 
“What do you mean, Jacob?” Warner asked.
Jacob’s voice cracked and his eyes darted frantically from me to Warner.
“Right? Right? Tell me. I can’t, right?”


Warner and I exchanged a confused look. I walked around the bed to Jacob. Before I could reach out to him he dropped to the floor and buried his face in his hands. He began to rock back and forth and between sobs he repeated, “Right? Right? You know that, right?”
At that point it became pretty clear that he needed a definitive answer to put his mind to rest. He looked up at us, his face a sticky mix of snot and tears. Warner knelt down on one side of him, me on the other. He wiped Jacob’s face and assured him. “It’s okay, Jacob. Of course you love us. You have to.”


“And we love you too. So much.” I added as I wrapped my arms around him.
He wriggled out of my embrace, stepped around Warner and began to pace the floor.
“But my head is thinking things I don’t mean.” He began to hit the sides of his head. “AHHHH! I CAN’T MAKE IT STOP. THEY WON’T GO AWAY.” He fell to the floor once again. 


Warner and I stood over him, wiping away our own tears and searching for composure. We were lost. How do you explain to a six-year-old that his mind is screwing with him? I sat down on the floor and held him while he cried. Warner sat with us, his arms around me. And we sat there, the three of us in our buttoned up coats, locked in an embrace and an emotional battle we didn’t understand. 


After 30 minutes Jacob had calmed down enough for us to go to dinner where we sat trying to forget the scene that had just played out—trying to blend in with the other families that we saw—the families whose lives seemed so perfect. 


I had pretty much convinced myself that the excitement of the trip was just too much for him, and nothing else.

Publishing My Memoir!

unnamed

(This is a very bad mock-up of the cover. Also, Michelle will be changed to Ginger because when you search for Michelle McGee on Google…well, just see for yourself.)

/Widgetflex.swf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Help Me Publish!!!

1 in 360 (approximately 138,000 US children) have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, based on parent report.

Run your fingers through my soul. For once, just once, feel exactly what I feel, believe what I believe, perceive as I perceive. Look, experience, examine, and for once, just once, understand.
-Author Unknown 

He’s Not Broken, is a 16 chapter 65,000 word, non-fiction, autobiographical book of a mother and son’s journey to healing and acceptance. An inspirational testimony of how a life filled with challenges – OCD, Tourette’s, Anxiety – can be used as a vehicle to engage in a proactive approach, rather than a life of silence and denial, it teaches us all that reaching out to others can make a difference.

I began writing He’s Not Broken 10 years ago. 10 years! I did have an agent express interest and request edits, but I’m almost embarrassed to say that those edits took me 5 years. Life happened. OCD happened. Anxiety happened. And every time I sat down to work on edits, I had to face the pain of all those years of struggle. Maybe I needed to take that long in order to have some time away from the story, so that I could make it even stronger in hindsight.

That said, since I have been carrying this book baby for 10 long years, I really need to bring it into the world now.

I believe in He’s Not Broken. I feel certain that it’s a book many will find helpful – caregivers, parents, family members – anyone who has a close connection to someone who requires special needs.

It’s the book I needed when Jake was first diagnosed. It’s the book that would have made me feel less alone. And, even though I certainly had support from family, it wasn’t the same. I needed a friend who could listen, but more than that I needed someone who had navigated the same waters, the same emotions. I want He’s Not Broken to be my stand-in since I can’t reach out personally to everyone. More than anything, I want my book to give others hope.

That’s where you guys come in. I hate asking for things, but He’s Not Broken needs to be available sooner rather than later.

If I’m going to self-publish, I’m going to do it right. That means lots of self-promotion, and a bit of an investment upfront.

I will need about $2500 to get this book out there. That will/should cover the following costs:

copyediting
cover and interior design
advertising
purchase of ISBN number
marketing and publicity
book trailer
promotional copies of book

AND THERE WILL BE CAKE! Ok, maybe not cake, but I have some incentives/rewards to offer as a thank you to all who donate!

And for everyone who donates I will be forever grateful for your support!  Please click this link: /Widgetflex.swf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Help Me Publish!!!

Peace,
Ginger

 

 

 

Part of That World

 

img_1639
Jake, before the world became too much

In the midst of my own personal revelations, I’m still struggling to deal with the pain of someone very close to me. My oldest son was diagnosed with Tourette’s at age six and OCD, anxiety, and depression at the age of eight. Over the years he has faced many challenges, all of which he has overcome. But when he is in the middle of a particularly bad one it seems that there is no light, only tunnel. And that’s where he is today.

My heart breaks for him because, although I know I can encourage him, I can’t “fix” his issues, only he can. As a parent, this is the worst feeling. I’ve always been able to fix the outside hurts, or find someone who can. It’s the inside hurts that prove to be the true problems.

Lately, it’s the social anxiety that is slowly killing his spirit. Warner and I were sitting on the deck talking the other day, amidst the wisdom of the whispering Georgia pines, and something he said stuck with me.

The night before, he and Jake had done some serious talking it out. Mostly Jake listening while Warner talked. I thank God that we are a close family, that at least Jake has that. So as they talked Warner told him he needed to “be where the people are”.

Of course, there is no way we could understand Jake’s social anxiety, but what we do know as adults who have been in the world a bit longer, is that most things are temporary. So we continue to encourage him, to suggest things that seem impossible to him right now. Things that he wants so badly.

So when Warner told me what he said, “be where the people are”, all I could hear was Ariel, The Little Mermaid, singing so sadly about her desire to, yep, you guessed it “be where the people are”, and I nearly lost it.

I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancin’
Walking around on those – what do you call ’em?
Oh – feet!
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world
When’s it my turn?
Wouldn’t I love, love to explore that shore up above?
Out of the sea
Wish I could be
Part of that world
Because, for my Jake, he wants so much to be a part of a world that you and I live in every day without giving it much of a second thought. We go to the store, interact with the cashier, walk among a crowd, and we hardly even notice.
But it’s a struggle for Jake. He feels like he is being watched, and judged. Even going through a drive-thru is difficult because it requires interaction. Think about all of the little interactions you have experience on a daily basis. Now, imagine doing those things and feeling like you are being evaluated on each and every move you make, every word you say, all the while knowing you are inadequate – so really, what’s the point?
Imagine wanting to meet people, to have friends, to socialize, but being too afraid to talk because you don’t want to be criticized, so you remain alone…and miserable. It’s not a choice. It’s a prison.
And watching a person that you love, that you respect, and that you see so much awesomeness in go through this is heartbreaking.
All I can do is love him. All I can do is be there for him, and believe in him. The rest is in his hands. But I will be holding those hands, and helping him every step of the way no matter how long it takes. Even though he may feel lonely, I can promise him this, he will never be alone as long as I’m around.