Any parent can celebrate their child winning a sporting event or an academic award. Those moments reinforce our skills as parents, and allow us to be proud of what our child has accomplished. Transferring you child who is suffering from anxiety and depression from wilderness therapy to a residential treatment center, takes a different type of parenting strength and pride.
On Monday, I pulled up to the home base of Ryan’s wilderness program and was met at the door by my son, who gave me a huge smile and an enormous hug. After that he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Am I going straight to Telos (the school) or do I get to come home for Thanksgiving?” The question broke my heart because there is nothing more I would want but to have both my kids at the Thanksgiving table tonight. However, as has often been the case in this fight, my wants and desires take a back seat. I had to respond, we are going straight to Telos after a few stops, one of them for season rentals for skis. He got a little sad, but replied, “I figured and I know that is best.” Then stated, “I get to get skis…awesome.” At this comment I could not have been more proud of him. He realizes that it is in his best therapeutic interest to go straight to the new setting instead of home with his family. He is focusing on the positive, getting to ski. I knew instantly that Ryan had made progress.
After our goodbyes to the staff at wilderness, we got in the car. When the second thing out his mouth was “I’m starving!” I couldn’t help but smile. After wonderful conversation, a stop at Starbucks, In and Out, and to pick up a season rental for snow skis we pulled into his new home for the next 9-12 months. He was met warmly by the staff, but most importantly I got glimpses of the boy that I know he can be. He was chatting everyone up, and greeting them with a warm smile and a firm handshake. A few boys he knew from wilderness last spring came and greeted him warmly in the lobby and he had a large smile on his face. A few staff commented, “He has the best smile and personality.” I replied thank you, gushing on the inside that they got to see that boy. The one so many of us have missed the past few years.
After our transition of a few hours he told me, “Mom this place is a really good fit for me.” I could not have agreed more. As hard as it was to leave him and say goodbye, I did so with confidence feeling so thankful for all of the support he and us have received over the past year. I also again was extremely thankful that we have the resources to give my son time in this therapeutic setting which is what he needs right now in this battle.
I am realistic, I know and he knows that he is on a wilderness high and there will definitely be valleys over this journey. However, as I sit at the Thanksgiving dinner table tonight with him not there, I have to remember that life is a marathon not a sprint and we are all doing what we need to to help him win this fight. So instead of being sad, I will reflect on the memory that the boy with the smile and personality I know and love, who at this moment is winning the fight.