Friday, April 22, 2016

Still Trying to Recover

It's been about eight months since we sent Jack to Open Sky. That event was the most stressful experience of my life. The entire time he was in wilderness the anxiety over his situation lessened, little by little. I was encouraged that eventually I would return to "normal". There's plenty of time when your son or daughter enters a program to second guess yourself about your skills and how you affect other people. Self-doubt is a common state for "wilderness parents".

Shortly before he completed his wilderness work, Lindsay and I had to make a decision about where he would go to continue his work. This part of the journey was unknown to me until the process started. The realization that Jack would not be coming home reignited the stress, mostly caused by separation anxiety I think. I also worried how Jack would react to his new surroundings. The idea of sending him to a program that he would resent and hate was heart-wrenching.

Fortunately, Jack has settled in at Montana Academy in a wonderful way. All of the kids there share some common experiences, including having been on an unhealthy path that ended abruptly when they went to a wilderness program. Many of the kids are musicians or artists. Activities like Magic the Gathering, slack-lining and chess are very popular. Jack fits in very well and when we talk to him he sounds calm and content.

I'm glad for him but envy his peaceful state. The long term effect on me of the last eight months (and maybe some of the time leading up to it) has not resolved in the way it has for Jack. I have not been able to shake the fear of "what's going to happen next?" I had no idea that my parenting was contributing to Jack's bad decision making. What other blind spots do I have that are going to cause a crisis? Do I have the skills and wherewithal to solve or avert other problems?

That kind of uncertainty is a cause of enduring anxiety for me. There isn't a single day that I don't fear that another crisis is on the way. My usual confidence has been rattled. Though I've been talking the situation through with Lindsay and others, I haven't been able to shed my fear that there are forces working against my happiness and well-being.

Of course, there are no such forces. We live in abundance and with continued hard work and mindfulness we'll maintain the level of comfort and peace we seek. Those of us that have been wounded by unforeseen events will receive the support needed to heal.

Everyone encounters challenges and set-backs in the course of their lives. We're no different. The value of such experiences is a function of what you learn from them and how you respond. In my case I think I was affected more deeply than originally thought. The road back is more difficult and longer than I realized. I'll get there.

Consider contributing to one of these funds so families that need help can afford it.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Matt got "Gooned"

Early this week another family we know sent their son to wilderness. Matt, 16 years old, had been doing drugs, leaving the house without revealing his intentions or whereabouts and exhibiting threatening and abusive behavior towards his family. He is going to struggle in that environment. Matt's family is very well-to-do. I don't believe he's ever had a callous on his hands from working. The world has been served to him on a platter from in the material sense.

Matt's situation is unique in other ways. He is adopted, often a big factor with wilderness kids. His adoptive Mother is not particularly stable, leading his Grandmother to take the reins on Matt's life. It could be worse. Grandma and Grandpa are well off. They live in a beautiful house with several vacation homes. When they travel they go on the private jet. Sounds wonderful, huh?

This profile is not unusual in the wilderness world. A family has to have means because the programs are very expensive. The woods are full of rich kids. Jack was able to go because we had financial help. We learned when we attended family workshop and Jack's graduation that we were a bit of a financial anomaly.

Unfortunately, money doesn't buy the things that kids need to become well-adjusted, good-decision-making individuals. That's compounded by the fact that kids with money have access to a lot of things that are dangerous for them. Drugs, fast cars and instant popularity can distort a kid's sense of right and wrong. Non-identified or misguided values provide a faulty framework for decision making and often, the young get into trouble or become addicted to substances.

As it turned out, Matt was met at home by a pair of large men who served as his escorts to the eastern Utah winter headquarters of Open Sky. He'll be gone for a couple of months, living under a tarp, hiking 7-10 miles a day and learning how to start a fire without matches. He will get blisters and callouses. He'll learn how to eat food cooked over a fire from a limited menu of ingredients. Hopefully, he will find himself and a vision for the person he will become.

Jack update;
We talk to him every week and catch up on his activities, social life and school work. The other day someone asked me how Jack was doing. I heard myself reply that he's doing well and that he's an "A" student now. I'd never said that about Jack before. I have such pride in the growth he's making. Jack would be happy to have that support but he's determined to improve himself strictly for his own approval, internal validation.

The last time we were with him he was about an inch shorter than me. When we see him again next month I hope he's an inch taller. He's growing in so many ways. Now his friend Matt is on the path.

Consider contributing to one of these funds so families that need help can afford it.

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