Caregiving, whether it is for an adolescent child, an adult child, a spouse or any relative is not an exact science. Everyone's experiences are different. In my case, I am taking care of my 23-year-old son who was injured three years ago while making a tackle during a college football game.
While we have accepted "our new normal," I think the most difficult part for me in all of this is the fact that Eric is no longer a child; he is an adult who does not always see eye to eye with his mother.Having to care for him and being so involved in his life, I sometimes forget that Eric has become a young man with his own opinions. As a mother, I feel like I know what's best and Eric, of course, does not always agree. This sometimes causes "differences of opinion": I think he should do it my way, he wants to do things his way. Since we are both very strong willed, we go back and forth with each other, not wanting to give ground on our opinions. The biggest lesson I have learned throughout our journey, though some days I struggle, is how to just let go and let him figure it out, right or wrong.
I am getting better at it...sometimes. I really try to "butt out" and not get so involved when he doesn't want me to be. Taking care of him physically is one thing, but being so involved in his life is another. I do realize this and have tried to accept it, but sitting by and watching Eric make decisions that I personally don't agree with is not the easiest thing to do. I try to remember that he is only 23-years-old and we will not have the same mindset or point of view, but keeping quiet while Eric makes his own choices is something I still have to work on.
One big step I have made is letting Eric travel with friends (and his nurse) and not be a nervous wreck at home. I think the deciding factor happened during Eric's first trip with his friends about two years ago to Miami for spring break. Imagine how I felt--five of his friends, all in their early 20's, promising to take care of Eric. Considering that I was just coming to terms with Eric's injury, I was not going to let him go without me, so I bought a ticket and I was on my way to spring break. Well that was the last time I would ever travel with Eric and his friends. Spring break with six guys all 22 and 23-years old is not something I want or need to repeat!
Now if he travels for fun, I stay home. He has great friends and wonderful nurses who all know how to take care of him. We both need time away from each other, and if I am unaware of what's going on, I can't have an opinion on it! In all seriousness, trust is key to ensure our relationship remains strong. I need to trust my son to do the right thing and make the best choices. It might not be the choice I would make or the decision that I would deem best, but they are his choices and his decisions and he needs to own them. Regardless of his injury, he needs independence to evolve as an adult and I need to learn how to enjoy my "free time" at home to relax and regenerate. This was a big step for me.
I am sure other caregivers go through the same struggle of letting go or at least taking a step back so our loved ones are able to enjoy their lives without us parents, spouses or relatives trying to direct the show. I never expected to care for my son when he grew up, but these are the cards we were dealt and we are grateful for every minute spent as a family. No matter how many times we butt heads, I am forever blessed to have Eric as my son.
Now if only I could figure out how to keep my opinions to myself, we'd both be a lot better off. After all, I am still a mom and it takes time to realize how or when to let go.
Do you have any suggestions on navigating how to let go?
Post your thoughts below. I'll be reading them and responding as often as I can.