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"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Max & Mel's Terrible Adventure: THE PREQUEL
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, May 04, 2010

At the exact moment that Max & Mel's Terrible Adventure Parts 1 & 2 were occurring, Mel and I were also dealing with the problems of our oldest son, Michael.

When Michael was very young, he read early, had a large vocabulary, was interested in science, space, bugs, made surprisingly mature and interesting observations, and enjoyed his playmates. After preschool, he attended private school kindergarten. The teachers there suggested he repeat kindergarten because he was "immature" and "couldn't hold still". Since Michael was our first child, we started to worry. We fell prey to "Helicopter Parenting"....everyone else we knew was parenting this way, so I assumed it was the accepted method. We decided to have him tested to make sure nothing was wrong. He tested in the gifted range! No wonder he wiggled in his class...he is bored! WOW, we were raising a genius. Michael was adopted at birth (as was his brother David) so we said to ourselves, "it's nature and nurture. We are clearly nurturing him well, he has a gifted IQ, therefore he will do well in school and in life. We should start saving for Harvard right away". We kept him in private school through first grade, then we moved to a different neighborhood with a good public elementary school within walking distance. It was a great experience. Michael had nice friends with nice parents, did well in school, and attended the gifted program once a week. He went on to public middle school where the circle of friends broadened to include people we didn't know, parents who weren't always as vigilant, but he still had a core group of boys that we knew, and whose parents we could communicate with. His grades were fair, not as good as they should be considering how smart we knew he was, and still attended the gifted program once a week. He started to dress in more of a hip hop style which wasn't our favorite, but we knew teens need a mode of expression, and so far, it wasn't out of line. Then came high school...

Mel and I didn't realize that he had been skipping many classes until we went to the first parent-teacher meeting. No one called us, or wrote a letter asking where he was. We were in complete shock. We found marijuana in his backpack, a small pipe on a different occasion (of course, none of those were his, he was just watching it for a friend). We had serious talks, doled out punishments, consulted our pediatrician, and started seeing a psychologist whose sub specialty was teens. After consulting with him we decided Mel and I would see him ourselves for parenting advice and help. We decided that all of the things Michael was doing were typical teen rebellion, common activities that Mel himself did as a teen. So we watched, searched his room and backpack on a regular basis, kept up with the shrink, kept on him about school, kept in touch with his teachers, and helicoptered around....and believed many of the things he told us. We found cans of spray paint in his back pack...for tagging (i.e. graffiti...we also were learning a new vocabulary). His high school friends that he never told us about were taggers, pot heads, drop-outs, and wanna-be Rap stars. He failed 2 classes his sophomore year, and went to summer school last summer. We thought he may have finally learned his lesson with this natural consequence. He had a decent summer job with a landscaper, and seemed to be on a better path.

In September of this school year, right after the G-20 convention, my cell phone rang. "This is Officer Smith, we have arrested your son Michael. We need you to come down to the station". I sent Mel, as I knew I would get emotional and not listen properly. It turned out that during this same summer, Michael and his old friend Eric that we knew, decided on a lark to jump an innocent kid, steal his phone and ipod, and beat him up. The kid and his family decided to press charges (I salute them), and knew Eric from the neighborhood. They didn't know Michael, so it took time to figure out who he was. He was taken for processing, then to Shuman. I thought I would die of shame and sorrow. How could this happen in our family? What did Mel and I do wrong? He was gifted...didn't he know better? We never, ever promoted violence, lying, stealing...in fact, we ranted and raved against it! How on earth could our son be like this? How could I ever tell our extended family, our friends? We had a hearing at Shuman, and Michael was put on home detention. Had I known then what I know now (through PSST), I would have insisted on a home monitoring system. So, in between phone call check ins, Michael would sneak out of the house through a window, and return without us ever knowing. Once he took his brother David with him, took my car, went to get high, and returned home through the window. I should mention here that Michael never got his drivers permit...so I never took him driving in a car. Apparently he drove anyway. The evening before we (finally) went to court, we decided to have a family dinner. We waited and waited for our son David to show up. Then the phone rang...it was a policeman telling me they had Michaels' brother David cuffed in a squad car, and that I should come and get him. (this is where Max & Mel's Terrible Adventure Part 1 begins!)

Michael was given 5 months at The Academy after school program, where he is currently, being counseled for drugs & alcohol, victim awareness & anger management. He has family counseling, community service, and gets curfew calls. He has a fantastic PO who is stays on him and supports Mel and me. He has responded well to all of this, and it has clearly impacted him for the better. He is doing better in school, and has some future goals. At home things are better too, but not entirely because of the Academy. With the help of PSST, Mel and I have stopped enabling (we do not like to admit to ourselves that we were... but we were...) and have regained control of our home, and enjoy our lives. We work as a team. We are a united front, and I don't feel so frightened anymore. We actually laugh quite a bit, and are able to joke about our situation, which is far from being over. We will always be sad about the loss of our dreams, of what we hoped our child would be like when he grew up. But we no longer blame ourselves or our parenting. We did everything we knew how to do - we just didn't know what else there was! If only we had known about PSST before Michael went to high school...

rest of the post here

1 comment:

Ralph Kramden said...

The picture... I've seen it in real life, several times. My wife has seen it in real life. My son was about to cry the first time he was hand cuffed in front of us and his sisters in our home.

If you live in Allegheny County and your son or daughter has recently been arrested or might soon be, you need some support from other parents who have seen the same things: teenage drug use, chemical abuse, alcohol, theft, violence, criminal activity. Please join one of the meetings and read the help here at http://gopsst.org/. We've been through the same thing -- YOU ARE NOT ALONE.


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