Sunday, November 16, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

Last evening during a Moms’ Night Out with two of my younger friends, who are currently on maternity leave, we found that the majority of our conversation revolved around our children. With our kids safely at home with their fathers, we were relieved of mommy duty for an hour and a half, but still foremost in our minds and hearts was the well being of those children. We discussed feeding, sleeping, and keeping our kids healthy, along with the dilemma of returning to work or not. Our shared devotion to our children binds our friendship now even more than our initial bonds of a shared workplace. We can support and understand each other because we are in similar situations, and a primary concern we share as mothers is making the right decisions for our children.

Of course, my friends are new to motherhood and responsible for the care of infants while I have been parenting for nearly twenty-three years and am still responsible for an adult, which brings challenges not unlike those my friends are currently facing. Like them, I must make sure Alex eats properly, gets plenty of sleep, and gets proper medical care. Most parents of young adults have relegated these decisions to their independent children, but autism impairs Alex’s ability to make important choices on his own. Sometimes I must even guide him in rather simple ways, such as telling him that bologna, orange juice, and cookies are not a good snack combination, especially right before bedtime.

On one hand, I’m glad that we still have the power to protect Alex that parents of other children his age do not. He can’t drive a car, so we don’t have to worry about him driving recklessly. He isn’t in college, so we don’t have to be concerned as to whether he’s keeping up with his studies or not. He doesn’t date, so we don’t have to worry about someone breaking his heart. While keeping him safe is nice, I wonder if he misses the rites of passage other people his age enjoy.

On the other hand, since Alex can’t make important decisions for himself, we feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to make the right choices for him. In true concerned mother fashion, I often find myself questioning if we’re doing the right thing. In some aspects, I feel totally confident, such as managing his disability funds. Appointed by Social Security and the state as Alex’s authorized representative, I allocate his money as carefully and fiscally responsibly as I manage our own, finding the best deals and never wasting a cent. Legally assigned by Alex as his health care representatives, Ed and I make sure that Alex gets the best medical care to keep him healthy, just as we always have throughout his entire life.  However, when it comes to deciding what support services he needs, I find myself weighing all the options, trying to determine what is best for him, hoping to make him more independent in the long run.

Indeed, realizing Alex’s need for greater control of his own life, I have tried to give him options so that he can learn to make decisions. Even in seemingly small choices such as whether to wear the blue shirt or the red one, what to eat for lunch, or what to watch on television, I want him to communicate what he wants. When presented with a choice, trusting my judgment, he will often ask, “Which would be best?” After reassuring him that no answer is wrong, he can usually pick one of the choices.  Sometimes he tells us that it’s “a tough decision,” weighs his choices, and then decides. However, I understand his dilemma because I often wonder myself which would be best.

In the times when I doubt myself, I have to look at the successes to remind myself that we do what’s right for Alex. After his recent oral surgery went amazingly well—much better than anyone could have anticipated—we looked back on all the steps we made along the way to get to that successful recovery. Not satisfied with the recommendation by Alex’s dentist to wait to remove his decaying upper twelve-year molars until they were bothering him and by his recommendation of an oral surgeon with a poor reputation, I decided to take him to my dentist, whom I trust completely. He recommended removing Alex’s wisdom teeth at the same time and referred us to an experienced oral surgeon. The skilled oral surgeon not only successfully removed the teeth that were causing problems, but he also took various precautions to prevent complications, namely pain, bleeding, swelling, dry sockets, and infection. Consequently, Alex came through a rather complicated procedure without any problems. Moreover, he was deemed a “great patient” by the oral surgeon’s staff. Because everything went smoothly, Ed and I were confident that we had made all the right decisions for Alex.

When we must weigh options for Alex, Ed and I discuss all the potential benefits and problems, and we consider how well we know Alex and how he will likely respond. Along with relying upon our own careful considerations, we rely even more heavily upon prayerful consideration. We know that God has a plan for Alex, and when we aren’t certain what is best for him, God knows. In times when I find myself puzzled as to what choices we should make, I pray for guidance, and we have an amazingly clear sense of what we should do. That Ed and I always reach the same conclusions, guided by our shared devotion to Alex and our shared faith in God, makes moving forward with these choices less daunting.

This week, Alex’s quarterly meeting with his support team convenes, and we will discuss plans for the next three months regarding his services. In preparation, Ed and I have considered various available options, Alex’s progress and his current state, and what we believe will help him most. At this point, we feel that the best way to move him forward is to make no changes because he is doing well with the combination of behavioral, recreational, and music therapies, along with spending one afternoon with his respite care “friend,” and with the various family outings Ed and I plan for him. While others may question our choices, we know that our primary motivation is doing what’s best for Alex, and we also know that God, who loves Alex even more than we do, guides our decisions. As a result, we feel confident in knowing “which would be best.”

“Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.” Proverbs 2:11


Dawn Marcotte said...

God Bless you and your whole family. The decisions you describe are shared by many families - as a parent of an autistic teen I also struggle with what is the 'right' choice. I am not sure we will ever get over that uncertainty.

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Dawn,
I'm sure that all parents struggle with doing what's best for their children, but with our kids, we have fewer examples to follow since our lives are different. I suppose that's where we have to rely on faith to guide us. God bless your family! :)
Take care,

Milton Wilson said...

Wisdom tooth removals are one of the most difficult dental procedures to do, both for the dentist and the patient. To see that Alex emerged mostly unscathed is great news, indeed. Hopefully, this helped in solving Alex's oral problems, so that he won't have to be bothered by them anymore. Thanks for sharing!

Milton Wilson @ A+ Family Dentistry

Pam Byrne said...

Dear Milton,
Thank you for your nice comments and good wishes. We were surprised and delighted that Alex handled the oral surgery remarkably well, and we commend his oral surgeon who did such outstanding work. (For those who live in Northwest Indiana, we highly recommend Stevenson and Fairchild oral surgeons.) :)
Take care,