Friday, July 12, 2013

18 Going on 40

Do you remember when you were eighteen, nineteen or twenty? The ideal of becoming an adult and the freedom that accompanies it gives youth a false sense of reality about what independence means. This idealism motivates you, leading you to believe you can take on the world! That the world offers more of what you have known as a “teenager” living at home – no responsibilities, no chores. Freedom! For Joey, this exciting time was no different than it was for any of us his age living without cerebral palsy.

A smart, twenty-two-year-old, Joey is a creative young man who loves to be the center of attention, entertaining anyone who will listen. The first time we meet, Joey breaks into song, The McRap song, a popular YouTube video that raps a McDonald’s order in the drive-thru. Everyone in the room is cracking up, which encourages Joey to break rap it again. Joey loves Adam Sandler and can recite one of his comedy bits. This lady’s man also fashions himself to be a Romeo, flirting with every pretty girl he sees. Fashion is important to Joey, so he wears the best name brands available to young adults. A huge movie buff, Joey has seen hundreds of films. The scarier and the gorier they are, the better. His favorite flick is Nightmare on Elm Street. Joey is a “Movie Quote Master” with an uncanny skill of quoting lines from any movie title you give him. He wows staff members and volunteers with this amazing ability. Joey’s sense of humor has seen him through tough times in his young life. In addition to his cerebral palsy, he has experienced more “adult-life” than most young men his age should. After his parents’ divorce, Joey and his older brother lived with mom. Joey’s dad died in 2008. His mom remarried and started a new family, giving Joey a younger half-brother.

Taking care of a child with special needs is a full-time task, one many parents take on out of love and commitment. Over time, the task becomes overwhelming for a variety of reasons. As parents get older, and/or their children grow up, the physical demands of moving their child to and from wheelchair to bed, bathtub, etc. becomes difficult. Sometimes, the medical care becomes difficult to manage, or beyond their ability to administer. The home environment may interfere with the care of and safety to a child with developmental disabilities.

In Joey’s case, this small frail boy grew into a tall and lanky teenager, making it physically difficult for his petite mother to transfer him from wheelchair to bed. Joey points out, “she couldn’t hardly lift me.” Joey’s mom was also raising a toddler that demanded a great deal of attention and care. It all became too much and something had to give. Joey would soon graduate from high school, which for him meant moving into the next rite of passage: being an adult on his own. He and his mom began conversations about the possibility of his move to the Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC). Joey became excited about the idea. He would be on his own, out from under his mother’s wing

I do not know about you, but as an eighteen-year-old going off to college to live on my own, to do whatever I wanted, the rubber of reality hit the road for me; and it was not what I expected. I thought life was a huge party with no responsibilities, no curfew, and no expectations from anyone. I, and many fellow freshmen, quickly learned we were wrong. We had to do our own laundry, see to our own meals, get ourselves up and dressed to make classes on time. We actually had to participate in our lives! Take responsibility for ourselves! We realized how much we took mom for granted when living at home. Joey living “on his own” at WFC would not be what he expected either. He most likely expected it would be similar to going away to college where you “party all the time,” and life is carefree and “fun.” No different from what you and I expected when we went away to college. For Joey, reality quickly set in, and within two months of his arrival, he wanted to go back home.

There was only one problem: going back home was not an option

In the Next Blog Entry: Reality Sucks - "Joey's idea of independence  . . . conflicted wtih that of WFC's, and he did not like not getting his own way."
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