It was a whirlwind couple of days in Utah visiting our son at the RTC. He has now been there six months. When I get a little down about not having him at home, I think of all the fun he says he's having and I feel much better. He is a real trooper and has gotten on board with working on "himself" in treatment. Our visits are important because they are another step in his progress towards returning home. Time allows us to repair our relationships, after some difficult years when he admittedly "pushed us away". By the way, those are his words!
Our son was close to getting his Level 2 back, but it did not happen for this visit. Our days were spent together off campus from 9 am-9pm on Saturday and Sunday. We also had a few precious hours on our arrival day, Friday by going to an early Pizza dinner and making a few family phone calls.
Our time together was special. We ate some good food: Texas Roadhouse BBQ, Italian food at Oregano and a huge breakfast at the Black Bear Diner. We saw some good movies: "Ready Player One", "The Greatest Showman" and "A Wrinkle in Time". We talked about the themes in each of them and how the films affected us. Our sixteen year old liked the movie about video games the best ("Ready Player One"), which was not a surprise. I really liked "The Greatest Showman", a musical about PT Barnum that had themes of inclusion and perseverance. My partner liked "A Wrinkle in Time" which made her very emotional after seeing it. "Love" was at the center of that movie. Funny how we project many things going on in our lives onto the movies we watch. There are universal languages in film.
Besides eating and watching movies, we also got a lot of exercise. One of our favorite hang-outs is the Provo Rec Center. We obtained a Day Pass for the three of us which cost a whopping total of $12! We ran together, swam and played pickleball. Our son led us in some weight room activities, too. It was just the perfect day for it, since the rain was pelting outside of the gym. This time we remembered to bring our own towels!
We also took a couple of fun hikes on trails we just happened upon: Box Canyon and some other trails on the way to Sundance. It gave us an opportunity to talk about some of our son's past behaviors and get filled in on missing information from those non-communicative times in our past. We also talked about the future and what we "saw" happening in our lives together. We listened and learned more about each other. One thing that our son shared was how much he really liked going to "Wilderness". He said he liked everything about it!
We enjoyed our time spent together. No, it's not perfect. It still seemed like "pulling teeth" in some of conversations. Yet on the positive side, it was amazing to watch our son actually do homework in the back seat of the car as we drove around the Provo area. We loved looking at the houses in the different neighborhoods. We walked around the campus at BYU (Brigham Young University). We even found Donny Osmond's street! Our son asked, "Who is Donny Osmond?" There is no short answer!
We also added a couple of things to the activity list that were new and unexpected: a visit to the Springville Art Museum was one of them. It was awesome with its many different galleries and exhibits. One that stood out, was the whimsical and socially charged gallery. Our son came alive when he viewed the many cool pieces of art by students and young people who stood up to old beliefs and negative times.
We also enjoyed checking out the Springville Library on the main street nearby. It was rather new, spacious and filled with lots of great seating and reading spaces. The exterior had a cool dome as part of its architecture. We had some fun experiencing new things as a family. As I've always said, "We vacation very well together". A big step in our future will be how we translate that back into an everyday life. We aren't rushing there quite yet. All in due time. One step at a time. One day at a time. One visit at a time.
We had a family meeting at the end of each day. We shared what worked and what didn't. We shared things that we agreed upon and other things we did not. That was huge. I can always tell when we are headed in the right direction, if I just pay attention to how my "insides" feel. It was positive overall. It is slow going, but positive none the less. We are happy to share time together and can't wait until the next visit planned for mid May. One final hug and our son was ready to get back to his life at the Ranch.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your support. I can't wait to share some exciting news in the next blog post. Stay tuned!
My son's "Spring Break" was at the traditional time on the calendar, but the length was a shortened version of the typical mainstream school week long break. At his Residential Treatment Center, they give the boys two days off, plus the weekend. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and left very early Monday morning to catch a flight back to the San Francisco Bay Area in California.
We started his "break" by participating in our weekly therapy session and with something called "Sand Therapy". Who knew it would be so fun? We were lead to one of the main houses, where a group of boys reside, into a back room. We were given the instructions to build a scene in the standing sand box. Along the walls of this room were shelves filled with all sorts of toys figurines and "doll house" types of objects. There were fences and army men, and Smurf and other well known characters, as well as small houses and plenty of animals. We had five minutes to create a scene of what it was like before our son went away to treatment.
We each got to work, selecting pieces off the shelves to "tell our own version of the story". Each scene was very different and creative. When we finished, each of us described what our sand scene was all about. We then asked each other questions, which opened up an honest and meaningful discussion about this difficult time in all of our lives.
My son's "creation" was very symbolic and genuine. He chose a Rubik's cube to represent himself. The cube had been turned and pivoted many times, so none of the sides had matching colors, and it was completely mixed up (perfect symbolism of his state of mind and being then). The cube was placed on a mound of sand with plastic horse corral fences positioned around it. Our figurines were sitting way down the path, far away from the Rubik's cube . He used a gentle Smurf character to represent me, while my partner was a giant insect with a small group of Army men in front of her. Appropriate? Perhaps not, but it told our story of chaos and disagreement.
For my scene, I used traditional doll house furniture which represented his bedroom: closed off from the rest of the house. It had his bed and computer it in and he was turned away. I used little people to show that we were all in different rooms, demonstrating a lack of togetherness or communication. The emotions behind my scene represented feelings of loneliness and isolation. Again another powerful exhibit of what our house felt like to me before our son went to treatment.
My partner had another variation of the same theme: displaying a sullen and dysfunctional time for our household. There was a row boat, three wooden barriers and a hippopotami with a computer in the center island also showing a tentacle light creature representing our son. These scenes were an emotional release. It allowed us to talk about our feelings without resentment or blame. The make believe nature of the scenes lightened it up and we enjoyed being creative in our story telling and our follow-up explanations of the symbolism.
The next part of the assignment was to create a NEW scene of how we would all like to see things, when it's time for our son to come home. (We have no idea when this will be). We put back the original pieces and quickly gathered different symbols for our new scenes.
We could see a common thread among them. There was a hope and joy focus on being together in all of our sand scenes. I used three horses next to a tie up post that could tether us jointly, with a cheerleader behind us and lots of new adventures in front of us. My son's scene had three little plastic people figures under a house. We were all facing each other. A Wonderful idea! And outside of the house was a car heading up a road towards a positive future. My partner had a equally powerful scene filled with super heroes and a common goal of sharing. Again we talked and laughed and shared our feelings and thoughts.
Our sand therapy session provided an alternate way of discussion regarding our past differences and a bit of our brighter future. It opened a door to sharing our feelings in a non threatening way. It was creative and fun! We all enjoyed our time playing in the sand! I hope we will have an opportunity to do it again! We all recognized how far we had come. We know there is still much more ahead, but we had a great start to our SPRING BREAK visit. More on our many activities in the next blog post. You won't want to miss it!
I am Warrior Mom. I am a self proclaimed Techy and I'm NOW calling a halt to the excess use of it! Let's put some balance back into our lives, especially our teens!