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Story of a Teenage Son

When Ian was in grade school, I told some college friends about some shenanigan he had pulled in school. Their response? They gave me grief about naming him Ian. Two of them were teachers (and still are) and every kid that was ever a problem in their classrooms (or any of their teacher friends) was named Ian.  This hurt and stuck with me for years. I recognized this now as mom-shame and guilt.

Of course, this mom-shame began long before this incident. It sneaks up stealthily, unconsciously, slowly, until I didn’t trust people who were my nearest and dearest. For that, I’m deeply regretful. If only, I knew myself back then and I had stopped the conversation way back when it first happened…what then? Our friendship could have handled it, I’m sure. We were young. We were sure about things back then. (Or, I was.)

Ian’s “shenanigans” escalated as he got older, but, for the most part, these friends didn’t know it. We remain friends to this day, but not as close as we could be. (BTW–I shared this blog post with them before I published it and their responses made me cry, laugh and miss them even more.)

Maybe it’s about turning 50, but I’m done hiding things. Done with overwhelm. About a month ago, I told someone that I barely knew that Ian totaled my car over the weekend. That started off a chain of events that could only be described at miraculous. I won’t go into them here, but the first one I want to shout from the rooftops. And my little blog is the closest thing I can find.

This near-stranger who became a great friend told me about Changes. This organization has been around for 20+ years. Its non-profit mission is as follows: Changes Parent Support Network fosters healthy families by equipping parents with tools and support to change their behavior.

I’ve met some remarkable, funny, real parents at the meetings. Their kids ages span from 16 all the way to 30. (FYI, mine is the only kid named Ian…just saying.)  The meetings are very structured, including small and large group time and a presentation of some topic of interest. In between the meetings are phone calls, and team meetings specifically for your family.

How had I not heard about this before now? From the three schools or from Lakeside Recovery, Youth Eastside Services or any of Ian’s past counselors? Since I’ve found out about it, I’ve asked Ian’s current counselor, my counselor, my job coach with Ikron (who deals with troubled young people), my psychiatrist, every doctor I’ve seen…none have heard of Changes.

What’s more, the Changes members all tell the same story, desperate for help for themselves, asking the drug counselors and the courts for information as to where to go, nobody mentioned Changes. Among people I’ve talked to, everyone heard about Changes through word of mouth.

Like a secret.

I believe in God’s timing for all things. But the God I believe in doesn’t condone doing things out of guilt or shame or overwhelm or hiding the truth.

The non-profit board does an incredible job. As long-term Changes parents themselves, they’ve seen how effective Changes is for their own families. They organize auctions and speak at events. But, they need help getting the word out there from parents who know how devastating and lonely it can be.  

Even if you don’t know anyone now who could use this info, chances are you will soon. Tuck it away as a resource to offer someone hope and healing.

–  Alizabeth Rasmussenon