Peter’s Transition Story

By Corwin Lambeth
My son Peter towers over me at 15 years old. The 6 foot 2 inch teenager is all charm and good looks. He played soccer, basketball, and wrestling through childhood, climbed mountains, jumped creeks, and slid down waterfalls. But he never conquered school.

With ADHD and a Specific Learning Disability he struggled with all the paperwork, tests, agendas, and study guides. He also wrestled himself to get his emotional ability and impulses under control. We had many broken things in the house from his wild side, but thankfully no broken bones from all the impulsive behaviors.

I have been planning for his 18th birthday for many years. Even if only in my mind. Does he know how to clean a toilet and shower? Does he know how to run a dishwasher? Can he cook himself an entire meal that is not ramen noodles? Does he even know what nutrition for a 6 foot tall person should look like and can he stay away from the Oreos enough to stay healthy?

I began immediately talking to him about it. How important water is over soda. How you need way more servings of vegetables than the other foods he tends to love so much. I started buying high quality vitamins for him. Which at first he REFUSED to take. It actually took 5 years of offering and prepping before he would take vitamins. When it was finally “his idea”. I started letting him cook meals and experiment in the kitchen with supervision when he was 10. I taught him how to use the dishwasher, washer and dryer regularly. I tried to teach him about money and saving money, having a budget, living below your means so that you can have extra finances for things you love.

Over the last 2 years we have tried new medications and supplemental interventions. He oversaw these himself, talked to the doctor about them in the appointment, asked for further information, and even brought in information from the internet. He asked to go to counseling about some of his anger and anxiety.

I began sending him uplifting, inspirational, and funny articles from people who have ADHD and learning issues. I don’t actually know if he read them, but hey, a mom can try. I have explained executive functioning and frontal lobes. I explained that it will probably take him into his 30’s to feel fully “mature” from a neurological standpoint. I don’t think he believes me, but maybe he’ll remember.

Finally, we talk at length all the time about life and education goals, dreams, aspirations, and talents. He has expressed that a 4-year liberal arts degree is not for him. He also knows all about certificate and training programs at a variety of technical, vocational, and online schools. We are supporting him in getting his first job and working towards driving (ahhhhh!!!!!) right now. I know that with the home training, summer camps, volunteer projects, family projects, and family business opportunities that he has had, he will be a fantastic employee. Well, maybe not fantastic, but his amazing attitude, fun personality, and drive will make up for any executive functioning mistakes and blunders he may make.

I know we have many more miles to go and ultimately Peter’s life and journey will be entirely his own. The best thing I can do is patiently assist, talk, educate, love and support. When the time comes for graduation, we’ll be there to help him in whatever ways he wants us to. Whether it be college or technical school, we can help with paperwork, financial aid, applications, schedule planning, and course choices. If it is work and career we can help him with planning, thinking through logistics, budgets, calendars, work load vs down time, life balance, weighing out his skills and weaknesses, work etiquette, social skills and responsibilities. I know some of the “parenting” will get through eventually and carry him along. And, just like those vitamins that took him 5 years to take, it will be his decision and “his idea”.