(Photo Credit: linkedin.com)
In the spirit of trying to teach Thomas independence, Dr. K. wanted me to have Thomas make another dinner. Thomas chose Hamburger Helper, a meal he's made at least two times before, and I thought to myself,
"Okay, this time I'm staying out of it. This time I'm going to sit down and watch the news and leave him to prepare the meal."
No sooner did I sit down and from the kitchen came,
"Mom? I need your help. I'm really having a lot of anxiety about this. Will you come in here?"
I got up to head into the kitchen but I'll be honest, a part of me was mad. I didn't understand the level of anxiety that he had for a meal he's made before. But I went in there and stood and watched as he began making the meal. Every step of the way he needed help. It wasn't that I stepped in and did it for him, it was more that he just didn't comprehend how to follow the very simple steps it takes to make the meal. The directions are literally as follows:
1. Brown ground beef and drain.
2. Add milk, hot water, sauce mix and rice and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.
That's not that hard, right? Am I seeing this wrong here? I mean, the Hamburger Helper company has made it as simple as can be because, after all, this is a convenience meal and they're trying to make it so the "chef" can do this easily.
The thing was, my chef couldn't do it. He'd read the directions and begin to follow them but then he'd forget something and ask me if he was done with a particular step and I'd have to tell him to go back and read the directions and he'd go back and sometimes he wouldn't get it and I'd have to tell him what he'd missed.
I was dumbfounded!
Here it was, the plan being to have Thomas learn how to be independent and cook a meal, and here I was, once again, standing over him helping him every step of the way.
Again, I state, I was mad.
Maybe you'll understand this and maybe you won't but all I could think to myself was,
"What am I trying to do here? He has got to learn this stuff and I've taught him over and over and practically held his hand the whole way and still he can't do it.
Is it me? Have I failed somehow as a mom?
So, then, as meal prep was coming closer to being done, Thomas states to me,
"When I'm living on my own, what am I going to do with all this food? I won't eat all of this."
And there it was. You would have had to have been there. This was not what it sounds like on the surface. This was a kid looking for a way out of having to prepare a real meal. I told him that he could prepare something like this and put the leftovers in the freezer so he wouldn't have to cook another night and he was wholly unconvinced. He no more wanted to prepare something like this than fly to the moon. So, again I ask,
"What am I trying to do here?"
Let's not forget he's a 20 year old kid. Let's just let him be that for a minute here. So, let's say he's on his own. Let's say he doesn't have schizophrenia. Tell me,
"What 20 year old kid on his own ever prepares a proper meal for himself?"
Most kids eat convenience foods, Top Ramen, TV dinners, heck, even just chips and a Coke. They do that because they are 20, they're free from being under the thumb of their parents and they're expressing independence. When I lived on my own, I ate hot dogs and macaroni and cheese! This is what we do as independent young people.
So, what am I supposed to do? On the one hand, if we look at Thomas as an average 20 year old, shouldn't I just let him be him and eat the way he wants and hope to God he'll get a piece of fruit or some vegetables fit into his life somewhere at some point? On the other hand, he is a young man with schizophrenia and the challenges of anxiety, apathy, memory loss, and an inability to follow simple directions, to name few. No matter how hard I try, no matter how many times I "hold his hand" while he prepares a meal, he will always face these challenges.
So, again, I say,
"I am so mad!"
I am mad because he doesn't get it.
I am mad because I have to be there every step of the way.
I am mad because he can't follow directions.
I am mad because he lets his anxiety run his life.
And, really, what I'm mad at is,
"He has schizophrenia!!! He's never going to "get over" this illness. He will spend the rest of his life dealing with one aspect or another of this illness. It is never going to end! There is no reprieve."
I'm so tired. I sit here drinking my coffee with more coffee than cream in it in the hopes that somehow the caffeine will ease this aching in my chest. I am sitting here wishing my coffee is combined with rum, or something, just so I can, hopefully, feel something different than I do.
But here it is, the morning of a new day, and I will get up from this computer when I am done writing and I will go on. I love Thomas and I want him to be independent. I'm even really and truly ready to let him go and try his wings even if it means he doesn't eat a proper meal. I'm not sure I have anything left to offer as a mom.
He needs to get out into life and give it a try.