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Raising A Child with Mental Illness: "Too Much Freedom" or "Room to Grow"?

July 27, 2011 Angela McClanahan

Monday, I took Bob to the water park with my sister and her daughter, who is Bob's age. The kids get along well, and my sister and I saw this as our opportunity to beach ourselves at the wave pool while they did their "kid" thing.

Later, I recounted our day to my husband. "You let them go off by themselves?" he asked, incredulous. escape2

"Yes, why?" I asked, knowing what was coming and already getting irritated. My niece is 10, Bob is three months shy, they know about "stranger danger" and what to do if you get separated from your party. (And yes, they can both swim.)

"I wouldn't have."

Don't ask, I told myself, but I didn't listen. "Why not? How much trouble could they get into?"

"That's just it. Who knows what he might do."

Now I was angry, but I persisted. "Such as?"

"Well, I'm sure he was probably being a jerk to people, at least."

As a matter of fact, before we'd let them go on their own, I'd called him out for being rude to other kids and pushing past a kid who was easily half his age and size. So yes, I'm sure he probably was being a jerk.

"Well, if he's going to be a jerk, he's going to be one whether I'm watching or not. I didn't see the point in ruining the whole day over it, and I figured if he committed any serious crimes, someone would be sure to let me know." Which was the truth.

Yes, I'm fully aware Bob's lack of social skills, high irritability, low tolerance and impulse control issues make him a pretty loose cannon. I know setting him free in a crowd of people is probably not the wisest thing in the world. But my question is--at what point do I let him start learning life lessons (such as how to conduct himself publicly) on his own? Am I supposed to follow him around the rest of my life to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid?

escape Some people, like my husband, apparently think so. I brought him into the world, it's my duty to make sure he doesn't bring harm to any innocent members of society. If I'm not going to lock him up and throw away the key, I damn well better be ready to handcuff myself to him until I die.

I don't think that would be doing either of us any favors. Nevermind my own sanity--how is Bob to become independent if I never allow him to? Why should he be denied the opportunity to earn "freedom" because of a medical condition? Was he really that much more likely to do something "bad" than any other kid in the park?

I didn't (and don't) think so. I doubt he was a model citizen the whole day, but the police haven't shown up at my door yet. I hope they never do--but I'll wait until that day to make Bob my prisoner.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2011, July 27). Raising A Child with Mental Illness: "Too Much Freedom" or "Room to Grow"?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2011/07/too-much-freedom-or-room-to-grow



Author: Angela McClanahan

Julie
says:
July, 21 2019 at 7:49 am
I’m in the same situation in different ways I met a man 4 years ago and my son wasn’t part of my relationship at first he was on his own he started to do drugs at 16 and wouldn’t follow the rules so the police told me u can follow your mom rule be gone than one of many moms nightmares came crashing down on me he was handcuff and admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed with phycosis and pcsophrenia mental disorder and stayed in the hospital for 2 months I was there everyday but my new partner wasn’t part of my journey to accept the news I received by the mental health care, I’m my partner mindy son was just a teenager who didn’t want to go by the rules and did drugs and he was blaming my son of his behaviour yet me and partner just move in together now after 3 years into the relationship my fiancé now is telling if I would of know that your son had mental illness I would never asked u to move in I can’t deal with this anymore I won’t accept it neither yes is got mental illness and addiction too but that’s no excuses to not to want to get better I stop working for 3 years to take care of my son being his caregiver and support worker and trustee now his 20 year old had won’t and will not accept and don’t believe his got that mental illness or addiction but after 4 years of forgetting myself into all of this as a mother eyes her child/ adult child comes first now I’m at a point of my life I need to make a decision to leave my fiancé and take care of my son I forgot to say I have a beautiful daughter who’s going to turn 12 going on 18 she very good with her brother but know why her brother has become ill with his addiction of drug use I tried my best to help my son and hey after 4 years of his sickness I’ve been there not giving up and supporting my son I’ll admit I forgot my fiancé into this I blame myself to have brought everyone into my sonilnness and I blame myself for everyone unhappiness I wish I could all take their pain away but now it’s me who reaching for help
Thanks for sharing your blog in a sense I taught I was alone as I keep going thru this alone and it ain’t easy I’ll just keep praying and have faith and hope that things will come into place one day at a time .
Patient, love , understanding is what I have ...Julie ( A mom for life )
Julie
says:
July, 21 2019 at 7:48 am
I’m in the same situation in different ways I met a man 4 years ago and my son wasn’t part of my relationship at first he was on his own he started to do drugs at 16 and wouldn’t follow the rules so the police told me u can follow your mom rule be gone than one of many moms nightmares came crashing down on me he was handcuff and admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed with phycosis and pcsophrenia mental disorder and stayed in the hospital for 2 months I was there everyday but my new partner wasn’t part of my journey to accept the news I received by the mental health care, I’m my partner mindy son was just a teenager who didn’t want to go by the rules and did drugs and he was blaming my son of his behaviour yet me and partner just move in together now after 3 years into the relationship my fiancé now is telling if I would of know that your son had mental illness I would never asked u to move in I can’t deal with this anymore I won’t accept it neither yes is got mental illness and addiction too but that’s no excuses to not to want to get better I stop working for 3 years to take care of my son being his caregiver and support worker and trustee now his 20 year old had won’t and will not accept and don’t believe his got that mental illness or addiction but after 4 years of forgetting myself into all of this as a mother eyes her child/ adult child comes first now I’m at a point of my life I need to make a decision to leave my fiancé and take care of my son I forgot to say I have a beautiful daughter who’s going to turn 12 going on 18 she very good with her brother but know why her brother has become ill with his addiction of drug use I tried my best to help my son and hey after 4 years of his sickness I’ve been there not giving up and supporting my son I’ll admit I forgot my fiancé into this I blame myself to have brought everyone into my sonilnness and I blame myself for everyone unhappiness I wish I could all take their pain away but now it’s me who reaching for help
Thanks for sharing your blog in a sense I taught I was alone as I keep going thru this alone and it ain’t easy I’ll just keep praying and have faith and hope that things will come into place one day at a time .
Patient, love , understanding is what I have ...Julie ( A mom for life )
ly mm
says:
July, 27 2011 at 12:35 pm
Totally understandable; I do wonder how you would feel if an older or larger child (perhaps also autistic or a bully) was a jerk to Bob and aimed social offenses at Bob? Just wondering...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Angela McClanahan
says:
July, 27 2011 at 1:31 pm
@ly mm--that's a fair question. the truth is, it's already happened. Bob's "wrath" isn't swayed by the size or advanced age of his targets, and he's certainly reaped what he sowed on more than one occasion. When the "jerky" behavior isn't warranted, and I witness it, I always make a point to reiterate "that was a jerky thing for that kid to do" and "I hope you would never do anything like that to anyone." And I hope that sinks in enough to be memorable for the occasions when I'm not around to witness such acts.
Melissa S
says:
July, 27 2011 at 6:28 am
Letting any child loose cannon or not - on society always has variables. You hope for the best even though you fear the worst. But the fact of the matter is you cannot always follow him around and see what might happen. Thanks for posting such an honest view.

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