Saturday, October 15, 2011

Being a Parent

     I wonder many times why I never had children.  If I delve deep enough, I produce five or six potential reasons.  Being single isn't an excuse these days.  Now that the fertility bus has left the station, it seems like a moot point.
     But there are times like this past weekend that show me I could have been a parent.  I possess the number one attribute required for any parent - worry.
     Kevin is my pseudo-child.  I feel responsible for his well-being and happiness.  I call him everyday, because no day seems complete without saying "I love you, O'Connor-Boy."  But I also want to gauge his contentment (i.e. - how well I'm doing my job), by the only barometer I have - the timbre of his voice.  High-pitched and elongated words are good.  Quiet, low-pitched and staccato are red flags.
     When Kevin's group home called me last week to report his misbehaving/aggression, I asked to speak to him.  A barely audible "hi" greeted me.  I did my best to reinforce that good behavior yields rewards.  Once I used the magic phrase "going out to dinner," he perked up to his usual self.
     But I worry.  Kevin never has issues during the week at his group home, only on the weekends.  It is a combination of frequent staff turnover and a low activity level compared to weekdays.  If I spent all day watching TV, I think I'd go a little nuts too.  So I need to step in, be the guardian, be the parent.  I suggest ways to coax Kevin to good behavior and activities that he can do on the weekends.  He likes to hear that he's a gentleman.  He responds to rewards.  Scolding has never worked.  It's hard to get a 160 pound man into a timeout if he doesn't want to go.  I've tried. 
     And still I worry.  Am I doing enough?  What if his behavior continues, escalates?  When will the next phone call come?  What if they kick him out of the house?  I try to keep myself grounded in reality, to trust that I'm doing everything I can, but I want Kevin to happy 100% of the time.
     So I really am a parent after all.


  1. Pat,

    You are one of the most grounded people I know. Kevin can't be happy 100% of the time; that's unrealistic. He can, however, know he's loved 100% of the time. That you can trust!

    You are the one that provides that loved sense to him, 100% of the time. Always.


  2. Pat:
    Wonderful post. I too have not had children but like my dear friend Courtney always says you do not have to birth a child to be a parent. Rest assured you are a parent to Kevin. Not only are you a Blessing to him - he is a Blessing to you! Keep on writing...

  3. Hi Pat,

    You don't know me, but my mom is Lisa Calderone who graduated with you at Fairfield University's MFA program. She directed me to read this blog since I currently work at a group home, and absolutely love what I do! Your blog so far is very touching, I don't know you or Kevin but I already feel connected through the blog. AND I studied abroad in Florence, Italy and absolutely love Italy (and can speak Italian!). During my spring break I took a trip to Sorrento, and the Almafi coast. You're right - Napoli is full of garbage, but Positano is one of the most beautiful places. I could never imagine driving along that coast, it must have been so nerve-wracking, especially on no sleep. Anyway, I am incredibly interested to learn and hear more about you and Kevin - would love to read your memoir if possible (my mom won't let me read hers!) Kevin is so lucky to have such a loving sister in his life. Best of luck to you both.

    Jessica Roberts

  4. Thanks Val and Jessica! Jessica, I loved going to school with your Mom - she's a wonderful lady. And to you, it takes a special person to work with the disabled. I'm so glad you love what you do. I know from my experiences with the guys from Kevin's house that it can be challenging, but oh so rewarding too. Thanks again!