Practicing with (Troubled) Children

Moving Out

My son’s last day of high school was Tuesday. His last night living at our house was Monday. Tim is now in his own apartment, which I know concerns a lot of people.

People who don’t know Tim well at all are simply surprised that he would transition out of the house so soon. Why would we pay rent for an apartment when he has a perfectly fine bedroom in our spacious walk-out basement?

People who know Tim a little better understand that he doesn’t really have the maturity to function independently. Why would we push him out on his own when he needs support with his finances and schedule and personal hygiene?

The people who do understand this hasty transition are those who know Tim best.

-The couple from church. They found numerous pornography pages in their computer’s search history after graciously agreeing to watch Tim for a few hours in the wake of a particularly ugly blow up at home.

-The couple who used to provide respite for Tim. One of the most uncomfortable phone calls I ever had to make was to ask if the wife wore a size 34 C bra, because we found one with Tim’s things after he had spent the weekend at respite. Turns out it was their (adult) daughter’s bra. They agreed to have Tim back after that. Then he managed to run up a $100-plus pay-per-view bill on their TV. And they had him back. Then he snuck their iPad into his bedroom and watched porn on it. And they had him back. Then he got into their financial documents and they said, “We don’t think this is going to work out.”

-The special ed teacher. She had conversations about schoolwork similar to the ones we had at home:
“I don’t have to turn in those math assignments. He already stamped them.”
“Well, I’ll just check with your teacher to make sure.”
“You don’t have to email my teacher. I got them stamped. Why are you always in my business? I don’t have to turn in those assignments!”
“O.K. I’ll just check. Maybe you are misunderstanding the requirements. That might explain why your grade is so low.”
“You don’t have to email my teacher! I know I’m supposed to turn them in.”
“So you do have to turn them in?”
“Yes, you’re supposed to freakin’ turn them in.”

-His therapist and other mental health workers. They know we had to check Tim’s room every night to make sure he had not hidden away any household electronics or clothing that belonged to his mother or sisters. They know we had to keep the house phones in our bedroom because he would, at best, adjust all the settings and drive us crazy, and, at worst, run up hefty charges for calls I don’t even want to think about.

-Close family members. They were frequent witnesses to Tim’s incessant (and I do not use that word lightly) arguing, blaming, yelling, and defiance.

All those people understand why Tim is already in his own apartment. But they also understand—as I do—how many things could go wrong for Tim. It’s scary to think about all of the ways Tim could find to get into trouble . . . not to mention the ways he could so easily be taken advantage of by others . . . not to mention the physical and social repercussions of him choosing his own diet, sleep schedule, and personal hygiene regime.

I feel like this is where I should talk about what a difficult decision it was to let Tim move out on his own. But it wasn’t difficult at all. It was hardly a decision. It’s just a relief.

Right now I’m working to accept that relief as a gift, rather than holding it as guilt for my failure to have “proper” parental feelings. I’m working to accept my own wisdom about the situation and not feel the need to explain or defend my family choices to those who do not understand. And I’m working to release my worry about Tim’s future and rest in the prayers I know are surrounding him; I’m working to trust that God will protect and sustain him in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Practicing Families writers are consistently honest about their own struggles and shortcomings as parents. It is more difficult, though, for parents to share about the truly difficult behaviors of their children. No child or teenager should have their mental illness, addiction, illegal activity, or other significant problems broadcast to the world. Yet the lack of posts about these types of situations can leave some parents feeling isolated in their struggles. So Practicing Families is inviting parents to share anonymously about their deepest challenges with troubled children. No author names will be published and it is understood that names and details in the post have been changed to protect privacy. Please send a note to if you would like to contribute to this sporadic series.


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