This past weekend, I flew to Texas to bring Skye home. She had completed the program at the High Frontier and was ready to come back to Atlanta to begin the 10th grade at Academe of the Oaks, the Waldorf high school. There was packing and a final meeting with her counselor, so Skye and I stayed at a house on the ranch one night. As I stepped outside the front door toward dusk, I noted how quiet it was. The words: “Be still,” came to mind. Skye said, “That is something I will miss. I will miss the quiet. I will also miss the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.”
Skye presented her after-release plan to me at our family session. Before I arrived, she had led several meetings with her peers to discuss the problems she came in with and how she had solved them. They agreed that she was ready to come home. During this final session with the counselor, Skye shared her strategies for staying on the path she has created for herself, a path that includes academic excellence, sports and other life-enhancing extracurriculars, better family relationships, involvement in a faith community, positive interactions and relationships with peers, counseling, and more. The High Frontier counselor reiterated a point he had made in other sessions: “You’ve learned that your parents are your allies, not your enemies. Let them parent you.”
As a parting gift, Skye’s peers had drawn a sign for her to hold at the entrance to the ranch –
It was exciting to come home. All family members were overjoyed to see Skye and she was exuberant. We were on a tight schedule. Skye was arriving in Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon and then leaving, with her brother K.J., on a three-day school trip the following morning. So, the unpacking was quickly followed by a need to repack for the trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
About two hours after we arrived home, Skye called me to her room. She had “nothing” to wear to this new school. She did not want to wear the High Frontier clothes. This was a new beginning and she wanted to wear fashionable clothes – though they would meet the dress code. Her old clothes either didn’t fit or were not appropriate. She needed to shop.
“Oh, no,” I thought. Here we go again. This was one of Skye’s weaknesses. She always wanted new stuff. She was my most “expensive child.” I could feel a growing tightness in my chest. What if nothing had changed? What if I was destined to be an impotent, ineffective parent?
I said, “No. You need to find clothes that will work in your wardrobe. We don’t have time to shop. I told you that Daddy and I are coming up with a clothing allowance. We just haven’t settled on the amount yet. We will do that soon. For now, you need to use your t-shirts and other clothes from High Frontier, if you have to.”
I could see her despair. Damn! This was not what I wanted for her. I wanted her to embrace the excitement of this new adventure, this new opportunity to make friends – both male and female – according to the principles she had established for herself in her year away. I needed to get Becton to his allergy shot appointment. We needed groceries…
I attempted to step away from my frustration by calling Emily in to help Skye pack. I wanted to talk to John, but he was out of town on business. Suddenly, the words “Be Still” came back to me. I realized they were the beginning of the often-quoted scripture: “Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10. I wasn’t sure what the accepted interpretation of this passage meant, but I knew that I had come to hear it as: “Stop what you are doing and take in the possibility that you are not seeing the big picture.”
Skye had made a lot of progress. I knew that. She was not a “different person,” but she was a more centered, self-confident person. I needed to trust that. I also needed to trust that I could be a parent to Skye. I had become crippled by her defiance and her secrets before. But that was THEN and this was NOW. She knew her dad and I were going to need some time to catch up to where she was. We had talked about that. There would be restrictions that would loosen over time as trust was built. That being said, I had a decision to make RIGHT NOW about clothing.
The more I tried to be still and take in the big picture, the more confident I became that we could find a solution that would work for both of us. I went back to Skye and said,
“I know you’ve outgrown some of your clothes from last year. I understand that you want to express your personality in what you wear rather than be limited by the restrictions that were forced on you at High Frontier. I know you want to make a good first impression with this new group of people and that wardrobe is part of that for you, that what you wear affects how you feel about yourself.
“But I also think we need to acknowledge that spending was a problem for you before – and a problem for ME. I didn’t say “no” when I should have and it created bad feelings. So, here is what I propose: If you will agree that what you spend on clothing today comes out of whatever dollar amount your dad and I come up with for a clothing allowance while you are on your trip, AND if you will pay attention to prices and buy only school-appropriate clothing, I’ll ask Emily to take you shopping while I run the errands I need to run.”
Skye was more than happy to agree to that arrangement. Emily willingly agreed to be Skye’s driver. I also found a coupon for Kohl’s that Skye could take with her. A couple hours later, we were all home again. Skye proudly announced that she had bought three outfits she could mix-and-match, and that she’d saved $200 and only spent around $100. Her spirits had risen considerably. Skye wanted me to see her outfits, so she put on each one to show me while I worked in the kitchen. This was different: She was including me. It felt good.
That evening, Skye coaxed Becton to shower, and she brushed and combed his hair: “so he wouldn’t look like a homeless person.” Boy, was I glad Skye was home to help with this never-ending battle.
She fed the dogs, the chickens, the fish. She was a helper. She was positive. She set her alarm and went to bed ready to face the challenges that awaited her the next day.
This morning, everyone was up early to get ready for school. Becton had his new school supplies. Journey met her carpool for her first day at the Atlanta Girls School, and K.J. and Skye were packed and ready for their school trip.
Parents and students gathered at Academe for the send-off. Skye met a few people. She also met the new goats and the chickens she may have the opportunity to care for.
K.J., who loves the school, promised to help Skye make the adjustment. But, let’s face it, this is K.J. – the boy who lives in the moment and quite likely has forgotten what it feels like to be “new.”
When it was time to board the buses, Skye’s nervousness was palpable. John and I tried to reassure her. One of the beloved teachers took her on the bus and introduced her to another new girl in her class. As John and I waited for the busses to depart, we tried to reassure OURSELVES. Skye had just come from a very different environment and we were casting her into a new place with new people without us for support. “Be still,” I thought. In the big picture, Skye knows how to handle herself now. She wants and needs new friends like these. Transitions are hard for her, but she will be okay. The faculty and staff who devise these trips have the new kids in mind. And, I trust and believe, Skye will remember to “be still” and see the big picture too.