Joseph and I were ordered to appear before the judge in our case this past week. Our small county decided it needed a little more intentional contact with parents of juvenile detainees. I’m glad the system is working to engage with parents – especially when you consider the horrible reality that most at-risk juveniles are children of at-risk adults. However, when you are not an at-risk parent but still handled with that assumption – guilty untill proven innocent – it gets a little old. Last week’s “Parental Review” was another opportunity for us to prove, again, that we are caring, involved parents. 19 months of proving that without ever really making headway can run you down.
But, a silver lining to the day was a conversation we had with one of JCF’s administrators. Shane was a group leader for years before transition to administration. He worked with developmentally delayed SOs and that experience holds him in good stead when he speaks with parents about the various stages of juvenile delinquency. So, when he asked us about Asher and we answered that he appeared to be making changes but there were concerns about his authenticity in the face of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behaviors, he was a wealth of encouragement.
Asher’s monthly staffing happened to be that very same morning. Like the previous two months, the reports were showing promise. However, like the previous two months, a strong concern over Asher’s ability to behave himself during school hours and his apparent inability to do the same during evening hours was the subject of much conversation. I relayed this concern to Shane, and Joseph reiterated the necessity of change to be whole and consistent before Asher was welcomed home.
Shane immediately asked if we were familiar with the stages of change.
I can’t say we were.
He proceeded to teach us about the simple, 5-step diagram at the top of this page. We immediately recognized stages 1 through 3. Asher spent months in stage 1 working as hard as possible to convince the world that he didn’t want nor need to change. Stage 2 began slowly about 6 months ago. Like I wrote in my last post, stage 3 really started after Asher’s visits with his sisters and Ginny most specifically. Shane was now explaining how the shift into stage 4 looked an awful lot like Asher’s current behaviors. He moves forward into action but then he relapses because he isn’t entirely sold-out that the change is worth the sacrifice. When he rolls back, he goes all the way to stage 2 and re-contemplates the whole thing.
Shane shared a story about his own experience with this cycle. He used chewing tobacco for almost 30 years, and it took him 5 years of walking through the stages of change before he finally quit for good. He said he stopped at the Gas & Go every day on his way to work and bought a tin before driving by the river and chucking it out the window only to drive by the river on his way home and pick it up out of guilt for wasting money. He then took one dip before throwing the nearly-full tin away in a dumpster. The following morning started this ritual all over again.
“I wrestled every day with the decision to quit. And anyone watching me from the outside would think nothing was ever going to change. But inside, each time I found myself crawling around in the reeds trying to find that damn tin, a little piece of me changed sides, and the next day, it was just that much easier to throw the tin out the window and that much less palatable to hunt for it on my way home.”
Eight years ago, he threw his last tin out the window and never went back for it.
“Hang in there. Asher will figure it out and then he’ll stop this whole back and forth game he seems to be playing. He isn’t fronting. He’s just working through the decision to change. It’s normal, and I’ve seen it thousands of times.”