What I have learned from LKS
Five years ago, we made the painful decision to send our 10 year old son to Little Keswick. The school is only a two and one-half hour drive from our home, but it seemed like he was moving across the ocean. Gradually, steadily, as the years have passed, not only has the distanced seemed closer geographically, Little Keswick has grown very close to our hearts.
Our son has worked hard to grow and has succeeded in ways we never envisioned. And because LKS wisely requires that families participate in the program, we also have grown. Our son is now getting ready to transition home, thinking about what he has experienced at LKS, and setting goals to move ahead. His contemplation has caused me to reflect on the lessons that I have learned at LKS and what this time has meant to me.
I learned my first course of lessons when my son arrived at LKS. During this time my son and I were learning that it is okay to reach out for help and try hard to trust the hands that are offered. Then, the next step was to try to let go of old habits and ways and take many a leap of faith towards new growth.
So, I learned that I was not a “bad” parent, or a “failure” for needing to place my son at LKS, that some children are very complicated and it is almost impossible to meet all their needs as parents. Reaching out to LKS, trusting so many teachers, therapists, and staff and letting go of our son for a while was a very challenging lesson. To take this leap of faith, I also needed to let go of habitual negative parenting self-accusations and my guilt. Not easy. Buy my next lesson was less painful. I was heartened to learn that we were not alone, and that other parents were in the same situation. Being able to share stories, hopes and dreams made the beginning of my son’s time at LKS so much easier. And so, we became a part of the Little Keswick Community.
As my son progressed, so did I in my course of lessons. I learned that I needed to understand my son in a new way and parent him in a new way. Guided by the therapists, teachers and staff, I began to realize there was so much I did not know about him. Becoming more informed about his disabilities and how he needed to grow seemed daunting, way beyond the challenge of caring for the son I thought I knew. But slowly, through lots of therapy sessions, conferences, home visits, and breaks, I began to feel more confident in my knowledge of my son’s needs and how to meet them.
The hardest lesson was applying this new information at home. Learning to be more observant of my son, slowing down to take time for feedback and lots of communication, putting new rules and limits in place, paying attention to all of our family members, trying to be consistent with rewards and consequences, and remember to try to take care of myself in the midst of so much change…all were and still are challenging.
Two steps forward and one step back…I decided to try and think of those three steps not as frustrating but as the three beats of the waltz. Learning to dance takes lots of practice. I’m learning to dance and to have patience with my own mistakes and missteps. I’m trying to stay positive and have a sense of humor. And most of all, I’m learning to focus on progress, not perfection.
The last course of lessons I learned had to do with community. From the time my son arrived at LKS, I learned that he was viewed as an indispensable part of the school, as all the boys are, and the community needed his presence to be whole, healing and alive. LKS needed my son. I learned that my son needed the community…He was learning to be a contributing member in groups. And most recently, he has been practicing leadership opportunities. So, I learned that my job was to make sure he was on time when leaving campus and coming back from breaks and home visits, an to support all opportunities for the LKS community to thrive.
I learned the more I could support my son becoming comfortable with belonging, appreciation, and respect in the LKS community, the more it would help him participate successfully in the many communities beyond Keswick…school, friends, activities and even work. An invaluable experience! This led me to realize that these school rules are not meant to be an end in and of themselves. They are meant to be a framework to support successful, healthy relationships. And since I feel that being able to form and maintain healthy relationships is the key to much happiness and independence in life, this was also an invaluable lesson for me.
So as my son’s years at LKS are coming to a close, I have learned much to take home with me. I know I must keep practicing with humor and a patient heart! My son as a strong, new foundation of positive self-esteem to build on, a tool-box of well practiced skills by his side, and a growing desire and ability to connect with others who can help him build a healthy and happy life. We are overjoyed and so thankful for our son’s healing and growth. These years of stretching and struggle have been a gift for all of us. I know his progress has given me a renewed energy and ability to understand and support him. And so, I cannot thank Little Keswick School enough for the lessons it taught my son, me and our whole family – lessons of laughter, love and hope.