In this memoir, a mother shares her struggles raising her emotionally disabled son.
At 41, after a series of failed pregnancies, Miller and her husband of 19 years brought Jack into their lives via private adoption. Jack was a physically beautiful baby, but it soon became apparent that he had severe emotional difficulties. Jack became a “changeling” before Miller’s eyes; she writes that he “played with a slow, restless energy, never glancing in my direction, his back rigid and unwelcoming.” She began a fruitless, yearslong journey through doctors, consultants, and drug trials that yielded no specific diagnosis or cure. Although Miller attempted home schooling, Jack was largely handled, albeit barely and sometimes badly, by the local school system. He was put into separate classes—what he termed the “dummy dump”—and by middle school, administrators claimed that they could no longer control him after he supposedly threatened to jump out of a closed second-story window. Miller’s lawyer husband discovered that his son acted violently toward Miller, and Jack was eventually sent to a residential school for boys with emotional disabilities, where he stayed for three years. He returned home somewhat more controlled but was then a troubled teenager with new challenges; he was soon expelled from high school. Miller began to realize that she had to accept Jack as he was, not as she wanted him to be, and support his own pace and progress toward adulthood. Miller has written an affecting, candid account about raising an enigmatically disabled child. She offers critical commentary on the flaws of various medical and educational systems that she navigated yet also acknowledges how she had to modify her own behavior and expectations. She adds a healthy dose of humor, including Jack’s rather pithy perceptions and observations. While certainly not a comprehensive resource guide, Miller’s memoir offers insight and support to parents in similar situations.
An honest, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting account of parenting a child with severe emotional difficulties.