On the Outside Looking In


When we decided that Indonesia was not safe for our family, we also decided we had to move back to America and try to figure out what was going on with Braden. Mike secured a teaching job at Kent Denver, a private prep school, and we made Colorado our new home.

Madison started Kindergarten while I worked at home with Braden. Those days were so hard. Braden was oh so cute, and his behaviors were oh so bad.

Fitting into a new town and social group is difficult. More difficult is moving back to your home country after you’ve been away for a very long time. You feel like you just really don’t belong. A typical conversation with a few of Madi’s classmates’ parents at the beginning went something like this.

Mother: “Hi, I’m Sue, Brynn’s mom.”

Me: “Nice to meet you, I’m Lori.”

Mother: “How long have you been living here?”

Me: “Just a few days, actually.”

Mother: “Oh, who is your builder?
Me: “Excuse me? I don’t know what you mean.”

Mother: “Who was the builder of your house?”

Me: “Um. I’m not sure. Does that matter?”

Mother: (getting frustrated) “So you just moved here? From where?”

Me: “Jakarta, Indonesia.”

Mother: “Oh. Okay. Bye bye.”

So yeah, that was rough. I didn’t quite understand the culture…that asking about the builder was just their way of knowing where in the community you lived…that saying you lived in another country was not actually cool; it was just strange.

So I already felt like an outsider to this new community of mine. Then, you add on having a child with some outlandish behaviors who comes with you to his sister’s kindergarten drop-off every day. Well, it was awful.

Braden would scream, slap my face, pull my hair, kick me, bite me and run away from me. The other mothers would stare. Honestly, who can blame them? it must have been a sight. But, it was awful.

Needless to say, I didn’t get invited anywhere with the other moms.

I was on the outside of their social circles, looking in like that pathetic stray dog you see peering through deli windows. I found myself trying to find the other outliers and talk with them if they were interested. These were your “atypical” moms; the grandma who was raising her grandchildren because her daughter was a drug addict, the divorcee (is that a term we still use?), the woman who had 4 kids and looked extremely frazzled. You get what I mean.

Then one day, I bravely asked another mom (the divorcee’ actually) if her daughter and my daughter could meet at the park for a playdate. It was a Saturday, so I was able to leave Braden at home with his dad. The girls played and the mom and I talked. She gave me some great advice.

“You think everyone is staring at you, thinking you are different or strange. I certainly did after my divorce. But then you realize that everyone is dealing with something,” she said. “Our problems are just more out in the open. Give them a chance. You might actually like them.”

I gave them a chance. I did like them.

Madi joined Girl Scouts, and I met some incredible moms. Mike coached Madi’s soccer team, and we met even more fantastic moms and dads. Even better, they all were wonderful with Braden and just kind of rolled with it when he would behave unexpectedly.

To this day we stay in touch with this Colorado family. I’m so thankful I listened to this woman’s advice.


Moving is rough. Moving to a new country and a new school is hard. Doing all of this a month after your mother dies and with a teenager with special needs? It’s absolute hell.

I think what is really hard is that people, thankfully, do not witness most of Braden’s difficult behaviors. They truly have no clue what goes on in our home. In public, they see a “quirky” boy who is generally pretty calm and complacent. He may flap or make noises, but he is usually quite sweet. I’m so thankful for that.

They don’t see what happens at home: Pouring an entire bottle of juice down the sink for no clear reason (that we can see), pushing over a toilet and throwing the cover out the window (that was a doozy!), refusing to sleep, throwing our iPhones in the swimming pool, and well, the list could go on.

Mike and I still have to take turns in his bedroom with him each night because otherwise, the mess we have to deal with in the morning is horrific.

There are days when I come to work absolutely wrecked. There are days when I can’t remember words, and usually, that’s in the middle of me speaking! I’ll be mid-sentence, and boom! All words gone. It’s embarrassing.

There are days when I feel really sorry for myself and feel like an outsider.

So have I learned much since my Colorado days? Maybe not.

I do know that the saying that everyone is dealing with a challenge we cannot see is completely true. I think it’s important for me to remind myself of that often and to give people a chance.

For people reading this blog who do not have a child with special needs, this is my advice to you: Invite that struggling mom to coffee… or to your party… or to work out…something. You may not be looking at her as an outsider, but I know she feels it on the inside, and…

it’s awful.

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