Hello, welcome to my blog. Today I am interviewing Tami L. Trevaskis, Author of “Raising Jacob”. I have read her book and found it heartwrenching. It is about a fictional family, based on her own experiences, with a child diagnosed as being ADD/ADHD, how the school system turned her away and the direction his life took after they moved to a small town.
As a side note, there have been no sightings of Preston. But he is still around. Just yesterday, there was a message scribbled on the wall near this room that said “I’m still here”.
Okay, let’s begin.
Q. Welcome Tami. First, tell me a little about your background.
A. Okay, I was born and raised in Jackson, California. Jackson is a small rural town in Northern California. I still live there today. I married my husband, John at an early age and we have two sons, Brian and Aaron. We own and operate a small family dry cleaning and laundry business that has been in my husband’s family for three generations.
I have enjoyed writing since I was a young girl. I took journalism classes during high school and was on our high school newspaper staff. I have always kept a daily diary and my personal journal entries are what lead me to write, “Raising Jacob.” This is my first published book. I hope to have many more to come.
Q. To be honest, I am not a fan of memoirs, and certainly not real life events – no offense. But Raising Jacob was one of those stories that I got draw into and believe parents with troubled teens should read. I remember thinking I would read a chapter or two just to get an idea of what “Raising Jacob” was about and next thing I know, I’m reading the conclusion. I was blown away. So let’s start with Jacob’s childhood. When the doctor’s prescribed medication for the ADD/ADHD, what were your first thoughts?
A. First, I am sorry to hear that you’re not a fan of memoirs or stories revolving around real life events but glad to hear you read the book. Thanks. I, on the other hand, enjoy reading about people’s lives and their struggles and how they concur with difficult situations. Although “Raising Jacob” was taken from my daily diary, it is a work of fiction. Many things, including character names, the town’s name, our business, etc. were changed to make for a better story.
Second, when “Jacob” was first diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and prescribed medication I felt somewhat relieved. There was now a logical explanation as to why he performed so poorly in school. I no longer had to feel that it was my fault that his report cards were so dismal. Although I did worry about possible negative side effects from the medication, I was hopeful that the daily pill would help “Jacob” stay calm and focused in the classroom and be able to learn and improve his grades.
Q. Do you feel the school system should have had programs in place to help Jacob?
A. Before we transferred “Jacob” to the Community High School, we had him tested for learning disabilities in the hopes that he would be granted an IEP and be placed in an extra help classroom at his current high school. After the testing was complete we were called into a meeting in the principal’s office and informed that he didn’t qualify for either the IEP or the extra help class. Yes, I feel that our public school system should have had more and/or better programs in place. I was quite upset when it became perfectly clear that our school was not going to provide the necessary help to advance “Jacob” to graduation and that our only option was to transfer him to the Community High School. I’ll never understand how a student that is failing numerous classes does not qualify for extra help that they so desperately need.
Q. I completely agree with your frustration. At what age did you stop giving Jacob medication for his ADD/ADHD? And why?
A. “Jacob” took the ADD/ADHD medication for approximately five years. At around age thirteen he developed migraine headaches, a condition that runs in my family. He started telling us that he no longer wanted to take his pill every day and that he was sure they were causing his headaches. I informed him that his headaches were probably something he inherited and that the medicine was more than likely not to blame.
Our morning routine became a battle ground and he’d fight us every day over taking the pill. Later we’d find pills in his clothes pockets when we sorted the laundry. We found pills under the seat in our car and in his bedroom. We were paying good money for this medication that was going to waste. His report cards had never improved from the time that he started on the medicine in elementary school so after much thought and a discussion with our family doctor, we decided to give him a break from the medicine and we gave up the fight.
Q. As a teen, were there any warning signs that his behavior was changing?
A. “Jacob” was our first child so we really didn’t know what to expect. During his younger years he was a member of our town’s Cub Scout Pack and seemed to do all the same things the other boys his age did. Yes, he was more full of energy and wasn’t a bit shy, but overall he seemed to be a normal kid. His behavior seemed to change overnight after his sixteenth birthday. Once he received his driver’s license he became defiant and out of control. He no longer obeyed any rules and often skipped school. Then when he changed to the Community High School he struggled to fit in and be recognized. He soon found a new group of friends; the trouble makers.
Q. Summer, the first love interest Jacob bonded with, seemed troubled also. What became of her?
A. Summer was quite troubled. After she and “Jacob” broke up we were no longer in contact with her. I don’t know what has become of her, but I’d venture to guess that she became a high school drop-out.
Q. I personally have a niece who has been diagnosed bi-polar, and it is difficult to know how to handle situations that arise. If you were in this situation now, knowing what you know, how would you have approached “Jacob” regarding his behavioral problems?
A. For a few years it seemed that all I did was fight with “Jacob.” I yelled at him and grounded him over his grades, his poor choice in friends, his messy bedroom, everything! I was so angry with him all the time that all I could see was the negative and nothing positive. I was embarrassed and ashamed of him and his behavior. With the help of counseling I had to realize that he made his choices, not me. I had to choose to be happy in my own life and not be so miserable because of what he was doing with his. I had previously thought that his mistakes, his behavior, his poor decisions, even the way he dressed and his crazy hair, were all a reflection on me and made me appear as a bad mother. I had to let that go.
If I could go back and change things, I would not fight with him so much. I now see that I was only adding fuel to his fire. I would also give up on trying to change the person that he is and be happy with any small achievements.
Q. The stress and strain of your marriage was also reflected in the book, “Raising Jacob”. How were you and your husband able to keep it together?
A. My husband and I had many arguments over “Jacob” and nearly separated. I didn’t want to go home after work. I didn’t want to face another day of my son’s uncontrollable bad behavior and bad moods. I wanted to get away from the chaos. I am not sure what made me stay, maybe just pure love. My husband is a good man and a good father. Deep down I knew that he was doing the best that he could with our son, just as I was. I realized that divorcing him would not magically fix the problems we were having with our son. We had to become a united front and not let our son play us against each other and not continue to allow him to control the atmosphere of our home.
Q. After the incident with the Army, how did “Jacob” begin to turn his life around?
A. “Jacob” came home from the Army scared and depressed. He was pretty down on life and needed to make a fresh start. I think his fear was that we would not accept him back into our home or allow him to be a part of our lives. That we had written him off and wanted nothing more to do with him. We explained that that was not the case. We loved him and desperately wanted him to be a part of our family. We laid down the law with him and told him that under no circumstances were we going to allow him to go back to treating us disrespectfully. He was not going to be breaking the law and thinking that we were going to cover for him or bail him out. It took some time but he eventually made some new friends that didn’t take advantage of him and he landed a job outdoors that he truly enjoyed. I think that was the turning point.
Q. After reading “Raising Jacob”, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for him. As a teen, I was transplanted from the east coast to the west and, to be honest, never fit in. Do you believe living in a small town could have been the catalyst for his “rebellion”?
A. Yes. Our town is quite small and everyone knows everyone’s business. On top of that, we are surrounded by family. We see various family members every day. This can be both positive and negative. At family get togethers, you could feel the competition between siblings and cousins. It was all about whose kids were doing better in school, which kids had the most friends, which ones were the best athletes, etc. I am sure that “Jacob” felt that he never quite measured up. “Jacob” has always had trouble fitting in.
Q. In your opinion, how did Karly’s influence help speed along “Jacob’s” nature? Or had it begun to heal long before the two met?
A. “Jacob” was what many call a late bloomer and needed time to grow up and mature. “Jacob” had to find himself before he could find happiness and true love. He and only he could change his behavior and start making better life choices.
Q. When you began writing this book, was it more of a healing for you or just a way for you to encourage parents with troubled teens that there is a light at the end of the tunnel?
A. Both. I wanted to reach out to other mothers that were going through similar situations with their teens and tell them that they are not alone. I wanted to tell them that life does get better. You just may have to make adjustments and maybe lower your expectations a bit.
Writing can be quite therapeutic and I felt telling my story and letting it all out helped me find forgiveness for the things my son did. Writing this book was also a way for me to get it off my chest so to speak.
Since my book has been released I have had so many enlightening conversations with so many wonderful people, men and women. I had originally thought this was a story from one mother to another, now I’m happy to say that it has become a story for everyone. I am blessed that it has touched so many people and that so many people can truly relate to it.
Q. How is “Jacob” doing now?
A. “Jacob” is doing well. He is the type of person that will always walk to the beat of his own drum. He looks at life as one big adventure. He loves to be outdoors and is employed as a shuttle bus driver for a ski resort. He is still a slob, still spends money as fast as he gets it, still drives an old clunker car that is always breaking down on him and still seeks to be the center of attention. He is alive, healthy, and not it jail! He is happy! So what more can I ask for?
Q. How difficult was it to write this book?
A. I nearly gave up writing this book more than once. I often wrote through tears and sometimes had to put aside my story when it became too difficult to continue. My mother, my husband, and my youngest son all encouraged me not to give up and finish what I had set out to do.
When I began writing this book it was written as a true memoir. It was after I decided to change it up and write it as a fictional short story that the writing became easier. Changing our names, our town’s name and our business made the story more enjoyable for me to write. I kept writing and revising my book until it became “Raising Jacob.”
Q. If you knew someone who had a troubled teen, what advice would you give them?
A. The advice that I’d give to other parent’s going through difficult times with their son or daughter is really just to hang in there. When the turmoil is happening day in and day out you feel like you are in the middle of a burning fire and you can’t put out the flames. I closed myself off from family and friends because I didn’t want others to know or even be a part of our fire. I became depressed and felt alone. Now I know that I could have reached out for help. My goal is to help other parents see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up hope. Life isn’t perfect and neither are people.
L.M. David: I am grateful you hung in there with your son. From what I read, the moments were trying and no one would have blamed you for letting go. Personally, I am proud of the fact that you and your husband never quit on “Jacob”, that he never landed in jail and, while still a slob, at least he is still here with you and that that end of the tunnel had a happy ending. Thank you for sharing your story, Tami.
Tami L. Trevaskis was born and raised in Jackson, California. Jackson is a small rural town in Northern California where she still lives today. She married her husband, John, at an early age and they have two sons, Brian and Aaron. The two own and operate a small family dry cleaning and laundry business that has been in her husband’s family for three generations.