Monday, June 03, 2013

Social Responsibility

Martin Luther King Jr said “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Being the mother of my oldest son puts me in a precarious position.

I know too much.

I know the darkness that dwells in his heart and mind. I know the depth of anger behind the twinkling eyes. I know the behaviors that he seeks to either allow him to feel something or to distract him from his pain, fear and anger… I know the risks he takes and the risk he places others in…

and that is my dilemma.

How much do I tell?

What is my social responsibility to society?…to individual people? Do I tell them that they are being lied to? Do I tell them that they are being used? Is it my place to tell if they are being stolen from? Should I step in if I believe someone is in danger? And if so, what type of danger? What if it is just the possibility or threat of danger? What if the threat is of emotional or psychological harm? What if that threat could become a long term trauma experience for someone…do I tell them then? What about physical threat? If there is a possibility of physical harm do I tell…what if it’s just a possibility?

What am I required to do?

What if, in the future, I am faced with the question “Why didn’t you tell me?” If I have the knowledge and can prevent harm shouldn’t I tell? And as a future counselor aren’t I required to tell?

What if I’m not believed?

He is so charming. He is so believable. He is such a victim and always appears to be the underdog struggling against the forces around him. I look insane…do I care? Does it matter if someone’s well being is at stake? Can I live with being assumed insane? Can I be the one who is “the problem?”

What about my relationship with him?

Is there one? A real two-way relationship…or am I just a tool for him to achieve his goals? If I tell does it damage a possibility of developing trust with him? Is there any hope for that? Is it too late? Is he who he will be? Is my first loyalty to my child or to my fellow (hu)man?

Is he RAD?…BPD?… sociopath? Does it matter?

Can God still heal his mind….his heart? Can he be whole? Can he be saved?

Is there any rhyme or reason for his abandonment/adoption?

I wish Mr. King had gone on to explain, step-by-step, how to stand aggressively and be uncooperative with evil but then I doubt that he ever thought his quote would be applied to parenthood.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Living Grief

Grief, according to Merriam-Webster, is a “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement”.

Grief is the normal reaction to death. We expect to grieve in bereavement. When there is loss of life and we know a loved one if gone from this earth grief is understood and allowed… even encouraged.

In the case of a wayward child grief is often misunderstood and rejected. Comments like “Don’t let him do this to you” and “Don’t give up on him” are often offered by those who are uncomfortable with the grief for the living.

In the case of a special needs child we are told to shift our paradigm. A well known essay helps us to replace expectations and understandings by framing those things as countries we might visit. Looking at our loss as a new destination helps us to enjoy our new “normal”. But in the case of a disturbed child there don’t even seem to be replacement dreams to reframe our loss. The destination we find ourselves in is one with nightmarish qualities and distorted reality.

For parents who have adopted special needs, emotionally disturbed children, the loss and grief piles up like books on the bedside table. There may be grief if they come to adoption by way of infertility. They might face grief again if they are adjusting to special needs, older or transracial adoption. And again when they realize their child is not emotionally whole and may not ever truly be an attached part of the family. Then if that child moves in and out of the home through hospitalizations, residential treatment facilities, juvenile detention and foster placements, the grief can be never-ending.

When Ebear chose to embrace the comfort of his fears rather than continue on the hard path of healing, the only people who really understood were those who had walked that path before me. The disabling grief that shadowed my life went unrecognized by most people. Some were even irritated by it.

The stages of grief as defined by Kubler-Ross are known to many of us,

what is not known to as many is that the stages are not steps that we move through in progression. They twist and turn causing us to go back, repeat and even skip some of the stages while we process our grief. And often we find that we are thrown into a stage we had long assumed was behind us.

When we “lost” Middle-One to a long-term residential facility and had no hope left of him returning home, we grieved. At that same time a friend had lost her son to a car accident. I won’t minimize her pain but it gave me the opportunity to compare, side-by-side the responses of mutual friends to our losses. I found that we had similar thoughts and behaviors. We were both haunted by memories and empty places where our sons should be.

I observed that our mutual friends knew what to do with her grief but approached mine entirely differently. People say they don’t know what to say to the grieving but they were much more comfortable with the understood shared experience of death than they were the abstract and distant loss of hope.

No one sent us cards or brought us casseroles. No one planted trees in honor of our children and no one called us on those special days when we remember alone. Somewhere our children live and breathe and go on without us. But for us, there has been a death, a final and eternal death. Our grief is real.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Get It

Through my parenting experience I have gained glimpses of the Character of God the Father. I hope to share them in these posts titled “I Get It”

These revelations have been both enlightening and humbling. I have seen Him in a more real way than ever before but I have also seen my own sin and need for Him reflected back at me.

When normally developed and nurtured children are small they learn to love and listen to their parent. They trust them and become reciprocal with affections. For children with attachment disorder it all looks and feels different. A normally developed child might pick flowers and give them to mommy expecting only her approval and rejoicing in her smile. Mommy is happy so the child feels accepted and is happy and will find joy in giving again. A child who is not attached might give their mommy flowers (or rocks as Middle used to do) and they were just imitating the behavior they had seen/learned in society. They then might have an expected response (mirroring the example they are following) and any other response, like an approving smile or a joyful hug might throw them off creating more mistrust leading to a fear and anger response (we call it rage) and then to chaos.

The first time this happens it might feel confusing to both child and parent. The child believes their gift will bring about an expected response (a smile and hug might not be enough or correct). When that doesn’t happen they might try to control the response by telling the parent what they were supposed to do or just informing them that they aren’t supposed to do…whatever they did. When they don’t get their expected response they are angry. After this happens a few times the parent begins to react. The gift doesn’t bring good feelings, it begins to trigger fear and anxiety. The parent knows where this is headed and doesn’t know the expected responses to prevent it.

How often do we do the same thing? We know what we want exactly and when we pray it’s not just to please God or find his approval, it is to control and get what we want.

As that attachment disordered child grows, assuming they don’t learn to trust and engage in reciprocal affection, they might continue giving gifts. That is what our society does. However their gifts might be more about them than about the giver.

Ebear gave great gifts as a teen. He sought to be the best gift giver. He would try so hard though that the gifts were uncomfortable and outrageous. He would expect us to be pleased because any less would be a rejection (set up?). He would live day after day with us and push us away, not talking to us or behaving as a member of our family and then on a holiday he wanted his gift to be the favorite. Works without love?

But don’t I do the same? Day after day passes and I don’t talk to my Father, I don’t open up or let him in. It’s not like he isn’t aware of my life. He can see it clearly, just as a parent who lives with a child can see clearly… but I go on about my business unconnected. Then when it’s a special day and society or the culture of the Church dictates that we stop and recognize Him, I do as expected. And don’t I want my offering to be the favored one? But He doesn’t want my vain offerings. The Father, wants a relationship with us. He wants our heart. As parents, created in His image, that is all we really desire from our children too. As parents of attachment challenged children we know that is the simplest and most frightening thing a child can give.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Mother's Day Cometh

The day…for me anyway… has never been as much about feeling honored as a mom as it has been about feeling accepted into that private club of motherhood.

My first 9 years of marriage were marked with an increasing struggle of infertility that prevented me from being a mom. The 16 years since have been a fight to be recognized by my own children as a mom.

During those first years I somehow just knew that if and when I could become a mom something magical would happen *cue magic wand sound effect* and I would be happy!!!


So all of those Mother’s Day church services that left me out of the loop were spent longing to be among those who got to stand/come to the front/raise their hands and receive a gift etc. It just wasn’t fair that I be excluded just because my body refused to conceive & carry. But I had hope that one day I would be among the select chosen.

And, one day I was.

We brought home our first child in April. One month before Mothers day… Oh RAPTURE!!!! I would be one of those who was honored and blessed. Joy Joy!!!!!

The morning arrived and somehow fell so short of what I had envisioned… The three year old dimpled cherub who called me mommy was not at all interested in either gifting me or honoring me…in fact he wasn’t the least bit interested in even being nice to me. Truth be known, he seemed to be focused on making this day that belonged to mom a BAD day. But that couldn’t be….surely I was imagining it. It’s not like he would actually do that, would he?

We have a photo of me standing in the kitchen while Mr. T tries to convince Ebear to hand over the goods. It just wasn’t happening. I was in tears. Ebear was mad because he didn’t want to give this mommy anything and didn’t want to be forced to either. And in retrospect, who could blame him. Poor little guy, just a month before he had a different mommy and probably wished he was still with her. And that was the birth of a tradition in our house. Mother’s day has been difficult since… for both of us.

The years since then have been filled with memories; good and bad and in-between. Some good attempts at being nice to mom have been marked by Mr. T and the boys cooking breakfast or dinner for me and giving me great gifts that they gave great thought to…But some have left me wanting to either stay home alone or leave home. In fact I do remember one where I asked Mr. T if I could please just go away and we discussed me doing just that. For some reason it didn’t happen but the idea carried me through.

This year I find that my little dimpled cherub is gone. He’s 19 now. Last we heard he was living on the streets trying to hold down a job. I can’t say I feel overly successful as a mother knowing that I have a child who is homeless. But he chose this. And while I know he has attachment issues and needs to push away I wonder if I could have been just a little more “attachable” and made him want to stay. No amount of reassurance removes that doubt.

So this year, I don’t even know that I will see E. I will see the other boys. We will have a special family dinner. There will be a Mother’s Day celebration…because that’s how we roll. But I will still not quite feel that I have arrived. That special club eludes me.

Am I a mom? Yep, made it. Am I the mom I thought I would be? No. Am I the mom my kids wanted me to be? Absolutely not! I was a replacement, a substitute, a stand-in at best. Am I their mom? Yes. I have the paperwork and the scars to prove it. But do I have their hearts?… well the song says “2 out of 3 ain’t bad”, but following that early pattern of never being happy, I want the full Monty. So I’ll hold out. Maybe next year.

Friday, May 03, 2013

So how is E?

The question we dread.

We can answer “Fine”, but he isn’t. We can say he is; rebelling, struggling, troubled….whatever descriptor we choose it doesn’t speak the truth or convey the loss and tragedy that is Ebear’s life.

There is no right answer. Most don’t really want to know and those that are interested don’t understand.

The attractive and charming teen boy who was reckless on the football field and won a scholarship to a private Christian college, is homeless, For the third time in 4 months.

So many are quick to judge… “Why don’t you just bring him home?” Well you assume he would willingly come home. Just because he tells you he wants to be home doesn’t make it true. He just wants you to believe that. How else can he convince you he has been abandoned? If you knew the truth…that he wants to be homeless and refuses to come home… you wouldn’t believe it. It defies logic. Why would a 19 year old boy who has no place to lay his head, refuse a roof and three hots and a cot… Why indeed?

“He is such a sweet respectful young man” Really? How nice for you. I’m glad you don’t see the other side of him. You can feel safer thinking that we are just too harsh and strict and unyielding. Go ahead, hold that thought. One day you’ll know the truth.

One thing we learned through the years as our therapist’s clients is that all behavior is for a reason. Figure out what someone is getting from their behavior and you will know what drives them.

E wants….What? …Sympathy? Pity? To throw his parents under the bus? …All of the above?

He certainly is getting a lot of help and attention from those who believe him. So we feel pretty certain he won’t starve. And that is comforting because irrationally, we love him. But he also won’t seek us out and turn to us for help. He won’t trust us or allow us to nurture him and guide him through these difficult years of finding his identity. He has successfully cut us off. Maybe that’s what wanted. Isn’t that what he spent so many years trying to do?

And maybe the answer to that question; “How is E?” is “Alone”.

It's. Not. My. Problem.

It’s. Not. My. Problem (but it is my blog so this is a totally gratuitous post)

Ok, yes, it is my son who has enticed and fascinated your daughter. It is him who has used her and taken advantage of her… yes he encouraged her to lie and deceive you. It was him who; convinced her to let him live in her car and go with her on her spring break trip and loiter outside her school and place of employment. He has joined with her in sneaking around, getting high and yes they are sexually active.

Yes my son has done all of that.

But I’m sorry, I can’t fix this for you. My son is 19. He is a legal adult. He can do what he wants to do. I can’t stop him. I have no power. No authority.

So quit telling me to bring my son home as if it will fix everything!!!

This is YOUR problem.

Your child is not over 18. Your child lives in your home. Your child is dependent on you for food, shelter, clothing, her phone….and the air she breaths!!!… You. Have. The. Power.

Say “NO”

Take away her car

Ground her?

Make her stay at home.

Neither of you will die.

Parenting is a verb. Take action… NOW!!!!! … before you find yourself in my shoes praying desperately for your child to survive long enough to turn (back?) to God and family.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Coming Up For Air

It's been two years.

Two years since I wrote here. Two years since Bright-Eyes wanted to die. Two years since the court turned our lives inside out by placing Middle in the cursed foster home. Two years since Ebear was "healthy".

It's all different now.

Bright-Eyes lives and loves and grows more health daily. He is off all meds and making all As as he finishes his 7th grade year.

Middle lives at a ranch now. He is ....ready?.... FUN and better and we enjoy our visits with him.

Ebear... well.... he is gone, physically and emotionally. He lives... somewhere...anywhere. He makes his choices and lives his life as he wishes.

Mr. T and I wake up every day and move through to the next one. Along the way Mr. T found a great job (after 2 years of physical rehabilitation) and I managed to acquire my bachelors degree and find myself halfway through my masters.

Tomorrow is a new day.... maybe I'll write

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

They are more

A song for all of our kids... Because they are more.