Monday, August 31, 2015

Strange Feelings

Last Friday we went to visit our son, Joseph. That, in itself, is a strange thing to say.

Joseph is currently living at a youth ranch for boys, a few hours from home. He was there on a trial basis, but the decision has now been made for him to begin school (homeschool) and, barring any major issues, to stay through the school year.

Considering the difficulties we’ve faced and the long and careful process of deciding to seek out this kind of option for Joseph, and then finally finding something that would work (that we could afford!), and hoping once he was there that it really would work, that he would be happy and want to be there and they would want to work with him…with all of that actually coming together, and knowing my son is in the best place for him right now, it seems like I should be on cloud nine!
But instead I find myself just feeling strange.

On the one hand, what an absolute tragedy, that a child would be so broken that the best situation for him to grow and change and learn is not with his family. How awful that a twelve year old child feels more safe and content with his family at a distance.

I’ve been working through all of this long enough now that I don’t worry we could have done something different or better. Certainly we could have done it better -- parenting, attachment therapy, life in general, (we are far from perfect!) -- but it would not have changed the necessity of our current situation. Any doubts I once had about that were wrestled away in the many months it took to come to the decision to even consider residential treatment for Joseph. Through conversations with my husband, our family therapist, close friends, trusted advisors, and God, I worked through my doubts, fears, and the most difficult of all, my pride, and finally came to the realization that the best thing for our child was not something that we could offer him in our home.

I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt, and being with Joseph on Friday just confirmed it once again. But it makes me angry. And it makes me sad.

But then there’s the other side of all of this. Without the anxiety of a child who rejects love, fights family, and lives in a state of constant misery in our home, our home is finally, for the first time in over two years, a nice place to be.

Michael, our younger son, is much more calm, and is beginning to come into his own.

Our home is peaceful.

I’m finding myself able to function again, able to do normal life things. I’m less stressed, less drained. I have so much more emotional energy.

And Joseph, he’s doing great! He’s more content than I’ve ever seen him. He wants to stay where he is, and yet genuinely enjoys seeing us and being with us.

Everything is so good right now. For so long we were just surviving. Now everyone is where they need to be to thrive. 

I am grateful, so very thankful.

But it still feels strange.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Real Mom

A few nights ago I lied next to Michael in his bed, gently rubbing his back, as his little body oozed with anger. “I wish I could take away your angry feelings,” I said, “I wish I had a big, giant sponge that could just soak up all of your sadness and bad memories and pain.”

For a while it was quiet, then he began to talk.  He talked about missing his other biological brother who lives in another city with another family. He told me stories about living in the shelter (where they were for three months before he and his brother came home to us), about a boy who was mean to him there. He told me that his brothers were the only ones there to protect him, and he was so small.

I told him I wished I could have been there to protect him.

He told me about missing his “real mom,” which is what some idiot therapist coached him to call his birth mother when he was in foster care with another family. Because the one who gave birth to him, and then neglected and abandoned him, is the real mom, right? Didn’t he know, or at least hope, that this little boy might have someone in his life in the future more worthy of that title, someone who would truly be a real mom to him?

I think Mother’s Day will always be a hard day for me. Because no matter what I do, no matter how much I love and care for my sons, I will never be the one they long for on this day. I could become the most amazing mom there ever was and it wouldn’t be enough. I will never be able to fill up the hurt in their hearts, the gaping hole she left behind.

It’s a painful realization, but it’s important to understand. My children have pain in their hearts deeper than I could ever imagine.

I have an amazing mom, the absolute best, who has never left me, who has always loved me, who endured all kinds of hardships and struggles to be there for me and provide for my needs and give me a happy life, who has sacrificed so much for me and still does.

I am so thankful. Not everyone is so lucky.

The older of my sons who endured abuse on top of abandonment and neglect may never be able to fully accept love, or love in return, and it’s especially unlikely for him to be able to do this with someone in the role of mother.

Both of my sons will always have a loss and a longing that I do not know and cannot fill.

But I can be the one who lies with them in their anger.

I can be the one who listens to their stories.

I can be the one who protects them now.

I can be the one who keeps loving them even when they do mean and hateful things.

I can be the one who builds them up and helps them come to believe that they are valuable and good and worthy of being loved.

I can keep cheering them on even after they have given up on themselves.

I can be the one who stays, who never abandons them.

I can be the one who never gives up.

And isn’t that what being a real mom is all about?