adoption, family, fostercare, parenting

Seeking Sean: Understanding Why He Can’t

book

The Mother’s Day gift Sean made me with a deck of cards.

Why? Why on earth would he despise being in our family?? I have compiled a list of the horrors our family inflicted upon our teenage son, Sean. The perils of family life he faced include, but are not limited to:

1. Having to shower on the daily. Yes, that’s correct, we do enforce proper hygiene particularly for those in the throes of puberty.

2. Family dinners. That’s it. We just sit down at the table as a family. You don’t have to eat but you have to show up.

3. Taking out the trash. His only chore.

4. Be respectful to your family members, at least decently so.

Before he left, these seemed to be his triggers. I feel like the real list of complaints he has boil down to one thing only. The revised (and I believe truthful) list is this:

1. Having a mom and dad who set limits and enforce boundaries.

He couldn’t get used to it. He complained about it all the time. Ever since Marcus left he began threatening to do the same. It was usually about how if he didn’t get what he wanted or do as he pleased, then he didn’t want the family.

We sat down that day and made a little book about what our family responsibilities and roles are. Mom, Dad, the littles, and Sean all had a page. We wrote it together. We talked about it and agreed to it. That was the last thing we did with Sean, as a family.

Now, his place is empty at the dinner table each night. The last I heard he actually went into the same foster home Marcus is in. At least, Marcus will be there until October 24th, when he turns 18. Then he is going to his older bio-sisters home for a “big party.” Part of me is happy they are together. Part of me is cringing inside because my 14-yr-old baby is back in “the system.”

I want to make sure he is going to therapy. Given the history of Marcus’ mental health care during foster placement, I doubt it. I wonder who goes to him at night when he has nightmares? Who watches the cooking channel with him in the evenings? Who will hang up his art work and buy him all of those expensive art supplies? Who will hug him and tell him he is a wonderful boy?

No one. That is what a mom does. That is what he did not want. Sean used to wait for me each night for almost 45 minutes while I put the littles to bed and sat there until they slept. I didn’t want them to be scared. He didn’t want to be scared, either.

We would watch a movie or HGTV. The last movie we saw was “A Monster in Paris.” It was an animated musical and Sean sang all of the songs while cuddled up. I didn’t make him snuggle up or hug me. I didn’t chase him around to watch TV. He craved that time with me. Sean used to make little art projects for me and he would just glow when I put them on the fridge. Being his mother is rewarding but also exhausting at times. I would tuck him in at bedtime and rub his back. I would try to leave 2 or 3 times and he would beg for me to stay a little longer because he was scared. Just like a small child.

Some nights (when he was especially anxious or triggered) I was so exhausted my eyes would close and I would nod off while standing up. It took so long to put him down for the night. Now I lie down early to read or write before bed. I have time in the evenings. I still wish I appreciated the times he needed me, no matter how exhausting.

Sean didn’t like limits and rules. He didn’t like that Mom and Dad set them. He didn’t like it that Mom and Dad had “off duty” time at night to be with just each other. Sean wanted to be our only child, soaking up all of our attention. That tells me that he does want to be loved. However, he wanted to be our equal. Having control and being separate from “the kids” was a big sticking point for him. That tells me that he absolutely does not understand love.

Having a mom and dad is hard for all of our kids. It’s a foreign concept to them.  That would be like someone dropping off an exotic elephant and expecting me to know what to do with it. Even though showering and taking out trash are not torture, it must feel like it to someone who just can’t understand. The care, the limits, the very oversight of us must have smothered him.

I saw him one last time when he was in-patient. I brought him his favorite sketch books. I said what I needed to say. He looked bored, indifferent even. But I know my Sean and I saw that he was holding back tears. I was a mess just crying and distraught.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: I really do love you, you know. Very much.

Sean: Yeah. (Eye roll) I love you, too.

Me: I want you to know that you are very, very wanted. It was never a question of that. We always wanted you.

Sean: Yeah. I know.

Me: I’m so sad that you didn’t want to be part of a family. That it was so hard for you. I’m sorry it worked out like this.

Sean: Okay.

Me: I want you to be happy. I really hope that you find what it is you’re looking for.

Sean: Okay.

Me: I don’t know what else to say to you. I promise we will take very good care of the littles.

Sean: I know.

Me: You’re a great kid, Sean.

(Long pause)

Me: Do you want me to go?

Sean: Yeah.

That was the last of it. I can accept that he doesn’t want parents right now. I can accept that he wants to be with Marcus or maybe be like Marcus. I can even accept that he doesn’t want contact with us. He didn’t need to say anything to me that day. I needed to say what I said to him. What I cannot accept is the facade that being in a family was so awful for him that he just doesn’t care. I know he cared. It must have been harder than I can imagine but I know that it was good for him to be with us.

I can’t say if he will ever be with us again. Who knows? I can say that this experience was the hardest. It taught me that what we are doing with these kids, for however log we have them, is worth it. My joy, my love, my memories? They are worth the soul-shattering grief I am feeling right now. That time was worth everything. Being “mom” is worth everything to me.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

Advertisements
Standard

6 thoughts on “Seeking Sean: Understanding Why He Can’t

  1. skinnyhobbit says:

    My heart goes out to you. While I am not a foster child, I grew up in an unloving family. I’ve often wished for someone to show me love like the kind you show your children. Yet even though my relationship with my therapist is much more boundaried and limited than a Mum to child / teen / young adult, I find it very difficult to accept that she cares. The thought of “why didn’t mummy / daddy “love” me like her, a stranger?” comes to mind and brings anguish.

    Sean and Marcus probably feel your love. I know you can tell. I know you also know that the contrast with how you – their foster mum – treats them in contrast with their own bio parents brings a lot of confusion, pain and hurt, even as no doubt, they have longed for a love like yours for so very long.

    May they come to accept your love and mourn their losses, in time to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have done and are doing an amazing thing. I worked with a group of challenging young people and every day for 6 months I feared for my physical safety, until they calmed down. I cannot imagine the strength of mind it takes to live in a situation where you are being hit and there is not much respite. Having worked with teenagers for 15 years, how suddenly its as if all the problems they have held in for years come out at once. It must have been doubly hard if they single you out. There are so many possible reasons for that but we automatically question ourselves, when it is likely to be nothing to do with you. After the work I did, I took a long break and saw a wonderful counsellor for 3 years. I had worked so hard that I had lost contact with friends and that support network. I had to grow that again. All my other insecurities surfaced too. Maybe this will happen to you or maybe it won’t but if you have more time it sounds like now would be a good time to focus on your healing. Your children will understand and nothing will make them happier than to know that you are happy. You have worked so hard and you need a long rest. What you have done is incredible, both for Marcus and Sean. I know this because I have worked with teenagers like Marcus and Sean and seen the long term difference a loving home gives them, even when it breaks down. They will always know that love. I am glad to hear you are seeing a good counsellor but remember to do other things that heal you, massages, walks in nature, whatever is healing and caring towards yourself. I walk a dog and that has also been very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The Non-Argument: Adventures in Battling Trauma | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

  4. Pingback: Technology and Trauma: Adventures in Finding a Middle Ground. | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s