adoption, adoption disruption, family

Family Divided: Adventures in Rupture and Repair

Marcus in one of his sweeter moments. He is cuddled up in the blankie I bought him.

Marcus in one of his sweeter moments. He is cuddled up in the blankie I bought him.

Is there a protocol for this? How does one navigate the waters of almost-used-to-be children? In his time-honored, often repeated cycle, Marcus is back in contact. He wants to visit. He wants back in. Again.

His 18th birthday comes in less than a week. I’m sending money for his birthday present (he wants a tattoo about a friend that was murdered in his old neighborhood.) I have promised this since he was 16. I have never missed a birthday or holiday no matter where he was or how he was feeling about us. It’s important to me that he knows our family is a constant in his life.

How does one solve an equation as complicated as this one. And how does one count the cost? The cost to my teenager. The cost to my family. The cost to my heart.

He comes to us when he wants something. Marcus can’t discern the difference between his wants and his needs. The survivor in him urges him to meet his perceived needs by any means necessary. This could be $50 for clothes, a haircut, sunflower seeds or a car. I’m glad he knows to come to us. I wish I could teach him the difference between “needing” a new video game and needing bail money. If we deny one will he still know to come to us for the other? I hope so. We are about to find out.

How much do I give and how much do I allow him to take? He wants a day visit. Breakfast until dinner. He asks me with such timidity, such trepidation. But is this real or is it all manipulation? He hasn’t asked after his siblings. He will probably never apologize for being physically aggressive towards me. Marcus never apologizes. It’s one of the ways he keeps his heart safe. I get it. It doesn’t mean that I like it.

How would I handle it if he came for the day? Would Sean show up as well? Inevitably, the visit would end and my teenagers would walk away from me. Again. Can I handle that again? Could anyone handle watching them walk away over and over again?

But if not me, then who else? For Marcus, there won’t be another “mom.” There won’t be another family to be there for him when no one else will. If I walk away I will truly leave an orphan behind me. Sean, on the other hand, has his biological father on the sidelines. This is the same father Marcus has. He told us to adopt Marcus, because he only wants Sean. He is still fighting for Sean, no matter what Sean wants. Sean isn’t talking. Marcus is. Marcus hates that man with a burning vengeful rage.

And that leaves us. The safe place. Home. I want to be mom-enough to handle whatever heartbreak is thrown my way. I’m not sure that I am capable. Before he comes home for a visit, he needs to have some boundaries. He can put my emotions through this roller coaster ride, but not my littles. My littles deserve peace.

The newfound peace in our home is fragile. It’s new. Our littles have more of our time and attention. They are more easily soothed and they express less anxiety. Luke and I have more time for each other. We have an extra hour when the littles go to bed for talking, dancing in the kitchen, having a glass of wine or making love. I no longer spend an hour massaging the teens’ post-football practice aches. I don’t tuck Sean in and go back over and over for at least an hour to soothe his nighttime anxieties. How can we be there for the teens and still preserve this delicate family balance?

That’s an equation I can’t solve. How could I? Where do I draw the line between him and me? How will I know if I’m doing the right thing? How would anyone?

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


8 thoughts on “Family Divided: Adventures in Rupture and Repair

  1. Sue Koppmann says:

    I am the older sibling of an adopted sister with mild RAD (we’re both in our 40’s now). I also have 2 biological children (ages 10 & 12), 2 adopted children (ages 6 & 7) and am currently foster placement for a 6 year old that my husband and I are considering adopting. RADs is a fact of life that we live with. I have followed your blog for a few weeks now and it is apparent to me that you have a wonderful therapist that you work with to assist you with your children. A good therapist is worth their weight in gold!

    I have one thought that occurs to me as I read this latest post. In order to teach someone something, the recipient of your teachings has to be in a mental/emotional place to learn it. It sounds like Marcus is not in a place in his life where he is wanting to learn about a mother’s love for her child – in his mind, he’s not a child any longer. And experientially, he is right – he’s been through more than most adults. Regardless, if he is still reaching out to you, you definitely have reached his heart – and that gives you an “in.” And I would believe that you are NOT too late to teach him about love. Just love as an adult. We all learn best through examples. You have told Marcus that you love him – and consequently, he will learn how to treat women who say they love him from you. It seems to me that if you allow him to mistreat you or disrespect you, then he will learn that is how to treat future women in his life. He will watch you parent his siblings. If you protect them from him, he will learn to protect his own children from others who do not have their best interests at heart. I think you can still teach him a lot about love, but your role at this stage of his life now should be to teach him how to love another adult, including YOU, the right way. This will serve him best for the rest of his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pam says:

    Sue’s advice is “wow” and I have learned so much by reading your post and her response. Very, very insightful. Amazing.

    I pray that God will give you wisdom and security.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emily says:

    So random to have found your blog as a Google suggestion! I’m a social worker, my husband and I have fostered three large sibling groups and are in the process of adopting a sibling group of three.

    I definitely agree with She’s perspective. It will constantly be a balance of protection for the younger children, while providing the love, acceptance, and consistency for the older ones…. Unconditional positive regard. But, safety as a priority.

    Just from my personal experience, I think when you become foster/adoptive parents, you have to be so engaged with the children, yet part of you has to disengage from the traditional motherhood role. Sometimes we don’t get to ‘relax’ into that feeling…. Anyway, I’m probably rambling. If you ever want to chat in more detail I’m always happy to talk to others whow are in the midst of it- I’m sure, or I hope you have a ton of support!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Prodigal Son…Cancels? | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

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