adoption, family

All the Children We Left Behind

Sometimes I get caught up thinking about the children we left behind. The ones we did not take. The ones we didn’t have.

Almost nine years ago, I was a Kindergarten teacher. Luke and I always wanted to adopt, we just didn’t know which adoption path we’d choose. Our marriage was only about a year old and we were enjoying the kid-free time.

There was a girl in my class who was so very special to me. J had an incredible singing voice, a ridiculously large vocabulary, and a penitent for unexpected and unexplainable temper tantrums. At the time, I didn’t really know much about trauma. I just knew that J was a great kid going through something awful.

Due to a horrific home situation, which I won’t describe, my colleagues and I made multiple reports to child services. They were involved with the family but refused to acknowledge what was happening there. J and her siblings were finally taken into care in the spring, after months of significant abuse. At last, they were safe. Was it a happy ending? Far from it.

The rest of that school year, and the beginning of the next, were terrible for J. She was physically safe but emotionally bleeding out. She started in a group home setting. During her first grade year the teacher couldn’t handle her so she came back into my class as a “helper.” I had her for about another month until a spot in the specialized behavior program opened up.

Luke and I wanted to take her. We wanted to foster J until she could be returned to her family safely. In all reality, we wanted to adopt her. But we weren’t foster parents. We lived in an apartment. We didn’t know if we could help her…and so on.

She begged us to take her home. “We could just sit on the couch and watch a nice movie. I could sit in the middle and hold the popcorn,” she said.

Luke used to visit me at the school every week. He was an EMT for the city I was working in and we lived down the road from the school. He knew all of my students. We both knew how special J was.

We didn’t see her again after those two years. She did change our lives, though. Because of J, Luke and I decided to become foster parents. We’ve always talked about her through the years. Eventually we adopted our children through the system. I should say that we didn’t see J again…until now.

I stumbled upon her accidentally. She’s listed on a site for older, adoptable children who are still in the foster care system. She’s not with her siblings. Shes not back with her mom. She’s not with an adoptive family. She’s a young teenager in the system. Alone.

To be sure, we are very happy being parents to the children we have. This has been a wild and crazy parenting journey but it’s our journey. It’s worth every difficult trauma-related parenting experience we’ve had.

Now that we are seasoned trauma parents I have a better understanding of J’s behaviors all those years ago. It’s helped us parent Mary, who is in RTC to get treatment. Our other kids are healing the best they can and we are truly parenting the best we can. It’s hard. Our house is crazy and loud and filled to the brim with people. It can be absolutely exhausting and impossible at times. It’s also amazing. We aren’t licensed as foster parents with the state anymore.

And all this time J has still been there. Waiting for her forever family.

I just can’t help thinking about the other kids. There was a baby we chose not to take. Our children have a younger sister who was born into the foster care system. She was able to be adopted by the family who fostered her from birth. At least, that’s what we think happened. It was best for the baby.

Sean moved on (and is presumably still moving around) to other foster homes. This was the best thing for everyone, although it was hard to see at the time.

We never did have that biological baby. Sometimes I still get a pang watching parents with an infant in public. But then I remember all the sleepless nights when the kids first came home. I think it’s for the best we didn’t go that route.

Looking at J on this website is different. Is it for the best that we didn’t take her? I can’t stop thinking about her. I just can’t.

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

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adoption, family

The Difference Between Their Birthmom and Me: An Honest Conversation About Addiction

As many of you know I recently herniated a disc in my spine. Since then I’ve gone to PT, had cortisone injections, and took pain medication after pain medication in order to perform the most basic movements.

Today I couldn’t make it any more. My surgical consult isn’t until the end of the month. I landed in the ER at the hospital where my neurosurgeon practices. They consulted with him and put me on some heavy duty meds normally given by IV in the hospital. I am now going back tomorrow for an emergency appointment with the surgeon.

I have learned something huge through all of this. The medication today is only thing that helps to somewhat dull this pain. It isn’t gone, it still feels like I live with searing hot daggers lodged in my spine. I have shooting, squeezing, blood-curdling muscle spasms all down my right leg. The pain is like fire and acid and nightmares too terrible to remember. I need this medication they gave me. I cannot make it without the medication I got today. I am living in pervasive, festering, agony. I feel that my life and my sanity are forfeit if I do not have the tools to survive until the appointment tomorrow. But I will have the appointment.

The good news for me is that soon this will be over. There are medical interventions available to me in order to help. As unbearable as this is, I know it will get better for me. Here’s the thing. What if it didn’t? Re-read the last paragraph. Re-read it and replace the pain in my spine with the pain of depression. The pain of mental illness. The pain of addiction. For some people that pain is real. There is no emergency appointment with a surgeon tomorrow that will make things all better right away for an addict, a person with a mental illness, a person with a deep and unyielding depression. These people? These addicts? They aren’t so different than me. That second paragraph is probably the closest I will ever come to walking a mile in their shoes.

Today I am humbled. Today is the day that I can honestly empathize with the birthmother of my children. I may wish her well and pray for her and hope she finds healing. Yes, I do all of those things. But do I understand the things she did? Can I fathom the things she left undone? Do I, in my heart of hearts, believe that I am somehow better? It’s an ugly thing to admit about myself but, yes, sometimes I do. Tomorrow I will have answers. Tomorrow I will have my way out.

Let me take today to be humbled. Let me take today to understand, at least a little bit. Let me take this horrible day to realize that we are not so far from those we may judge. We are not so far from those addicts, those hurting, or those in need. We are all human. If only we all had the promise of help tomorrow. For this experience I am truly grateful.

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family

Coffee Pots and Closet Pee: Why are We Fighting Each Other?

“Foster kids are smelly. Foster kids pee in the closet. I don’t want to have any foster kids around here!” This from my 10-year-old son. My a-month-away-from-being-officially-adopted-but-still-technically-foster-kid-son. Apparently, in his last foster home, there was a foster child who urinated in the closet. Who knows? Maybe they were too scared in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Maybe they were mad. Maybe they hated closets. Maybe it was my son.

And it’s not just the odd pee location that bothers him. Their very existence is irksome. He will often take the time to note the many differences he can find between himself and the “fosters.” He has a burning need to show how he is different. How is not like them. How he is NOT a “foster.”

The urination reference is not the part that bothers me. What I find disturbing is his absolute vehemence about distancing himself from those “foster” kids. The ones that are just like he used to be. He says the word almost like he is naming a horrible disease. Why is it that he can find so much animosity within himself towards kids he doesn’t know? Towards kids that have so many similarities to him?

The other day I was listening to foster parents talking. It was in a “support” group setting. A few mothers had gathered in a small group, near the coffee pot, and were avidly discussing something. There was a lot of eye rolling and shaking their heads. Since they were all standing around the coffee machine I got a little nervous. they seemed exasperated about something and I was praying it wasn’t the coffee.  I am, admittedly, a pretty intense coffee addict.

Luckily for me, the coffee was fine. Score. What was not so fine? These women were critiquing a member of our support group.  A new foster mom who had asked several questions about supervised visits. This, after she had already asked about cutting the child’s hair on a separate occasion! As it turned out, there was another parent being discussed. I heard every mom say, “Well I would never” or “I, obviously, would have handled that differently.” The other parent in question? She was considering medication to help the child in her care. Imagine my surprise. Parents, in a support group, asking for support and information from parents who were in the same “foster” boat. Shocking!!!

I was utterly baffled by the animosity of these women towards other women. Other moms. Other foster moms, just like them. Why? I started noticing this more and more. I know there are the so-called “mommy wars” out there. The wars are about public school vs. homeschool, breast feeding vs. bottle feeding, working vs. stay-at-home. But foster mom wars? Why? There aren’t enough of us to begin with. Shouldn’t we be working together to grow our skill sets and make connections? Build support and community?  Other mommy wars are all about doing it “right” or doing it “better.” I would think we would just be proud of each other for doing it at all.

This wasn’t the first coffee pot conversation, wither. isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed foster parents gathered together playing the “who is the most therapeutic” game. I started to wonder if there was something in the coffee! I hope not, because I CANNOT stop drinking the stuff, no matter what! The question remained, would I, too, succumb to the coffee pot effect? Would I start to judge other foster parents? Would I start competing to be the best, most qualified, foster parent?

The bigger question is why would foster parents participate in mom-shaming and in-fighting? Are they just mean? Are they mad? Are they actually super-human and annoyed with the rest of us? It can’t be the coffee. It just can’t be. Rather than being concerned about the foster moms who were “not getting it” or “not doing it the right way” I was concerned for the moms who were judging. The foster moms complaining  seemed to be the the ones in need, not the moms reaching out for support and advice.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of these mommy wars, I had to put on my Heather T Forbes glasses and look again. This time I saw a different picture. These moms were angry, sure. But was it it really anger? No. It was fear. Fear of making parent mistakes. Fear of not knowing what they are doing all of the time. Fear that all of their efforts may not result in lasting changes for the child and/or birth family.

I also saw shame. Some of the very women (and maybe men, although I have only personally witnessed this in moms. It could be the exact same thing in dad groups) who railed against foster parents for disrupting placements, had disrupted themselves. Foster moms saying, “these people are not equipped to foster,” or “they expect perfect children, they don’t understand foster kids” may have felt this way about themselves at one time. They are the same moms who were utterly baffled when their first placement slept with a rotting banana hidden in their bed. That same parent now vehemently despises when parents “refuse to understand” food hoarding issues in traumatized children.

This brings me back to the pee in the closet. My son seeks to distance himself from “fosters” because he can see parts of himself reflected back. He is ashamed. Maybe he is ashamed of his own trauma reactions. Maybe he feels ashamed that it is somehow his fault that his bio-mom couldn’t take care of him. How should I treat him now? Should I affirm that “those fosters” are, indeed, smelly and bad? Should I list other bad things fosters have done because they “refuse to understand” their own trauma? No way! We all know this would be cruel. So why would we do it with each other?

With my Heather T. Forbes glasses on, I can acknowledge his feelings. I can look inside myself and see my own fears about being a good parent. I can acknowledge and accept my own weaknesses. I get to his level, look in his eyes, and try to understand and empathize. I continue building connection with him, I listen to him.

Now back to the coffee pot crew. These women have fear. They have shame. They also have a deep and abiding commitment to fostering and working with children. I take a deep breathe. I empathize with them and acknowledge their feelings of frustration. I acknowledge their fear. I will do the same for the foster mom who disrupted, or doesn’t understand why there is pee in the closet. We should ALL do the same. If we are so well trained to respond to kids’ emotional turmoil, let us try and do the same for each other. We already know how to respond therapeutically. Now let’s extend this grace to our peers. We need to support this tiny community. We need to grow this tiny community.

I believe that foster parents can learn how to deal with the pee in the closet. They can learn why the rotting banana is so important (and how to replace it with a non-perishable bed-buddy, like a granola bar.) What we need is for foster parents to vent to each other, not the children in their care. We need to offer empathy and suggestions. We can work together to grow this team. We don’t need to be better than one another. It is alright that you are scared. It is alright that you feel overwhelmed. Your feelings are OK. We need to be strong as a whole. This is important work, right?

Hey, if I’m wrong, if many people should just stop fostering, go ahead and tell me all about it. Troll me on Facebook support groups if you like. Just be sure and pass the coffee first!

 

**Names in the “Herding Chickens” blog have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

  • Photographs courtesy of Huffingtonpost.com and clipart

*If you have ever considered fostering or adopting, I encourage you to get started on your own adventure.

 

 

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family, marriage, parenting

Choosing Forever: Adventures in Marriage and Adoption

Wedding_rings

Here is your forever home. Here are your forever parents. Here is your forever family. In the world of foster care and adoption we toss around the word “forever” a lot. We use it liberally and sprinkle it in to the interactions we have with the children we are adopting. But what does this concept mean to our children? 

I wonder if many of us have stopped to consider our own personal paths to our “forever?” I know one thing for sure. I know that Luke is my “forever.” Wherever he is, there is my “forever home.” Wherever he is, there is my “forever family.” I have known this from almost the first week we started dating 8 years ago.

But how did we get there? There certainly wasn’t a social worker assigning us to be a match. We both chose to walk the path of “forever” on our own. I had the advantage of a preconceived notion, a schema, a background upon which I based my beliefs about marriage. In the world I grew up in, such things are possible. 

Luke and I were friends before we started dating. We had known each other for about a year before I asked him to run away with me. That’s right, I asked him to run away with me. During the time of our friendship, I’d always had a crush on him. We were both in other relationships and so we remained friends and nothing more.

After my relationship ended, I figured it was now or never. If I didn’t take the leap, I knew I’d end up regretting it or the rest of my life. So I called Luke and asked him to run away with me. He compromised and offered to take me on a date. We went out the very next night, and the next, and the next. We’ve never been apart since.  A year to the day after our first date, we were married. We just knew. 

Fast forward to 9 years later and I realize that the reason I so firmly believe in happily ever after is because I have mine. He is right by my side where he belongs. And so, my schema starts. I have lived with the certainty and the joy of his love. We are family by choice, but I never question that we are truly one family. Luke is a sure thing, my forever.

When I try to view this from my children’s schema I simply can’t. The past has already taught them that love can be hurtful and scary and not to be counted on. We are their family by choice but they didn’t choose us. Not really. If anything, it seems to me that adoptive parents have many more choices than adopted children. How can I expect them to love us back with reciprocity? I can’t.  That is a whole new foreign language for them. 

They are thrust into a situation they can’t comprehend.  To me, family is forever. It has always been that way. To them, family is temporary at best. We must shift their entire thinking.

The foundation of our family is the marriage Luke and I have. My love for my husband reminds me that I am worthy of being loved. His kisses, his hand in the small of my back, his gentle words, tell me that I am not alone on this journey. No matter how rough the road is I am comforted by him. I find joy in him. No matter how others feel about me, I am able to bask in the image he holds of me (albeit, I admit, he has a rather inflated view of me!)

We need to nurture and treasure this connection. We need to be reminded of how reciprocal relationships work. We need to show our children that fairy tales ain’t got nothin’ on this family!

I can give unconditional love to our little chickens, but for now I will have to receive unconditional love only from my husband. What more could I possibly expect of them after such a relatively short time in a healthy family? 

I can only hope that one day our children will learn to love and be loved the way Luke and I do. I hope we can re-teach them the meaning of “forever.” But until that time? I can see why they wouldn’t believe. I can see why choosing this family may not always seem so permanent. That’s OK for now. Luke and I have enough faith to go around.

** Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved. 
**If you’ve ever considered foster care or adoption, I encourage you to start your own adventure! 

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adoption, family, parenting, PTSD

Tales from Our Bathroom: Adventures in Trauma Triggers and PTSD

fear ladder

Playing Uno in the bathroom? Go Fish? Perhaps a bathroom snack of apples and peanut butter? Sounds great, pull up a bath mat and let’s get started! Yes, that’s me, attempting card games with Little Mary in the bathroom floor. The bathroom is one of her biggest triggers. Right now we are attempting to gradually expose her to the bathroom in a non-scary way. We need to provide this corrective experience in order to lessen her fear.

In fact, Carl and Sean have the bathroom as a trigger as well. Whatever happened to them there must have been terrifying to stay with them years after being out of their bio home. Taking a shower or a bath can cause them to re-experience the trauma they suffered in this location. Then their “fight or flight” response kicks in and they panic.

For Mary, any added stress or anxiety in her life can exacerbate her fear of the bathroom. Recently, she has been showing us her elevated fear levels by fussing and tantruming before it’s time to take a shower. Mary has also been avoiding going to the bathroom unless someone waits outside the door and talks her through it. When she is finished she flushes, jumps off of the toilet, and bolts out of the room. She refuses to wipe, but she will wash her hands in the kitchen sink.Her fears include the mirror, having the door all the way closed, being alone, and being naked.

To alleviate her fears we have implemented the following:

  1. The door is always cracked open.
  2. Someone waits outside. Sometimes all of us wait outside. And we sing silly songs loudly and off-key.
  3. We play soothing music.
  4. We send in back-up. Mermaid Barbie to the rescue.
  5. We colored all over the mirror with Crayola Window markers. We made encouraging messages and silly pictures.
  6. We taped wallet-sized pictures of me on the mirror, next to the toilet paper roll, and yes, even in the shower. That way mom can be with Mary the whole time. Creepy? Maybe. But we’ll try anything.
  7. We let her go into the shower with a dirty shirt that has been worn by either Luke or me. This way it has our comforting smell, and she has the job to “wash it.”
  8. We play car-ride type games to activate the “thinking” area of her brain, because her emotional-survival brain is taking over. My favorite is the ABC game. You take turns naming your favorite food starting with “A is for ___” Next, the other person takes a turn but they have to repeat all of the other letters and foods that have been named, before adding a new one. You have to focus on your memory, language, and coming up with a food name. This can be awesomely distracting if you can engage the child before they become too escalated.

Despite all of our interventions, Mary had an incident one day when she refused to brush her teeth. Luke and I stood outside with the bathroom door open and promised to stay with her while she went in. She couldn’t do it. She screamed like she was being murdered. As Luke attempted to talk her down from her sobs, and I attempted to comfort Carl, she switched into “flight” mode. She turned and ran across the hallway with her head down and head-butted the door to the basement. Twice. It happened so fast we couldn’t even catch her and we were right next to her. I ended up in the ER with her, making sure she didn’t have a concussion. She has a bump and a bruise, but otherwise she is physically alright. The poor thing was so scared of brushing her teeth, that she preferred a head wound.

Currently Mary is in the midst of her Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). She is writing a narrative with her therapist about the trauma she experienced in her bio home. I’m no therapist but I will try to paraphrase what I’ve learned about it. This particular kind of therapy helps the child to confront and process their past trauma with the support of a therapist. Our children’s therapist is amazing. She showed us (including Little Mary) a graph representing the research on what happens when a person represses and tries not to think about traumatic events in their past. When the past event is ignored and not thought about, temporary relief is gained. However, over time, the fear grows into epic proportions when the child is confronted with any reminders of the traumatic events. This causes all kids of maladaptive response behaviors, including Mary’s tantrums. She is a survivor and her brain’s “fire alarm” is going off, even when there is no fire. With TF-CBT, she is opening up old wounds, in order to heal them. Exposure therapy is intended to help her face her triggers, in this case, the bathroom, a little at a time.

In her last session, Mary was able to express why the bathroom was so scary. This is progress for her. Her therapist helped her to come up with a fear thermometer and a fear ladder. This helped Mary to see exactly how afraid she was in what circumstances. When Mary was able to express and quantify her feelings in this way, she gained a measure of control over her fear. A million thanks to this therapist who is putting Mary back in charge of her emotions. I believe there will come a day when she is no longer at the mercy of her past, her triggers, and her “big feelings.”

She still cries when she gets into the shower and screams for a minute before washing up. We will continue to reassure her that she is in a safe home now. Until she internalizes this safe feeling, we will be there. You can find me right outside the bathroom. Or inside, playing Hungry-Hungry-Hippo! We will take it one day at a time and we just keep working on it. She will never have to face these fears alone, ever again.

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

If you’ve ever considered fostering or adopting, I encourage you to start your adventure, today!

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adoption, family, fostercare, parenting

We Like Big Butts!: Adventures in Healing for Our Family

littlesfair

Does it get better? Will there be mornings when I stop calling for Sean not to miss his bus? Maybe a morning where I remember he is gone before I start checking that he is ready for school?

This weekend Luke and I took our Littles to the “Big E” along with Seth and Catlyn. We went on rides and played games and ate impossibly unhealthy foods. We laughed and the children caught bead necklaces when the parade went by. We stuffed ourselves full of Kettle corn and zoomed down a slide twice as tall as our house!

Luke grinned and belly laughed with me and kissed me with abandon. Our kids squealed, “Ewww! Gross!” as children are supposed to do.

In short, we had fun.

We did pass by certain rides or food booths that brought up memories from last year. That is when I thought of Sean and I missed him. We saw things Marcus would love and I missed him, too. I wonder of they look back and think about all of the fun we’ve had as a family? Do they miss us as well?

At the same time, we saw our Littles relax and bond. Carl held Mary’s hand to make sure she wouldn’t be afraid. When they went on the little roller coaster together, she got so scared that she screamed for me the  entire ride. The whole time Carl held her hand and told her she wouldn’t die and that he was there and he loves her. That story is beautiful to me. It reinforces that siblings belong together. It lets me know that they are healing.

Yfootballcfootball

The next day was their football game. Luke and I were sure to change our Little’s names on the roster so they would be announced with our family last name over the loudspeakers. After the game Carl was so proud that they announced his name during his many, many tackles. Mary said, “Yeah, they knew who I was, too!” She also commented that while she was cheer leading, she saw me jumping up and down shouting, “That’s my son!” to strangers.

Despite all of the turmoil, I think they are beginning to feel secure. I suspect they are attaching. During in-home therapy the littles were asked if they had any questions as to why Sean and Marcus aren’t living with us. Carl asked, “Why were they so mean?” I did my best to explain that Sean and Marcus were scared to get close to a mom and dad because they had been hurt so much before by a mom and dad. I said they were trying to do things that would push us away so we wouldn’t love them anymore. Carl looked incredulous. “Well it didn’t work!” he exclaimed.

As for Mary? She had a question about the family, too. She asked, “Mommy? Why does Daddy like big butts so much? ‘Cause he Really likes yours!!!” And if THAT is the most pressing question about our family? Well then, I guess we are doing alright! Although maybe Luke should lay off singing Sir Mix-A-Lot to me….but this Mommy’s got back and she cannot lie!!

yarypigs

**Names have been hanged to protect the privacy of those involved.
If you’ve ever thought about fostering or adopting, I encourage you to start your adventure!

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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.

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