I posted a few days ago about Joshua and some of the issues we are encountering that we feel are RAD based and are sneaking up on us. The nightmares have lessened a bit, not visiting us every night but still 3 or 4 times a week and quite terror-filled. Suddenly we are also having problems with wetting himself during daytime hours, having happened 3 times over the past couple of weeks.
Tonight we were at school for Kenny and Matthew's music concert, and I asked Josh to go sit with Dominick while I helped corral kids until it was their turn to sing. He walked out of the room and I didn't give it another thought until I joined Dominick in the gym and he said Joshie had been crying the whole time. He had told Dominick he only wanted to be with me and was very upset that I had sent him away to get a seat. As Joshua saw me, he started crying again and I took him by the hand and led him out of the gym to a more quite corner where we could talk. The only problem was, he couldn't talk about what was bothering him so badly, he could only manage to stand there with tears streaming down his cheeks, chest heaving, lip quivering.
As I picked him up and held him close he started really sobbing, clinging on to me with a desperation I haven't felt from him in over a year. He finally said "I didn't want to leave you, I wanted to be with you not Daddy.".
Sitting there with him folded into my lap, I felt my heart slowly sinking and I almost wanted to cry myself. This beautiful, tender child has been entrusted to me to care for, and there are moments when quite honestly I feel I do a totally lousy job of meeting his needs. Sometimes I just don't anticipate what is best at any given moment, I don't "see" where something is headed that will cause him turmoil...and I guess the fact is I can not protect him from this deeper hurt that springs back to life from time to time.
Sometimes I think it was actually easier when Josh and I were doing battle, circling one another as he angrily rejected me over and over again. Although I hated it and it cut to the bone, I better understood it and knew what to expect. This stage though is harder, it is less obvious, it can be more intense at moments. I now have an extremely loving and lovable child, one whose sensitivity is startling at moments. But it is that sensitivity that touches my soul so deeply and makes it harder to turn my back when the rough times come. When we were in the throes of the worst of the RAD I had an "out", I could say I needed a break...and I certainly did...and I could walk away without guilt knowing it was best if I admitted that need. Now though, I can not turn my back on his pain, I have to face it without a break for that would be devastating for him now that he can connect so firmly. It means I have to walk with him ever closer at times like these, and that can be so hard.
It is hard to watch your 5 year old dissolve into a 5 layer jello desert, each layer colored and flavored differently, and each one transparent enough to see through quite clearly. The layers are not named Strawberry, Orange, Lime, etc. No, instead these layers are named Abandonment, Rejection, Unnamed Fear, Insecurity, Hollow Feeling Inside. A passer by would assume it was a typical 5 year old meltdown...a perceptive passer by manages to see a little more to it, sees that this is sorrow not temper tantrum.
Our sons go to an extraordinary public school, one that ranks low in test scores but high in understanding and character building. It is a school filled with migrant families, ESL kids, and poverty. It also has a principal who is one of those perceptive passers by, and he sat down next to me tonight in the midst of all the hustle and bustle that only rooms full of 2nd and 3rd graders can create, and seeing Joshie's despair looked me in the eye and gently asked "And how is Mom doing?". Nothing more, nothing less but darned if it didn't feel like God putting his arm around me for just a moment as I was sitting there clueless as to how to help my son feel safe again.
Tonight I sit here waiting for his screams to once again shake everyone out of their sleep. Kenny put a light near his bed and told Josh he would try and wake him up out of his nightmare if he had another one tonight. Tonight I sit here wondering what else I can do, what I am doing wrong, and why my son has to feel this way. Tonight I sit here feeling like a failure, and yet trying to convince myself I am not one, reminding myself of how very, very far we have come.
But when your child is clinging to you in the middle of the night, when he is laying next to you hiccuping from the sobs that linger, when your child wanders through the house during the day with rising panic in his voice because he can't physically see you, it is sometimes harder to see the road you have already traveled and you fear the road that still lies ahead.
Perhaps I am feeling more fearful than usual because I just finished reading one of the latest Jodi Picoult novels, "Nineteen Minutes" about a school shooting incident and the events leading up to it as well as the aftermath. Now, don't get me wrong, I do NOT...let me repeat NOT see Joshie as ever being violent as some RAD kids are. No, I am 100% certain we are beyond that risk. But the novel was filled with such accurate portrayals of teenage thought processes and experiences, of bullying and betrayal, of those who fit in and those who never will no matter what lengths they go to...and for some reason it caused me to think about Josh and what he will be like at that age. He is my most sensitive child, my one most at risk for being crushed by the thoughtlessness of others.
And I can't protect him from it.
I am also reminded that I couldn't protect him from the lifelong hurt caused by his birth mom abandoning him. I get such incredulous and disbelieving looks from others whenever the subject comes up about our struggles during Josh's earlier years. The questioning look as people ask "And he was only 11 months old?". Yes, he was only 11 months old, and the damage was profound and enormous. And tonight I am feeling it will always and forever be a part of him, and that is pretty accurate I guess. I think the hard part, for me, is not knowing if there is anything I can do to keep it from forever leading him in his life. If he will continue to be haunted by emotions that are triggered by unexpected circumstances and events, emotions that he probably will never be able to label well.
Tonight I watched as all three of my sons ran from the mailbox up the road to our front porch. It was that magical few moments just before the sun sets, when the light is crisp and golden, when the greens of the lawns and leaves surrounding you are more brilliant. They were laughing, running with great abandon...Joshie in his cowboy boots struggling to keep up with his two older, stronger brothers...Kenny with his gangly arms and legs all out of kilter weaving this way and that...and Matthew straight backed and steady on course. Three completely different little men, three completely different personalities. One bond, the bond of orphanhood. The difference in the level to which it affects each one is startling.
I am also struck by another simple fact, they have one forever mother and father who must help them through the maze of their life experience and help them proceed forth with strength and courage. On nights like this, that seems an impossible task. And yet, it is the task we are charged with, a task we take on willingly and lovingly.
How I love these children, these boys of mine. What I wouldn't give to be able to make it all better with a snap of a finger. I'd love for Kenny to look in the mirror and see the handsome little guy I see, I'd love for Joshie to never again feel alone, I'd love for Matthew to have the answers to all the questions he has asked over the years...the answers to questions like "Do you think my birth mom wanted to keep me?" or "I wonder if my birth grandparents ever think about me?".
And yet I would be the first to admit that it is these deep pools in their souls that have helped create this wonderful trio. To me, they are the most incredible boys I have ever encountered, both individually and collectively. The moments of failure come and go, they are real and they can not be avoided. I guess, like my sons, I must pick myself up, dust myself off and continue to trudge along doing the best I can.
Sometimes though, that just doesn't seem to be enough.