Saturday, July 23, 2011

disabilities, trauma and love

There seem to have been a lot of postings on the net lately about people who have seriously trauamatized kids and the need to sort of let go and realize that they can't fix them and what the parents and family need to do to preserve their own mental health.  Some parents write in ways that I can tell they have poured themselves and all the treatments and help they could think of into their children with no obvious benefit or improvement.  Some parents write in ways that literally make me cringe.  Saying things that I can not imagine writing or saying or even venting.  That is harder for me to understand.

Probably what this made me reflect on the most was my eldest son and the toll that his disability and issues took on my relationship with my wife.  Raising him was probably the most challenging thing I have ever done.  We did not know what was wrong. We sought many many types of help.  Nothing worked.  School was horrible.He was physical with us, hitting, biting till he was long past 8 years old. Sports were so overly stimulating that at 5 when he did pee wee soccer he hung literally in the goalie net like Spiderman.  Trust me the coach wasn't thrilled.  We were isolated as a family because of his behaviors and his lack of ability to handle stimuli.  There was no respite.  We honestly went away as a couple  twice in his child hood.  Once was when my mom watched him while we went Christmas shopping.  He threw his shoes at her and freaked her out.  Once was when he was 15 and a friend said she was giving us a weekend away.  We had a great time but he convinced her he could use a tradtional razor to shave (he has to use an electric one because he presses down to hard) and he almost cut himself to pieces.)  Suffice it to say there were no date nights out of the house.  There were a few times we had friends over but not too often.  It was too hard.  His ability to at least go to his room and decompress didn't really develop till late teens so he would just escalate despite our best efforts.

Anyway, the purpose of this post isn't to say "wow look what we went through."  I don't want awards or accollades.  My point is more basic.

At some point in all of this, and I don't really remember when, things were really horrible.  My wife made a statement to me that sounded an awful lot like I needed to make a choice between our son or her.  She is a highly emotional woman and giving her the benefit of the doubt she may have said things in her anger and pain that she didn't mean the way they came out.  But my answer was that she had to understand that she didn't want to ask me to make that choice.  Because as much as I loved her then and as much as I love her now, I would choose my son.  Because we made that choice to be his  parents.  And I don't see how I could then (or now) throw my hands up in the air and say "gee I can't do this any more." 

Maybe I do get through the tough times by deluding myself that things will get better or that progress is being made.  But it is what gives me hope and I do need to live in hope. My eldest son will never be "like other kids."  But I do love him for who and what he is.  Smart, kind of funny sometimes, able to remain young at heart, passionate about the environment and fair treatment of all. 

And I guess the last point of this long winded post is that parents who hug their kid when they don't want to need to know that the child knows that feeling is not authentic.  I know from what my eldest has shared with me years later that he knew exactly how my wife was feeling during many of the turbulent times of his growing up.  Not because he heard us discussing anything.  Because he could tell at some more basic level.  Since my eldest is on the autism spectrum this is pretty amazing as his ability to grasp emotions is uneven at best. Candidly, he and I have a closer relationship than he and my wife do.    So I am not trying to be Pollyanna when I say that I think when we are not loving and parenting from a place of authenticity that our children know it.  My son told me.

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