The Future

One of the most amazing-and scariest-parts of being a parent is not knowing what the future holds for your child. It’s that wonder that makes you want to be a parent in the first place. And it’s that fear that makes you want to bubble-wrap them till they’re 27.

This is something that all parents share. It doesn’t matter how you became a parent: by birth, by adoption, by marriage. You pray, you read books, you take classes, you join groups, you look online, you stress, you put your life on hold all so that your child will have an incredible future. Even though you have no idea whether or not it will happen. Whether you will be successful. Whether your child will become the doctor or the lawyer or whatever they dream of becoming. But it doesn’t stop you from doing all the work. Why?

“When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.”
-Alexis de Tocqueville

Parents of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are no different. They have the same dreams for their children. Before they receive a diagnosis there’s no thought that the future might not include everything they are dreaming of. After the diagnosis, and as the reality sets in, the ideas of the future start to take on a very different view. What kind of therapy will my child need? Will my child be able to be in regular classrooms? Will my child be able to continue living at home? Will we have a relationship as our child becomes an adult? Will our child be able to heal?

All of these questions and so many more have gone through my head over the years with August. Because of his violent and volatile behavior, I can add some even scarier thoughts. Is this the night the sheriff shows up to tell me he’s been killed? Will he get angry enough to physically harm me? Will I get angry enough to physically harm him? Will time in prison make a difference or make him a better criminal?

I know as most parents do that at some point we have to let go and know that we have done all that we can do. What our children become is at some point out of our control. I have been watching on Facebook this week as many of my friends are moving their children to college for their freshman year. August would be a junior this year if things had gone as planned. I can’t even get him to complete his GED. He doesn’t see the point. I continue to ask and prod because that’s what parents do but I also know that it’s not my choice to make and if he doesn’t see the value nothing I say is going to matter.

I have been thinking much about the future recently because I am considering the future of this blog. The last few months have been very cathartic. I started writing at a time that I needed to write for me. And if anyone found it helpful that was fine but it really didn’t matter. I needed to write. And it served its purpose. But over the years since August has been diagnosed I have had people tell me I should do this or that I should be a therapist for others who are dealing with similar situations. My experiences with law enforcement and the school system have shown much need for educating about children with RAD and I always imagined finding a way to work with these groups.

So here’s the deal. Going forward I will still be telling my stories but I am going to fold this blog into a website designed for other families and anyone who is involved with a child with reactive attachment disorder. My vision is to create a community of resources for parents, teachers, law enforcement, extended families and others. There would be advice from professionals as well as hands-on tools that families can use. I have seen other blogs that are for home-schooled children or children with special needs that are mostly medical but I really want to focus on RAD because it is so very different from medical issues and from any other mental health issue and still so unknown.

And that’s my plan for the future. If you’d like to be a part of it here’s how you can help. Please subscribe to my blog if you currently just read it off of Facebook or LinkedIn. I don’t want to bore you with the details but it helps. Please share it! You may not know anyone with a child with RAD but someone you may know might. If you are a praying type, always welcome. I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what my future holds as well as August’s.

Map out your future-but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.

-Jon Bon Jovi

 

Finally, A Visit!

After almost a year and a half I hugged my son two weeks ago. It felt so good. And I even managed to sneak in a kiss on the cheek which he did not appreciate but I did!

The process for getting approval to go see August at the prison hasn’t been easy because in 2016 I had to get an order of protection and eviction against him. He had been breaking into my house and stealing from me and it was the only way I could have any recourse when he did. It was a horrible moment in our relationship. To sit in court and publicly reject my child. My child who already felt the deepest level of abandonment anyone can feel was being rejected by the person he most wanted to be connected to. Another stellar parenting fail. But I knew that continuing the path we were on was not going to be healthy for me and it was not going to help August learn anything about what was expected of him. So I had to get that vacated because anyone who is a victim of an incarcerated person can’t come to visit them, lest they use that opportunity for revenge apparently.

So two weeks ago I went to the Putnamville Correctional Facility. In case you’ve never been to a medium-level prison, let me give you a little idea of what’s involved. I was wearing a modest sleeveless summer sweater, crop jeans and sandals. When I got there I found out sleeveless isn’t allowed so I now own a t-shirt from the House of Marathon Gas Station down the street. Can’t wear any jewelry; no fitbit, no bracelets, no earrings no matter how small. I even had to remove my toe rings which I never take off and which was a bit of a challenge.

There are vending machines and I was advised by August to bring quarters so I am now standing with a bowl of quarters in one hand, my shoes in the other and a key to the locker containing all my other belongings waiting to go through the metal detector. But apparently that’s not good enough because before that I get patted down by a female guard (who I might now be dating). Then through the metal detector (thank goodness I was wearing a no-wire bra; that would have had to be ripped out) and a special cell phone detector. Shoes back on and a stamp on my hand. Through a door, ID and stamp checked. Mind you I’m only five feet from where I just was. Then follow a line on the ground over to the visitation building.

Once over there I wait outside. A guard calls me in and I sign in. I cheat on the previous guard by getting patted down by her. She rattles off an amazing list of rules which there is no way I’ll remember. She brings me into the visitation room. The room is surprisingly pleasant. Many little sets of a cube wooden table and two chairs. One side of the table has an “X” where inmate sits. I am assigned a spot. I have some time to look around.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
–Nelson Mandela

There are many different combinations of people visiting. Some are obvious; boyfriends/husbands and girlfriends/wives, parents/sons, families and fathers. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see children visiting their fathers here. They have pictures on the wall obviously drawn by children who have visited and there are murals painted all around to make the place seem less sad. Nothing about the faces or demeanors of the people seem hopeless or tragic. Everyone has on their, “Everything will be OK” looks.

August finally walks in. He’s wearing a khaki jumpsuit. He’s always been skinny and other than a few more tattoos he looks basically the same. The hug feels great. We sit down and chat. It’s not really awkward because we talk all the time. But it’s slightly weird. We haven’t been in the same room in almost 1 1/2 years other than a courtroom. He’s recently gotten a tattoo on his neck-a cross in the middle with a devil on one side and an angel on the other. The angel is naked. I guess if your son is going to have an angel tattoo on his neck it’s good that she has a nice rack.

I try to talk about important things. He tries to listen. I try to get him to think about his life. He tries to say the right answers. What he thinks I want to hear. We keep things civil. I hope that these visits will propel him to want to get out and do the things he needs to do to make that happen. He has come into the visit having to go to the bathroom so the visit gets cut short because as soon as he gets up the visit is over.

We are together about an hour and a half and it is glorious. As horrible as so much of parenting him has been, I miss him every day. I miss seeing his face and his smile. I miss going to movies with him and when he liked to help me with things. They were such brief moments but they were glimpses of who he could be. I get to go every two weeks will be so helpful for me and I hope for him.

Again, not a place I ever thought I’d be. Amazing the lives we find ourselves living.

 

Finally, A Visit!

After almost a year and a half I hugged my son two weeks ago. It felt so good. And I even managed to sneak in a kiss on the cheek which he did not appreciate but I did!

The process for getting approval to go see August at the prison hasn’t been easy because in 2016 I had to get an order of protection and eviction against him. He had been breaking into my house and stealing from me and it was the only way I could have any recourse when he did. It was a horrible moment in our relationship. To sit in court and publicly reject my child. My child who already felt the deepest level of abandonment anyone can feel was being rejected by the person he most wanted to be connected to. Another stellar parenting fail. But I knew that continuing the path we were on was not going to be healthy for me and it was not going to help August learn anything about what was expected of him. So I had to get that vacated because anyone who is a victim of an incarcerated person can’t come to visit them, lest they use that opportunity for revenge apparently.

So two weeks ago I went to the Putnamville Correctional Facility. In case you’ve never been to a medium-level prison, let me give you a little idea of what’s involved. I was wearing a modest sleeveless summer sweater, crop jeans and sandals. When I got there I found out sleeveless isn’t allowed so I now own a t-shirt from the House of Marathon Gas Station down the street. Can’t wear any jewelry; no fitbit, no bracelets, no earrings no matter how small. I even had to remove my toe rings which I never take off and which was a bit of a challenge.

There are vending machines and I was advised by August to bring quarters so I am now standing with a bowl of quarters in one hand, my shoes in the other and a key to the locker containing all my other belongings waiting to go through the metal detector. But apparently that’s not good enough because before that I get patted down by a female guard (who I might now be dating). Then through the metal detector (thank goodness I was wearing a no-wire bra; that would have had to be ripped out) and a special cell phone detector. Shoes back on and a stamp on my hand. Through a door, ID and stamp checked. Mind you I’m only five feet from where I just was. Then follow a line on the ground over to the visitation building.

Once over there I wait outside. A guard calls me in and I sign in. I cheat on the previous guard by getting patted down by her. She rattles off an amazing list of rules which there is no way I’ll remember. She brings me into the visitation room. The room is surprisingly pleasant. Many little sets of a cube wooden table and two chairs. One side of the table has an “X” where inmate sits. I am assigned a spot. I have some time to look around.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
–Nelson Mandela

There are many different combinations of people visiting. Some are obvious; boyfriends/husbands and girlfriends/wives, parents/sons, families and fathers. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see children visiting their fathers here. They have pictures on the wall obviously drawn by children who have visited and there are murals painted all around to make the place seem less sad. Nothing about the faces or demeanors of the people seem hopeless or tragic. Everyone has on their, “Everything will be OK” looks.

August finally walks in. He’s wearing a khaki jumpsuit. He’s always been skinny and other than a few more tattoos he looks basically the same. The hug feels great. We sit down and chat. It’s not really awkward because we talk all the time. But it’s slightly weird. We haven’t been in the same room in almost 1 1/2 years other than a courtroom. He’s recently gotten a tattoo on his neck-a cross in the middle with a devil on one side and an angel on the other. The angel is naked. I guess if your son is going to have an angel tattoo on his neck it’s good that she has a nice rack.

I try to talk about important things. He tries to listen. I try to get him to think about his life. He tries to say the right answers. What he thinks I want to hear. We keep things civil. I hope that these visits will propel him to want to get out and do the things he needs to do to make that happen. He has come into the visit having to go to the bathroom so the visit gets cut short because as soon as he gets up the visit is over.

We are together about an hour and a half and it is glorious. As horrible as so much of parenting him has been, I miss him every day. I miss seeing his face and his smile. I miss going to movies with him and when he liked to help me with things. They were such brief moments but they were glimpses of who he could be. I get to go every two weeks will be so helpful for me and I hope for him.

Again, not a place I ever thought I’d be. Amazing the lives we find ourselves living.

 

Gotcha Day!

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the day we went before a stern lady judge in Russia and in half an hour became parents to a child we’d known for a grand total of about 3 hours.

As the Soviet government had broken apart, the huge communist bureaucracy had gotten smaller and smaller. The courthouse we walked into in Murmansk was essentially deserted. There were desks and chairs stacked in the halls. None of the offices were occupied. We waited for the couple we were traveling with to finish their time then it was our turn.

We walked into a back room that didn’t look anything like a courtroom: me, August’s dad, our translator, the representative from the adoption agency and a representative for August. The judge and a prosecutor were already there. They began by telling August’s story and I was amazed at how much I learned. He had a grandmother who refused to take him. He had a grandmother! He would be alone for days at a time or left with friends or neighbors. Stories that made my heart break.

The judge asked the rep for August and the adoption agency rep a few questions all in Russian which of course I didn’t understand. The translator gave us a brief rundown. Basically what had the communication been with the birth mom as far as her desire to keep him and care for him. She wasn’t interested.

Then the prosecutor got her turn with us. By the way, I was surprised at the number of females in positions of authority. I don’t know why but I expected Russia to be more sexist than it turned out to be. Glad to be wrong! The prosecutor asked about our willingness to bring August up with an understanding of Russian culture. We of course said we planned to do that and we did, though we didn’t yet know what that would look like. And it depended a lot on August wanting to which he did at first but had no interest in at all later on.

The only other issue that came up was that all court proceedings in Russia required a 10-day waiting period before they became effective. We desperately wanted that waived so that we could travel home with August rather than have to spend more time in a hotel. We wanted to get started being a family! That was the judge’s call but the prosecutor got a vote too. Luckily they were both in agreement.

Then the judge said a bunch of stuff I couldn’t understand but it all boiled down to my becoming August’s mother forever! It was the most amazing feeling. I was happy, scared, excited, overwhelmed, overjoyed. It may not be the traditional way to become a mother, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

My only wish is that I could have been his mother from day one. Knowing what I know now being his mom from the beginning might have kept both of us from years of pain. Might have kept us from being apart today. Might have kept him from being where he is now. Might have changed the path he seems destined to travel.

There are no guarantees and I don’t blame anyone. I can only be grateful that I was given the privilege to be this sweet boy’s mom. The song below was a wonderful inspiration to me during the adoption process. It was sung at his baptism by my fabulous friend Susan Brehmer thanks to my amazing friend Dave Golden creating sheet music from listening to it because it was out of print. Listening to it today brings me right back to that day.

Wishing everyone peace with their families and knowing there is a place for you.

Wayne Watson – A Place For You