It’s 7:00 am and I’m laying in bed trying to wake up as I scroll through my email on my phone. The house is quiet and I falsely assume everyone is still asleep. In my efforts to try and teach a certain child that sneaking around the house and getting into things while everyone else is asleep in the morning is not a good choice, I’ve inadvertently taught him to be even sneakier. I only caught this child with stuff he knew he was supposed to get permission for first and something he’s not supposed to have because I heard the creak of his door as he closed it just enough so if I walked by to get a towel from the linen closet I would think he was just playing in his room. This child knows every creak in the floor in the hallway, on the stairs, and downstairs. This child knows I’m a light sleeper and will wake up instantly if I hear them moving around or if they use the bathroom so they avoid it at all costs. It’s mornings like today where I feel defeated before I’ve even begun. I’m trying so hard to not let it set my mood for the day and putting a conscious effort into changing my reactions to these situations. It’s anything but easy….especially when you’ve been dealing with it for years and it’s become an instant emotional switch for you.
This is where people who have not cared for neglected children day in and day out just don’t get it. This child was neglected the worst out of the three. In turn, he’s shut off all attachments to anything because it means you would have to care about something and risk being hurt or let down again. This is a child’s way of protecting themselves. We as adults, who were not neglected as children and never taken away from our parents without warnings, know how we are a bit more careful about what we say or who we grow close to after we’ve been hurt. Imagine the world of a child who has been hurt so much worse!
Think of it this way. Someone knocks on your door right now and tells you, “We’re from the government. We have evidence that your children are mistreating you and are being disrespectful. It’s in your best interest to move to a new house where these new children will treat you with love and respect.” You have no choice. You have no warning. You’re not even allowed to pack a bag before you leave. (My boys came with n o t h i n g.) When you get to the new house, after 6 months the government shows up again without warning. “These children said you just didn’t work out with them and we’re moving you to another home with new children again.” This time the children bring over one duffle bag of your things that they chose and packed for you. How would you honestly feel? You’d wonder why they didn’t like you. You’d wonder why you were so unlovable. You’d believe you were a failure and it would be a part of you the rest of your life. You’d shut down and protect yourself from being emotionally hurt again! You loved your biological children no matter how nasty they were to you. You’d long to be back with them regardless of how nice your new children were to you. I’m obviously oversimplifying it but hopefully you see the point from the child’s perspective.
You have no idea how strong and resilient a child is until you’ve dealt with a child who has built an invisible fortress around their heart to protect themselves. I keep the smallest flicker of hope alive in desperate longing to find a way back into my big boys’ hearts. If I can accomplish this, I will be able to fix the majority of the ongoing problems we have on most days. Hope is powerful.
When you’re not attached to anyone or anything, rules don’t matter to you. I’m left with no realistic ability to give any consequence to curb this child’s behavior. I’ve tried!!!!! What am I going to do? Take away his toys? Doesn’t bother him. (One example out of a bijillion.) But at the same time, you can’t just ignore it and give up. (Incentives don’t work either. That’s for another post entirely.) The kicker is, it actually gets worse when I give a consequence. In some weird way, they see it as a challenge to show me I’m not in charge of them. They’re need to have control over their actions is so fierce that they will almost with certainty do the same action again either while looking me straight in the eyes or when they think they can get away with it just to prove that ultimately they are in control. This is what happens when you take children away from their birthparents without warning. I’m not saying it should never be done. Obviously safety comes first – but this is the aftermath of those actions. It’s going to affect the child! When you know you don’t have control over even who your parents are or where you’ll be moved to next, you find other ways to bring a sense of normalcy and control to your life.
I was so thankful Les was home yesterday. One of the boys gave me a death look after I told him not to do something. It got the better of me and I yelled at him. I ended up walking out of the room because I was not going to cool off quickly. Les took over and calmed our son down. I listened from the other room as I heard Les share how hurtful it was to me for my son to give me such a nasty look. Les did it so peacefully and with such finesse that when he walked into the room to check on me I told him, “Call your boss now. You’re never going back to work. I need you here and we’re just going to live off love.” Les chuckled. “I’m serious! When the bill collectors start calling, you can tell them, ‘We’re living off love now. How would you like us to pay our bill? With a hug? A compliment?’ And when we go to the grocery store we’ll tell them we’re living off love and give them a hug and thank them for the groceries.” Les smiled and chuckled again.
This is an ongoing joke we’ve had for years when Les doesn’t want to leave to go on another trip or I want him home.
He was about to leave the room when the cover to the lid of my laptop popped off the back. (Another story about an unfortunate fall from the kitchen table.) Les sighed. It was one more reminder about why he would ultimately go back to work so we could have money to fix my computer. I saw his expression go from smiling to reality and I quickly responded, “You think I’m kidding this time! You take my laptop to an Apple store right now and tell them we’re living off love! Tell them you’ll tell everyone how much you love their products and recommend they come buy stuff from them and they’ll be so impressed they’ll fix my laptop for free!” His smile returns and both of us know it’s time to get back to what we were doing, before he really did have to go back to work.
The child I had yelled at came into the room with Les and myself and handed me his notebook.
That flicker of hope just grew ever so slightly.
Before he left, Les pulled him over to the side of him and said, “Sometimes ‘No’ is the most loving word you can say. Mommy and I love you very much and sometimes we tell you no to keep you safe.”