Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The LifeLong Question: Does It Really Matter?

Parenting children who have a history of abuse and neglect is definitely a very difficult endeavor. It is challenging and can be very fullfilling and invigorating. But there are moments when a teenager or young adult does or says something that makes you think, "Why did I invest my life in this? Does it really matter?

Cindy's blog has been a life saver for me over the past two years. The proof that her adult children provide that these kids CAN become healthy functioning adults is what I hold on to often, because as a parent whose oldest is 20, I'm just not seeing it.

Children with attachment issues can be very cunning and manipulative. They make us feel as though we have wasted our time and our energy. They suck us dry. They are takers, not givers and, since we are givers, it is easy to get sucked into the cycle to the point that we feel as though we have been severely taken advantage of.

We've held nothing back in giving all we can to our oldest son. We have tried to give him advice, we have supported him in nearly everything that he has wanted to do (expecting him to contribute to teach him responsibility). This year we will send final payment for his third year of college, which we have helped to fund. And my husband has given him, emotionally, his very best.

Yesterday he was angry because I wasn't immediately responding to a request that would allow him to complete his taxes and get his $34.00 back (yes, that's thirty-four, not thirty-four hundred). When I didn't jump to give him exactly what he wanted at the moment he asked for it, like I usually do, he called Bart and let him have it. His main points were: We are ALWAYS trying to trick him and cheat him out of everything. We have NEVER supported him. We NEVER give him anything. We have NEVER been there for him. ANd, by the way, the $1400 college bill is due in a couple weeks. Don't forget to pay it."

The ironic piece of this is that our 12 year old, Tony, was in the back seat of our van while I was talking to Bart about this conversation. I had just finished having the EXACT same conversation with Tony because I told him that I would not buy him anything. He never does his chore, thus not earning an allowance, and he won't do the dishes he is supposed to do every day. In addition, I had just purchased him a few things at the store before that and he had asked for one more thing and when I said no, he said, loud enough for the clerks to hear him, "F*** you." SO... I had just listened to the same words coming out of Tony's mouth. About how we should never have adopted him because we couldn't possibly love him. That we NEVER did anything for him. We NEVER supported him, yada yada yada.

Sorry, this is getting way too long winded.

Anyway, my point is this: One would think that Kyle, now 20, would at least have a different story than Tony after years of us supporting him through years of High School trips around the country, three years of college, and the opportunity to see us provide for him in every way again, and again, and again. But it's the same story, just with more anger, more sophisticated vocabulary, and less tears.

Tomorrow we have an "intake" conference for Mike at Chemical Dependency Treatment. I will blog about this in another post, because this is getting way too long, but Mike's issues are even beyond Kyle's. Add FASD and Narcissistic Personality Disorder to the mix and you have a kid who is not only ungrateful and manipulative, but who steals from you daily, damages your property and makes false allegations every time he can.

Or take John, who in therapy last week, told me he wasn't sure he even loved me . . . after all the years of being victimized by his violent behavior.

I wonder how many parents just stop giving. Does there come a point in time when parents of kids with attachment issues simply say "We're done?" And if so, do they miss out in seeing a good result? If they give up, is there a chance had they hung in their long enough to be mistreated and disrespected and manipulated for several more years, the kid would turn around?

I don't wonder how many parents are TEMPTED to stop giving -- I think it is almost all of us with RAD kids. We tell ourselves that we have to hang on, but there is that nagging question ... "what if we give up too soon?"

I think there are very good people out there who have made both choices. There have been those who have cut their losses and said, "Enough" and moved on with there lives. And there have been those who have kept on giving, because it is the right thing to do, indefinitely. And I'm not sure that either choice guarantees the results.

But for now, our choice is to keep giving. Not always cheerfully, but to keep that door open, to keep proving day after day that we can be trusted and that we are their parents. And whether or not they ever get it, isn't it more about whether or not we give it?

Because I have to ask myself, is the act of loving about the lover or the one being loved? Is the act of giving about the giver or the receiver? Is the act of forgiveness about the one who forgives, or the forgiven one?

And I conclude that, for me, I have to keep loving, to keep giving, to keep forgiving because that is who God has called me to be. And whether or not my love is returned, whether or not my forgiveness is accepted, whether or not my gifts are appreciated, it is my responsibility to keep doing all of the above. Because in this one instance, it is about me.


debbie said...

Wow, this really got to me.

Yondalla said...

Right now I am in the life of a girl in foster care with RAD. She has pushed so many people away. She pushed to have her adoption terminated, won, and then was angry because her parents agreed to it.

I have been her respite and transportation provider for over a year. I have known her through four placements, and it will soon be five.

Five placements in one year.

Every single one are experienced foster parents who know what they are doing and have stuck with kids.

But she fights so hard to leave, and she always wins. Which means she always looses.

I was asked to take her and I said no. I said no because right now I have a decent relationship with her, and if she were to move in we would loose it. She has RAD -- as long as I am someone who makes no emotional demands then she can have a certain level of trust and affection for me. If I take her into my home, I will become the enemy.

I don't know what is the right thing to do either.

Lionmom said...

You made me cry at work.

I could have written this.

We keep giving to our radlet, S. Our friends and family and even the social workers have told us "enough, it's enough", but I just keep thinking maybe this hug, maybe this 4 hour trip to the RTC, maybe this piece of supportive feedback, maybe this set of tears - just maybe this will be the seed that comes to fruition.

We gave up on seeing the results a long time ago. Our goals are now modest - we hope to support this child into a functioning adulthood where she is safe and does minimal harm to others. It would be nice if she continues to be a part of our lives, too.

I thought I understood RAD. Living with this child was HARD in ways I never knew hard could be. But not living with her and knowing she chose to leave us after all the years of loving and tolerance and support, well, that has been even harder than living with her.

Jo said...

We had to let go of our first foster/adoptive placement. It is a long story, but because it wasn't through the state, we were getting no financial help and no services. It was too much. She had more needs than we had resources. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. Thanks for the post and the thoughtful commentary.

Jo said...

I have to believe that loving is never ever wasted, and on some level, never forgotten. How could I do foster care, how could I, if I didn't believe that with all my heart that what I did mattered? That my hugs, my tears, counted. They do.