Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reliving the Painful Past

Mike needed a couple of documents for financial aid that required me to get out the file called "Mike - Legal." It's a very unpleasant file filled with sad memories. I try to stay away from the file because it reminds me of how it feels to sit in a hearing where as parents we had to "admit or deny" that our child was in need of "protection or services." It reminds me of the way the judge would look at us and the way that Mike would send hateful glances our way. It reminds me of how horrible it felt to knew that the only way we could keep him safe (because he ran away all the time) was to try to get him help in a more secure environment.

If you ask Mike today about his teenage years he will tell you "my parents locked me up for my entire adolescence." That is how he remembers it. It was actually a total of 20 months, but facts don't matter when he is recalling his own memories. He insists that his legal trouble as an adult is a result of being institutionalized to the point that the only place he felt comfortable was jail.

It was not a good time in our lives. If I had known then what I do now, I might not have done it the way we did. We anticipated that our county would be less accusatory and more helpful. We anticipated that "treatment facilities" would be able to be helpful instead of punitive (At one point our son with RAD and FASD was three days away from hitting level three and coming on a home visit when he impulsively saw a bottle of conditioner in a staff members office and took it. He then lost a level and when became frustrated by that was placed back at level zero, where it would require him 3 months to get back to level 3).

I wish we didn't have the file.. because it tells a nasty story. But it is part of our story. And today we are going to have lunch with Mike and give him the papers he needs and I am sure that he is going to become angry all over again and I won't blame him. I had the same response.

Today we have two kids who our therapist says would be in residential treatment if they were living in anyone else's home. However, they stay home, and they don't run away, so we try to ignore the behaviors that we can and take things one day at a time. Their files -- though full of detention slips, suspension letters, and other things demonstrating their severe disabilities, they don't have files marked "Legal." I'm not sure that it will change their destinies, but it will change the way we feel when we look back at the files and hopefully, though our present is challenging, will not be ones that cause us to relive as much pain.


Miz Kizzle said...

Hindsight is always 20/20. We would all change things about the way we raised our children but most of us were doing the best we knew how at the time.
Ultimately, it's up to Mike whether he accepts responsibility for his actions and goes on to live a productive life or continues to blame you and his dad for his poor choices.
Of course it's more comfortable to blame others for one's own shortcomings and people prefer feeling comfortable to feeling uncomfortable.

Lisa said...

I second that. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 but here's something to think about as well....Even if you had done things differently than you did, you may have ended up experiencing the same results or worse due to the fact that the person you are trying to help seems determined to not take responsibility for his part in any of this. It may have deteriorated at home to the point where he was removed from your home without your consent. Maybe you would have ended up with tens of thousands of dollars worth of legal fees while fighting to keep him in your custody, or maybe one of his questionable "friends" would have victimized one of your younger kids and then you'd have even more to regret and wish you'd done differently. The bottom line is that you did everything you could at the time. If there would have been a better solution, you would have found it.

This blame game is just exhausting. I have already grieved the loss of so much with my kids and then to have to relive every blasted thing THEY would have done differently had they been in charge is like rubbing salt into a wound that will never heal. Our good and bad experiences have taught us many things - I just wish our kids would have learned as easily.