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.