We just got home last week from our annual summer vacation to Florida. We had a great time. The kids were in the pool every day, we swam in the ocean, we went to an amusement park in Orlando, Kevin and I both got massages and had a date night, and we ate a lot of food we shouldn’t have because we were on vacation (although the break from cooking was wonderful). Jackson had a couple of seizures while we were in Florida that were scary. Both lasted about 4 ½ minutes and wiped him out afterwards. It is so hard to watch him seize. Those 4 ½ minutes feel like 4 ½ years. We also discovered that Jackson is a bit of an adrenaline junkie. At the amusement park he rode quite a few rides and laughed joyously as he rode them. A kiddie rollercoaster was his favorite so we rode it 4 times. He had a great day and it was fun that he was able to ride some of the rides. I think the best part of the day was the amazing service we got from the staff. When you have a child with a disability you discover that a lot of places aren’t all that accessible and if you need accommodations people can sometimes be unpleasant about it. This park, Fun Spot, had a wonderful staff. Kevin’s cousin had actually won tickets for us to go. We had 4 tickets so we had to buy one more for Jackson. When we got there to buy our ticket we asked if they had any kind of disability pass since Jackson wouldn’t be able to ride very many rides. The customer service rep went and got the manager who came over and said he would just give us a day pass for Jackson, we didn’t have to pay at all! It was such a sweet act of kindness, one we weren’t used to. Then when we went to the “kiddie rides” an employee working there walked us around to all the rides and helped us to decide if Jackson could ride. The staff there made it such an incredible day for us. I was so grateful to them for making it a day that Jackson could enjoy too.
Unfortunately, it was while we were in Florida we discovered that Daniel has been hurting Jackson physically and doing things like putting Jackson’s food out of reach so he can’t eat and taking toys away from him. It was a blow. About 2 months after the kids came to live with us Daniel hurt Jackson one day while we were out rock climbing. He twisted his arm which made Jackson cry out in pain and it eventually bruised him. At the time we had a long talk with Daniel about how he is supposed to protect Jackson, not hurt him. We discussed the responsibility of being a big brother to Jackson and being part of our family. That was also when some of the attachment issues with Daniel came to light. We thought we had put that behind us and that Jackson was safe. Now we know it isn’t behind us and has continued. I’m so mixed with emotions right now that I can’t even really explain all of them. I am mad, I feel like I have let Jackson down by not protecting him, I am sad, I am numb. Kevin and I have spent the last year working our butts off to make us all a family. It’s been a ton of work. Having two older children come live with you is not all roses. They bring a history with them that you know nothing about. They have formed their personality and some opinions. They have been through trauma that we don’t know the extent of. Getting through all that, trying to make a connection with them, and trying to create a cohesive family is an on-going task. We knew it would be hard, but we were willing to put in the work. This has been our dream all along, to adopt children out of the foster care system. To give an “unwanted” child a home where they are wanted. Now I question what the cost is for doing the right thing. If the cost is Jackson has to be in danger of physical harm in his own home then I am not willing to pay that price. And therein lies the problem. Where do we go from here?
I wish I knew. The social worker had a few ideas but mostly they were just band-aids on the wound, not fixing it. The wait list to get him assessed by a neuro-psychologist, which is what we want, is 3 months. I’m not waiting 3 months. We need to know if this is a pattern of behavior for Daniel, if there is something we can do to help stop this behavior. We need answers. In the meantime we live in a constant state of worry and fear. I can’t go to the bathroom without taking Jackson with me. I worry about turning my back for even one second. I can’t live like this, it’s too much.
The truth that is hard to admit is that my feelings toward Daniel have been damaged. I find it hard to be loving and compassionate towards him. He has always been a difficult kid who demands constant attention. He probably gets 80% of my time which doesn’t leave a lot of time for Sylvia and Jackson. He demands 100% of my time and I just can’t give him that. He can be such a sweet, giving little boy. But he can also turn his feelings on and off easily and that worries me. I don’t want to turn my back on him. But I need to know that this behavior, these warning signs, are something that can be addressed. In many ways I feel like I have failed Daniel. That I am not the mom he needs or deserves. He needs someone who can give him their full attention. When Kevin and I talked about the type of child we were looking for I distinctly remember saying that I didn’t want a child with special needs. We had one and that was enough. Now we have two and it is too much. I’m not at my best with Daniel. I don’t like myself some days as his mom. I feel stern and demanding and unloving towards him. This is all so hard to admit. So many of our friends think that we are amazing and wonderful for parenting Jackson and then taking in Daniel and Sylvia. The truth is I am not amazing and wonderful, I am just a mom who doesn’t know what to do. I’m lost and having trouble finding my way. I am faced with the realization that perhaps this isn’t going to work. That our home and family may not be the place for Daniel and Sylvia. It is scary and heartbreaking. We have made a commitment to him and his sister. We were serious and dedicated to that commitment. Now I am not sure where we are. I can’t make a permanent commitment when Jackson’s safety and well-being are at stake. If he was a neurotypical kid who could fight back and tell me what is happening, I could probably deal with that. But he can’t defend himself and he can’t tell me what is happening to him. And I can’t turn my back and not protect him.
Muhammad Ali said "Often it isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the pebble in your shoe." I knew taking the kids in would be one of the biggest mountains to climb yet. What I didn't anticipate was this pebble. No matter how hard I shake the shoe it won't come out. I don't know how much further I can walk with it.