On Columbus Day, my husband and I spent a wonderful day just driving around and enjoying the autumn scenery. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have an unusual sensitivity to the beauty in nature, and was once again overwhelmed by the beauty of the bright white and yellow streaks of sun streaming down through the white puffy clouds. Such a sight always encourages me as if reinforcing the fact that yes, there are clouds, and yes there may be rain, but that sun is still up there in the sky, overseeing it all, just waiting to break through and make things better. As an added visual treat, the sun shone so brightly on the tapestry of peak autumn leaves: oranges, reds and yellows, that I felt a need to wear my sunglasses, but with them on I would not be able to fully appreciate the effect of the over-the-top, gasp inducing colors. No photo, piece of artwork or beautifully sung song could have replicated the intensity of happiness that brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
My husband and I sat, holding hands as he drove. There was no need to say anything. We were at peace, pleased to have such a respite after a hectic week of raising children and dealing with problems. We were in our own beautiful bubble, cell phones turned off so as not to ruin the interlude. It was a wonderful day!
Upon pulling into the driveway of our home, I spotted the two small maple trees which Marie had planted a few years ago. She had excitedly dug them up when they were fragile saplings with broken branches, and planted one on each side of the driveway. She had added gravel at the base of each, and attached a tall, straight, thin stick to keep them growing upright. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed them before. I had NOTICED them, of course, but I had never really SEEN them. They had grown to be about four feet tall, straight and strong. My breath stuck in my throat as the brilliant, bright yellow leaves danced happily in the gentle breeze. They were a growing metaphor for my daughter, blossoming and beautiful and holding the promise of a bright future in their little yellow leaves. Despite once being fragile and broken, they would grow tall and amazing and fit perfectly in this world, reassuring me that my daughter, who was also once fragile and broken, would grow tall and amazing and fit perfectly in this world.
Archive for the ‘child abuse’ Category
Showing my two youngest children, Angel and Marie, that l love them has always been a challenge. I can tell Angel I love him 100 times a day, but he will never believe me because he feels unlovable (due to early childhood abuse.) He has dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder.) Sometimes, this 210 pound young man will come and sit on my lap. He is not 15 years old at the time, but three. He will snuggle his head against me and I will put my arms around him, (although that is getting more difficult due to his size!) Then I will sing the Song “All of you…” Only my words are “All of you. I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i love all of you. All of you, even your angry o-n-e.” He smiles at this, because it is his angry part that feels so unlovable. I can sing it over and over again, and he will smile. The three year old in him believes I love him, but his angry part has been lied to many times before.
Marie has a different issue with my love. She promised her birth mom that she would not love her “new” mom. She is very resistant to kisses and hugs or any other signs of affection because she feels she is being disloyal, (She has expressed to me she cannot show me affection because if she sees her birth mother again, she will be very angry with her.) So, we have survived on fist bumps and the “I Love You” sign in ASL. However, I have ways to show her affection in every day life. For example, ever since she came to live with us at the age of seven, I have dried her off after her shower. This has involved sitting on my lap on the toilet seat while I hug her deeply with the towels on. She melts into my lap and I can tell that she really enjoys it. If I stop too soon, she will ask for more because she is “still wet”. She is 13 years old now and I still towel dry her, (although she modestly wraps herself in the towels before I come into the bathroom.) She still needs my love, even if she cannot accept it in the normal way.
Both children, however, get the biggest kick out of giving me one special kiss. This is not an ordinary kiss, (so it would not go against Marie’s promise to her birth mom.) This is a “let the dog lick them all over their mouths and then they run to me to give me an extra sloppy dog kiss”. I make the obligatory “YUCK!” face, and they both convulse in laughter. Ha ha! They “got” me again. Hey, a kiss is a kiss and I’ll take it any way it comes, even with dog slobber!
My 15 year old son, Angel, was diagnosed with ADHD, (inability to pay attention in class, his mind “wandered”, he couldn’t keep on the topic,) Reactive Attachment Disorder, (inability to bond with parents,) OCD (obsessed with certain rituals and items,) Conduct Disorder (uncontrollable behavior at times,) severe Depression, (where he would curl up in a ball in his bed and be unable to do anything,) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (violent reactions to certain memories or thoughts.) These disorders, and a severe memory impairment, all turned out to be symptoms of another, more insidious disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder.) All of his diagnosed symptoms were manifestations of different “parts” of his psyche, all developed in early childhood to allow him to survive horrific child abuse. Angel considers himself a combination of his “parts”, a “we”. It is normal for him, and we have lived with it every day since he has lived with us at the age of four. He has received incredible special education services which enable him to spend most days in a regular 10th grade classroom, but also allow him to spend time in a resource room if he feels the need. All assignments are written down for him and all homework is done before he leaves school. (This solves the memory problem.)
Angel finds it helpful to write his feelings down sometimes, and I wanted to share with you 2 separate essays he wrote:
“”Wah! Wah! Wah”went the baby as he cried. People walked by and ignored him. “Wah! Wah! Wah!” he cried some more. All he could hear were big, angry footsteps coming closer and closer. A woman poked her head in the crib. “SHUT THE HELL UP!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. This scared the baby more and he cried more. The woman started hitting the baby all over. The crying baby woke up the man who was sleeping nearby. “Shut that kid up!” he screamed. The man got up and started to beat the baby. The baby left consciousness and a stranger took over his brain. The baby did not remember anything after that.”
“Angel is a fifteen year old boy who has a rare disability. His disability is called Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID for short. A lot of times, he does things and does not remember doing them. Most of the time he has no knowledge of what a certain part did or said. It is basically like having octuplets in your head. People ask the wrong octuplet a question and he doesn’t know the answer, so he has to ask inside to see who knows the answer or who remembers. This effects him in a lot of ways. The most important way is with academics. Most of his parts are smart in different subjects, but the right one has to go to the right class. If a part goes who doesn’t know the answers, then Angel will flunk the whole test even though one part knows the answers good. This is the most frustrating thing about living with parts! Other than that, it is most of the time good because Angel is never lonely in his brain. He has some funny parts that keep him laughing. He has a baby part that they all give a lot of love to because he wasn’t loved when he was a baby. He also has an angry part that they don’t know. This part scares them, so they try to pretend he doesn’t exist.”
This may seem extraordinary, but it is just an ordinary part of Angel’s life. No big deal…
I don’t mean to be blasphemes, but I am sure that all you parents out there with “difficult” children can understand what kind of hell we live with from time to time. Most of the time raising children is heavenly, or at least like purgatory. However,sometimes there are those moments when it is just plain hell!
Our son, Steven, was adopted at the age of 3 after living with us since birth. He was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, to a mom who was an alcoholic and, (GASP) cigarette smoker. Although we loved his cute little face very much, the rest of him left much to be desired. He was hypersensitive to sound, touch, smell, noise and any little thing that altered the peace in his little world. Even as a 6 month old he would bang his head on the highchair if he was “stressed”. He needed a strictly consistent schedule with no tags in his shirts and no loud noise from the tv. We altered our life to fit his needs and things were fine, for the most part.
Then came his Baptism day. First off, it was a change in his schedule, something his 3 year old body did NOT appreciate. THEN, he had to get dressed up. I remember thinking he’d never wear a suit and tie, or even a tie for that matter, so I managed to buy a nice pants/sweater outfit. Unaccustomed to wearing sweaters, his body squirmed in this outfit. Our church had arranged for a private ceremony, understanding Steven would not be able to be baptized during a regular church service. We used the little chapel so as to cut down on the anxiety he would feel in the huge church. His dad carried him to the altar with Steven’s head buried in his chest. My husband, myself, our older son Francis and daughter Dinora stood by with Pastor Lorraine to begin the baptism. Steven looked up and saw the baptismal water. “OOOOOOOH NO!!!!!!” he screeched. “You’re not going to put that water on ME!!!!!!” (He also had a fear of water I’d forgotten to mention…) He jumped down from my husband’s arms, crawled on the ground, and crawled into the first dark, quiet place he could find…under Pastor Lorraine’s vestments! There he was, under her vestments which were over her dress…I was MORTIFIED, (thus the “HELL” part!) She, however, as the parent of three rambunctious kids, thought it was funny. (God bless her!!) She felt down for where his head was and she calmly proceeded with the baptism. (Fortunately, you could see his head clearly outlined in her vestments.) She did the whole ceremony with him completely covered. I had a camera to document this momentous occasion, but was at loss of what to take a picture of! When is it over, his dad gently dragged him out and home we went. For any other child, a celebration would have been in order, but for Steven, it was home to his usual routine. Same day as any other day.
PS. I obviously didn’t learn from this experience as we attempted first communion for him. At the age of 12, he met with our pastor for one-on-one communion classes as he was unable to participate in the standard classes. He was then to join the other children on “First Communion Day”. When the pastor called out his name, he promptly crawled underneath the pew, and curled into a tight little ball, where he stayed for the rest of the service…
Yesterday my husband, in a good mood, came into the kitchen, swooped me backwards, and gave me a passionate kiss. When we had finished, I noticed my 13 year old adopted daughter standing there, mouth gaping open, eyes wide, with a shocked look on her face. “What was THAT????’ she asked (in American Sign Language.) “A kiss,” I told her. “No, no”, she signed, “a kiss is a little peck on the lips” she said as she came over and demonstrated one on the dog. “That is the way you kiss when you really love someone, your husband” I said. “WOW! How did you LEARN that? Can you show ME!?!?!” she signed. “You don’t learn it, you just feel it. It is natural when you love someone,” I explained to her. “I’m going to wait until I’m 17 to do that,” she signed back, and I said a silent prayer to myself that I should be so lucky for her to wait that long! I laughed inwardly at her innocence, this worldly child who knew the mechanics of sex more than anyone her age should have to know, (the reason of which is a discussion better delegated to a more serious blog entry.) But I doubt she ever saw anyone in love before, and she definitely had never seen anyone kiss passionately, which really surprised me. The more I thought about it, though, I realized she hadn’t been exposed to it in her young life and the only other way she might know would be from watching television. Because of her deafness, she has a low reading level and is not able to understand the captioning enough to get interested in a romantic story or one of the more mature television shows which are all over the television today. Her favorite tv station is the Animal Planet where great stories are told and no captioning is needed. She knows all about the life cycles of animals, insects and reptiles, including their different mating rituals, but, as preparation for real life, I’m sure she never saw alligators kiss like that!