Sunday, October 4, 2009


I just got back from visiting my son.

He's currently in a residential facility that focuses on anger management. His outbursts at home created a situation that made it impossible for him to stay with us. Without getting in to details, the best option for him--and for our family--was a residential treatment center.

He's twelve.

When he was first hospitalized, the days were a blur to me...getting paperwork finished, making sure he had everything he needed, filling my waking moments with everything that had to be done. And in between, tears. But once things settled into a routine, the guilt came. In huge waves, it would crash over me, haunting me. Why was I not enough for him? Could his birth mother have met his needs had he stayed with her? Was the bond he needed from her greater than the neglect he suffered at her hands? Had I put my faith in the wrong therapists, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers? I'm an educated person. Why didn't I see this coming?

After his hospitalization, he did come home for a short time. He tried so hard to be able to live a normal "kid" life. He tried to be successful and to do what he needed to do, to avoid confrontation, to use some of the skills he had learned. But it was too much for him. Two months of intervention cannot undo a lifetime of illness, of thinking gone wrong, of ideas of victimization and powerlessness. And so we made a difficult choice. We placed him into a residential facility where he could receive around the clock intervention and begin to learn to lean on someone other than me--to lean on himself.

Most days I carry on my life like any other parent. I feed my dog, dress for work, take my younger one to school. I work a full day and dedicated myself fully to my job. I spend my off time with my daughter and husband, or playing with my dog, or cleaning my house, or watching a little TV. But lately, I'm distinctly aware of the emptiness in my gut. The emptiness of missing my oldest child, the one to whom my presence has been as necessary as air itself to survive.

So I sat with him today in the visiting room. You have to be eighteen to visit, so his sister can't. He brought me a couple of coloring pages he had done for her and I promised I would pass them on. He presented me with a beautiful sketch of a heart surrounded by angel wings. I praised his artistic ability (one of his many talents) and thanked him for the gift. He perused the collector's cards he had asked me to bring him and thanked me for them. And then we made small talk--about the weather, work, my husband's schedule, the dog.

Small talk moments are the ones I hate the most. I found myself sitting there, uncomfortable, not knowing what to say to my own child. What I want to say and can say are two different things. I have a responsibility to this child not to add to his burden. Not to create more worry, more stress. But what I wanted to say was this: I love you. I miss you every moment. Even when I am not consciously aware of the ache in my heart it is there, always, missing you and your spirit. I grieve for you. I want to take every wound upon myself and heal it, or live with it, so that you don't have to. I want to hold you in my arms and tell you everything will be all right. I want to desperately, desperately believe that, despite statistics and research and stories that tell me otherwise. I want to give you the life that you deserved from the moment of your conception. I want to erase all of the pain and dysfunction and disability and illness, so only your soul shines through. So you are free to be the person I glimpse inside this tortured boy.

But I didn't. I bought him a Dr. Pepper and a candy bar, chatted about weather and his collector cards, assured him I was only tired when he said I looked sad. I promised I would be back tomorrow for family therapy and that I would pass his love on to his sister, father, and the dog. And I gave him a hug and told him I loved him.

Then I went back to being a regular mom, picking up groceries and running my errands and typing this blog.

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