Sunday, November 29, 2009

An Open Letter to my Son

My beautiful boy,

In two more days you will be coming back into our home. The last five months have been a mixture of emotions for everyone. Some days we have cried and ached from missing you; other days we have thought fondly of what we would tell you about; still others, I have sighed deep relief knowing that you were in a safe place away from our home with people who could help you more than I. In two days I will bring you back to your home, your friends, your room, your things, and your family. I will rejoice in welcoming you back to where I have always wanted you. In two days you will be back.

I sometimes wonder if you understand the nature of your illness. If you understand you have an illness and how it affects you; if you understand that there are other children out there who struggle just as you do; if you use that knowledge as a comfort or as an excuse. I wonder what you want for yourself, and if you'll ever feel you've achieved it. Are your goals for yourself the same as my goals for you? Do you want to feel happy? Or do you just want love and acceptance from your birth mother--the one person who can probably never meet your expectations?

I remember the first night I brought you home. It was a four hour drive from the courthouse in another part of the state. We reached our small apartment in the early evening. Your uncle--"dad"--came out to meet us and we carried you inside, small and sleepy and scared, and snuggled you down on your new pullout bed. We didn't have the resources to provide you with a real bed at the time, but the pullout bed was good enough. Over the next few weeks, I learned how eager you were to make us happy, and how adept you were at meeting your own needs at the very young age of three. I had to teach you to wait for dinner, as you would make it for yourself; to let me care for you; that it was okay not to be perfect and nobody would hurt you if you made mistakes.

The agony you felt from your memories was very real and haunted you furiously that first year. Every night, bedtime was met with tears and a retelling of the police removing you from your birth mother's care. I held you and comforted you. I tried to reason with you that you were safe and everything would be okay. I didn't understand that for you, it really wasn't okay. Nothing could fix the memories that haunted you. That your psychological safety had been encroached upon and compromised in ways I couldn't fathom. And I felt helpless...helpless to comfort and remove your pain.

Over the last five months you have begun to address the pain that you have lived with most of your young life. Sometimes you have approached the task bravely and willingly talked about the pain and the feelings you have had over time; other times, you have shied away from the reality and even created your own alternate endings. Sometimes I don't know what you believe to be true and what you don't. I have run the gamut of emotions with you--anger, fear, sorrow, joy, and happiness--and yet I still don't know that anything has been resolved. I still don't know why you think the way you do and why you feel the way you do and if there is or has been anything more I could have done. The doctors and therapists tell me I have done all I can; that without the stability your dad and I have provided, you would be profoundly more affected by this illness. But as the mother who raises you, who loves you, I can't help but wonder if I had done something different, what would have happened.

I have come to understand more recently that the healing you will experience will not be a "fixing" kind of healing. I believe most parents want to "fix" anything wrong with their children, much as a doctor would set a bone. Unfortunately, there is no resetting of the neurological issues you have. Instead, as you heal, you will learn strategies to help you manage your illness. To help you function in a regular setting as a regular old kid. As much as it hurts my heart not to be able to fix things, I am starting to accept that fixing is not your path. Healing does not always mean "good as new". One of my favorite songs has a lyric in it--"All these scars are mine"--that reminds me of the good things that come out of our injuries. We become stronger, more complex people. Our paths are different than they might have been, but we are better suited for where we are going. My faith in you is that you will be well-suited for whatever plan God has made for you. He will give you what you need for that plan.

In two days, you will be back in our home, eating dinner with your sister, playing with our dog, sleeping in your bed. But it will not be as though you never left. You have left, and you have returned, and you have learned things on your journey. I will continue to walk with you on this path, and we will learn it together. Little boy to young teenager, I have held your hand and will not let go until you're ready. I love you dearly.

All my love,

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