In a pickle

My eldest son is always in a pickle. This is how he got his nickname. Except this story isn’t nearly as cute as say, the time he put a slide on top of our picnic table so he could “fly like Superman” and flew right into the top of a chain link fence, requiring stitches.

No, this story unhinged me for a couple days.

The first incident involved him and his friend conspiring to steal a box of cookies bought for the group home where he lives during their return trip from the grocery store. I explained that his side of the story made no sense at all and he was the only one who had anything to gain from lying which is how lying works. He remains insistent that he was set up by staff. They are making it up and he’s done talking about it.

He has a very warped perception of reality which does nothing but feed his preoccupation and paranoia regarding injustice.

The second incident occurred the night of the Super Bowl.  The staff could not find another young man and Pickle’s friend. When they searched Pickle room, lo and behold, the kid was hiding in Pickle’s closet and Pickle gave what seemed to be a very rehearsed line of “Oh look, there’s someone hiding in my closet”. Unfortunately, he’s not the best performer. That fact is completely lost on him though. It is very easy to tell when he is attempting to be deceitful due to his cognitive disability.

This incident was what left me unhinged. It stirred the stank, shit pot of emotion that I keep in a very deep and protected part of my soul. A place where I keep the darkness of Pickle’s horrific, child sexual abuse. The fears of him becoming perpetrator.

I know it was this fear that caused my psyche to instinctively set off anger. Anger that the staff of the group home can’t keep their shit together. After all, THIS is exactly why Pickle doesn’t live with us. He is a danger to my other two children. They are too “stimulating” for him and his cognitive disability doesn’t allow him to comprehend, much less recognize, triggers. Him not living with us is the huge factor of my own guilt and shame as a mother. Try as I may to reconcile it and knowing it’s the best thing for all of my children, it’s still hard to not feel like I have failed him. People try to comfort me, but who really understands what that is besides myself? The only person I have crossed paths with who can somewhat relate to the situation is only at the beginning of her journey.

It’s a very convoluted, hard thing … the likes of which I cannot elaborate.

Silence/BROKEN

I’m finally ready to talk about it.

Maybe it’s not so much of a want to talk about it, but maybe I feel like I need to.

The last few months have been an emotional roller-coaster of epic proportion.

Pickle is no longer living here. It brings tears to my eyes just typing it. Living it is something quite different. I’ve been told for quite some time that he would one day need to be some sort of assisted living scenario, I just didn’t think it would come so soon.

A couple months ago, I was FINALLY able to get him into treatment with a therapist who I actually saw him make leaps and bounds with. It was a good thing, it still is, but in the midst of that counseling a lot of things started to surface. I found out that there had been a lot more things going on between my children in the EX’s care than I could have ever imagined. Although these are not the sorts of things a mothers mind wants to imagine or even comprehend, I incidentally also caught him being sexually inappropriate and opportunistic.

Pickle was horrifically sexually abused as a toddler while residing with his biological mother, so this is a demon I am aware he struggles with. Hence, why I am constantly stressed and half-sleeping, listening, watching…..etc. Once you mentally become aware of such things, they don’t ever go away. I always knew this was possible, I just hoped it wouldn’t. With him entering puberty and the things he began revealing in counseling I developed a safety plan in which Jedi stayed the night at my parents house (they live three blocks away) and complete the rest of daily routine in typical fashion. He’d go to school, ride the bus home with his sister, do his homework, have dinner and at bedtime he’d go to my parents to sleep. He spent his weekend here, except for bedtime. It wasn’t easy.  The hardest thing I ever had to do. It hurt like hell.

There were times when I felt I was betraying one for the other. It was hard to wrap my head around how I ended up in a position where my biological son would be sent away for his protection, while my adoptive son would remain with little inconvenience in his life. None of the counselors involved thought this was good, but agreed there was nothing else to do. As it turned out, with my younger son out of the house, older son started becoming opportunistic and, again, unimaginable, started to target my daughter. Typing it now, I still don’t know I came out the other end and somehow kept all these relationships in tack.

After having about a dozen people tell me over and over and over again that I had done everything that I could and that it was in his best interest to get him into intensive, inpatient treatment….I finally got it through my thick skull that it wasn’t giving up….it was actually the best hope there was not just for him but my other two children. The worst part of all of this, or the hardest thing for me to overcome mentally was that Children Services had to take custody in order for the treatment to be covered. They call this dependency. It’s when a child requires care beyond the ability of any guardian to provide. The costs of this treatment are astronomical. $500 PER DAY. Even with private funding from groups organized for this purpose, we were still looking at $200-$300 PER DAY, which only very wealthy people could afford. Beyond that, as I’ve been told, our home environment, with two younger children, is too stimulating for him at this time. So, I’ve got to learn more than I ever wanted to know about the Juvenile Court system as well because he had to be adjudicated and a bunch of other legal mumbo jumbo that is pointless to get into.  I just keep telling myself that it could’ve been much worse. He could have done worse, outside of the home, been charged and that would have put him in sex offender program that likely would have caused him to be re-victimized because of his cognition issues/low I.Q. So he is safe and the other two children are too.

It’s just incredibly hard not having him here. Even though he required twenty-four hour supervision and our lives completely revolved around him, I wish there was something more I could’ve done. I wish I could heal his memories…his soul. I can’t even count the number of nights I’ve cried myself to sleep over all of this.

Whats made it even more emotional has been the final bow of the EX in the children’s life. I guess being under the microscope with everything that was going on with the kids was more than he could handle. A couple days after he was told that he would be required to go through dependency (drug/alochol) counseling and testing to remain involved through the pendency of Children Services involvement he decided that he wanted my husband to adopt the kids. If there was ever any hope in me for him to turn out to be a decent father figure to our children, much less just a decent human being….it is gone. I could have never imagined that he would sign away his kids, like possessions, in exchange for being let off the child support hook. It was his ONLY concern in the processing of the required legal paperwork. To say I am disgusted … is putting it mildly.

None of this is what I want for my children.

The only peace I have is holding onto the hope that all of this will allow all of the kids to be restored in ways that lead them to have healthy, happy, beautiful, full adult lives someday.

And every pain and sacrifice to that end, is worth it.

What Im not saying 2/20/2010

(sigh)

This week has been rough. There was a moment, just one, when I actually envisioned that I might need to be “committed”. There are just some things that a child should NEVER have to deal with and as a mother when you watch your children deal with those things, no matter how well the child bounces back and overcomes, it not only breaks your heart, but it also creeps into your psyche and breaks it down.

My children are resilient, this much is certain. So, I figure aside from everything else, I also owe it to them to not have the mental breakdown we so rightfully deserve. We’ve survived so much already and I know we will survive this as well…together.

I really struggled with how much of this to share, but the bottom line is that silence is what feeds this epidemic and if writing this out of my mind opens up someones eyes to something or someone else, then it has served its purpose.

The backstory: My EX husband and I separated in October of 2006 and while I could speculate about other things that MAY have been going on in the shadows behind my back, I can say that what WAS going on in my home, to me and my children, was enough to seal my marriage’s demise. After our separation my EX moved in with a woman who had three children of her own. This immediately sent up red flags for me because Pickle (a product of my EX’s first marriage whom I adopted but is no less MY son) had been sexually abused by his half brother while in his biological Mom’s care which was ultimately why he came to live with myself and the EX. It was no secret that there was looooonnnnngggg history of cyclic sexual abuse on her side of the family. I used to blame her for what happened and subsequently abandoning him but, I’ve come to realize in time that she too was a victim and was also mentally ill and just simply incapable of caring for her children or protecting them. Pickle’s sexual abuse occurred shortly after my EX and her split up and so now that: 1) we had split up; 2) he was now being exposed to two boys who were the same age he was when his abuse occurred and; 3) that he was also going to be exposed to his own hormones because of the presence of a teenage girl in the new home….I was acutely aware that these were potential triggers for him. For those of you who aren’t aware: my oldest son is also special needs so he needs A LOT of guidance and supervision anyways, couple that with urges he can’t understand and memories he cannot forget and you have have a whole lot of potential for really bad things to happen.

I brought this to EX’s attention and begged of him to pay close attention and not under any circumstances to allow the children to share the same bed. To my dismay, he didn’t listen because in his mind I was trying to control him and he couldn’t have that. Priorities, obviously. Everything is about him.

So came the Summer of 2007, when my Pickle would  report to his therapist that there was dangerously, inappropriate playing that was going on with not only him, but now my youngest son, and the EX’s girlfriend’s son, PlayDoh. I was devastated. If it had not been for my current husband (boyfriend at the time) I don’t know what I would have done. Don’t misunderstand me, I was a rock for my children. They needed that from me and there was no other choice, but I also needed a soft place to fall and he held me and talked me through my mental dark places so that I was able to do that.

The counselor had to make a telephone call to Children Services and because they revealed even more to me in the privacy of my home, I had to make that call as well. Despite Children Services telling me not to “warn” EX about what was to come, he was their father, at least I still imagined he deserved that application at that point in time, and so I called him. I remember sobbing to him on the phone and begging him to help us. I told him I would never keep his children from him but that he couldn’t take them around this other child until this was all sorted out. This began an argument. I couldn’t tell him what to do with HIS children. I begged him. I told him if he insisted on continuing to expose them to this other child that I would have no choice but to stop visitations and thats not what I wanted. I wanted him to help us.

Then, he showed up for his next visit with not only his girlfriend but PlayDoh in tow and that was the beginning of the end. He became upset that I refused the visit even though I explained over and over that he could see his children, just not take them to her home or have them around the other children. Those were the instructions from the therapist and Children Services.Then he and his girlfriend began to call me sick, saying I made up this whole story to keep him from the kids. I don’t know who would do such a thing but they adamantly ignored the fact that Pickle reported this to his therapist. I wasn’t even there. She told me. With him taking this position against us, I felt I had no choice but to call my attorney and file an emergency motion for supervised visits and it was, obviously, granted.

The months that followed are kinda a blur now. I had to resign from my job at the time in order to meet the requests of the therapists and Children Services. I had to produce my children for a physical exam at the hospital, I had to sit through interviews with Children Services, a guardian ad litem (court assigned advocate for children), therapists, and court hearings with my EX. As I was writing this, I remembered a mediation session in which I asked to step outside and when he followed me out he said something to the effect of how could I make my children go through a physical exam.

How could I make them? Like there was a choice?

No the choice was when he decided to go off and leave the kids unsupervised or letting them all share the same bed, despite  not only me, but all the professionals involved telling him not to.

(Deep Breath Break)

Let’s fast-forward: The court recommends, after reviewing the professionals recommendations, and orders the EX to permanent supervised visits until such a time as the children become more comfortable with seeing him in an unsupervised setting. He goes 6-8 months without seeing them. EX starts asking me to draw up adoption papers for Hubster to adopt the kids, has his brother call me and demand that I hurry up and draw up adoption paperwork WHILE IM AT THE HOSPITAL WITH PICKLE for an epilepsy monitoring admission. – EX even calls me one night drunk and threatens to “beat my ass” if I don’t let him see the kids, as if its in my control after all that he’d done to create this nightmare, I ask the Court for a protection order and he somehow manipulates the magistrate with water works and gets supervised visits reenacted. Yup, thats right! He threatened physical violence and then cried and made it all better after all of the above. Thats the legal system for ya! I nearly lost my mind and made my tongue bleed biting it to not correct the magistrate’s incorrect assumptions and application of law. Several attorneys told me that it’s frustrating when that happens on your case because you cannot correct them in open court, but they couldn’t imagine if the case involved their own kids and especially under the circumstances.

Turns out he had broken up with the girlfriend so the other child wasn’t involved and for awhile it seemed as though he may have seen the light and might behave the way a father should. He’s still a complete ass to me, but I am not the kind of woman who believes this should impede on the children’s relationship with their Dad. It would be nice, but it’s just never  going to happen. Although I was advised not to, I made the decision to move from supervised visits to monitored (at a relatives house and they meet with someone before and after the visits to discuss how it went) and then we moved on to one night a week, spending the night one night and eventually a standard visitation schedule because I know we all wanted him to be the Dad they wanted.

Within 6 months, I had to file for supervised visits again. On New Years Eve I had to request another emergency order to supervise visits because of the kids coming home filthy, unfed, reporting the water and heat being off  and the last straw involved skin staph infections that almost got me in hot water in the emergency room.

Since the visitations have stopped the kids have started telling their therapist and myself, Hubster and my parents all sorts of tales about things that occurred in their father’s care, but the worst of it came this week. While we were swimming at our health club, Now, I of course realize that there is going to be some natural curiosity amongst children. I’m sure we have all “played doctor”, but something about this just didn’t sit right. There’s just this heightened, anxious, excitement static that starts to get charged around them that I must be sensitive to. Maybe after your eyes have been opened to this – there is no shutting them. Hubster will tell you that often times when the children are awake, I am highly distracted because I am always keeping an ear out or trying to stay aware of what they are doing. But nothing could have prepared me for what was disclosed next.  And thus, now all three of my children have been exposed in ways that their innocent brains just can’t understand.

I’m angry. I’m soooooo angry. I promise not to let this anger consume me, but I do feel it is warranted. You know, screw validating my anger. I’M ANGRY. I’m disgusted. I loathe him. Nobody ever accused this man of being smart, but more than 3 people TOLD HIM SPECIFICALLY how to protect the children from this sort of thing and he just what – ignored them? Was it too much work to expect his supervision and guidance for 3 hrs one night a week and every other weekend at his brother’s house. More than that, I’m angry because HE has hurt them. It sucked to watch my now husband hold my son while he sobbed about how much he hates his father and how none of this would’ve ever happened to him if his Dad had protected him. He said all his Dad cared about was drinking.

I remember once writing  those exact same words. I remember feeling the pain as I wrote that he would always choose alcohol over his family. And the words I wrote after that, came back to haunt me as I listened to my son: “I just hope that my kids don’t ever come to this same realization.”

I just can’t shake this overwhelming thought/feeling that all of this is a consequence of my own poor decisions. Somewhere deep inside I knew, even at nineteen and naive, that I should have run screaming in the other direction when I met EX. I had been raised in church my whole life, I had a good father, my parents had a great marriage – I knew what a man was supposed to be and EX was not it. I yolked myself to him unequally and it was a heavy burden to bear. I know a lot of it has to do with my oldest son. He needed me. I made a lot of bad decisions for myself that ultimately made very good outcomes for him, but still I can’t shake it.

I regress. This isn’t about me – it’s about the kids and they need me. Now that I’ve taken the time to somewhat vent…I can focus.