Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Boys, Boys, Boys



Boys are complex, lemme tell you.  Tony, 17, Martin, almost 19, and CW, 16 have lived with me as long as they can remember, as this picture demonstrates.  They were then dressed as Teletubbies, wearing their one piece pjs. CW was born here, the other two since they were toddlers, this home is all they know.

JoJo, too was a toddler in my home, nowadays still climbing the walls and being JoJo.

Chuck panelled the hall several years ago, as there was simply no possible way to keep sheetrock-patching all the holes that had been kicked in due to temper dysregulation explosions.  This is just the way it is with angry, traumatized children, and with those who have some serious mental health issues.  Right now the 12 still living at home are not like that at all.  There's still some destruction, but that's just from the normal rambunctiousness of boys.

Tony and Martin are birth brothers, wrestling on the sofa, with Allen in the background eating a bowl of cereal ten minutes after I'd cleaned the kitchen up from supper.  No, he's eating a box of cereal, these are growing boys.  Someone is always sitting there eating.

I went an entire day without crying in my own cereal.  How's that for some necessary emotional self-regulation that I really need to demonstrate around here?  I also need to show that it's  OK to cry, that releasing one's pent-up emotions properly, via tears, is preferable to putting one's fist or foot through a wall.

Then we gotta move on.  Clean up the emotional messes that make kids act out, deal with it in therapy, work through the natural consequences that have occurred - you know the ones that Mom's spent years explaining.

Our church has come up with a solution for Sunday mornings and the high school boys of mine who suddenly had nowhere to go.  They came up with an excellent plan involving a man in the church I'd recently met - get this - who teaches special ed in another county and clearly won't be overwhelmed with my sons and their behaviors.  This man is also of mixed race, which makes him even more relatable to my sons as well, but before this all starts, the youth pastor made an even better suggestion as he gets to know my sons who are stonewalling him, not because they don't like him, but because in their minds he's gonna leave just like everyone else does.

This isn't his first at bat - he's done this before and hopefully is not turned off yet by my kids who can do an amazing job of over-protecting their hearts and emotions.  They appear, at face value, to be recalcitrant and unmovable.

A friend, Marianne, had correlated my thoughts on difficult children to her time as a scoutmaster, leaving me with words to think about all evening.  That the scouts didn't need those tough kids, but those tough kids needed the scouts.  Dang, that's so true.  The church doesn't need folks like us, but we sure do need the church.  You couldn't tell though by looking at us, what with defensive arm crossing, impassive faces, and blustering posture.  We are cartoon characters, so transparent are some of these behaviors.

I'd been texting the only man outside of our family that my kids do trust which is Michael, they do infinitely like some of the soccer coaches and fortunately some of them have been repeat coaches - knowing the Bodie boys will nearly guarantee winning on the field.  They trust our pastor Tony mainly due to his sense of humor, and that he's now been our pastor for ten years.  But overall my sons are very, very emotionally guarded.

And I kind of guard my sons, wanting to protect them from pain, knowing that their own self-regulation is less than ideal, I feel I'm often putting our pre-fires or explaining the English language to those who can't always wrap their minds about what's going on.  "Listen up guys," is always a prelude to another lesson around here.

"Good Night!" Michael had texted, assuming my cryptic blogging words had indicated a fight around here this weekend, surprised at the real deal.  Hey, he's earned our trust.  I brought in some other big guns also - two pastors, but my biggest sense of relief came from an older teen not involved in it all this weekend, reassuring me that he truly believed the culprit has learned a valuable lesson.  His assumption was based on that person's reactions.

A deputy in whom I'd confided told of a family member making a similar detrimental choice - this isn't just an adoption thing, it's a rite of passage seemingly that can also go terribly wrong, and very nearly did.

Since I'm already severely traumatized, it's gonna take me some time to shake it all off - so how much more so for that person?

"We have to learn from this, " I suggested, after crying for two days.  "We also have to move on."

What Dr. Mandy has emphasized for years is that I have to separate this, or any other negative behavior from my potential reactionary emotions.  I need to continue to express my love, however tempered with my disappointment, the primary emotion should as remain loving kindness.  Kids like mine might immediately misinterpret my resulting anger or disappointment.

I never blurt, "I'm gonna kill you!" in response to a situation in which other parents might use that phrase, their birth kids knowing it isn't literally true.  Indeed an ambulance driver the other night even used it, "My kids know I'd kill 'em over something like this."

Yes, their kids might comprehend the enormity of the anger, but wouldn't take the phrase literally.  I don't even allow my kids to use that phrase ever either in fun or in anger- it could be misinterpreted by law enforcement as a terroristic threat.

But all that suffices to say that my guilty one knows my love is unchanged.  My disappointment in them is shared by them.  This wasn't pretty.

My Pastor Tony had also made an offer, "Cindy, hear me out, I know you're gonna automatically push back," as he knows I have been supremely difficult to help, too prideful, but more to the point is that I've had to be on the hyper-vigilant, overly-guarded, super defensive position for so many years that the ability to graciously receive any offered help is enormously emotionally difficult for me, like my kids I throw  up huge walls of protection (from nothing), but it's now a learned response.

I did hear him out, chuckling at his on-target assessment of me, I did agree to accept what was offered.  That's progress in my world.  Usually I just smile and back away, always fearful, and paranoid after what all we've endured.  This kicked puppy demeanor I now posses isn't very attractive.