I don't particularly love doing serious posts. They're not as fun to read, I'd have to think, and sometimes they let a little too much light into the darker part of our souls. It's not easy to share that, but sometimes I feel like these posts have to be written before things eat me alive from the inside out. If I write it here, somehow it's just easier to either let it go or at least move forward.
In the past few days I have encountered a couple pieces of writing that have taken me back a couple years to our hardest time as parents, and have also given me a glimpse of the future that I fear most, one that I hope and pray never becomes our reality.
I read a blog post on the site Scary Mommy the other day that was an anonymous mom account of the time she called a psychiatric unit for her daughter. She agonized about it, but in desperation called and gave them the information they needed to start the process. However, when they called back to make arrangements, the mom didn't answer. She decided she couldn't send her daughter away, but would find every other possible way to help her. She didn't go into details about what prompted the call, though she did admit to the person on the phone that her daughter had talked about not wanting to be alive anymore. The comments on the blog post ranged from people saying that she needs to get her daughter help and that the same treatment saved their lives, or that lack of action in a similar situation led to a tragedy in their own lives. And yet, some others said that the hospital was the worst place they ever went and that regular counseling is better in the long run. Either way, the post and the comments were heartbreaking.
I was drawn into the post because there was a time where I felt like calling a psych unit for Jacob. In the midst of his worst behavior two years ago, after holding him down, dodging punches, and watching meltdown after meltdown, I wasn't sure what else to do. I felt like I couldn't live under those circumstances any longer. I felt like I couldn't be the mom he needed me to be, so maybe someone else needed to step in. In the end we tried therapy and a few evaluations, and eventually things just calmed down, seemingly on their own. Maybe it was the gluten, maybe it was Carter and Kindergarten coming to a head, or maybe he just grew up a bit. We still have our issues and still need to find a therapist that works for all of us (more on that in a bit), but things are livable now and I thank God I never had to make that call.
Over the weekend there was a story in our local paper about a 12-year-old girl who took her own life over the summer. I actually remember randomly seeing her obituary, as it caught my eye with the picture of a beautiful young girl. Intrigued, I searched around online a bit to see if she had been sick or had some sort of story, and after a few clues it became apparent that her death was self-inflicted, presumably a victim of bullying. This weekend's news story filled in the blanks, and what a tragic story it was. She had clearly been bullied, though not with the same visibility of some kids. Her parents had inquired with the school and apparently there wasn't much for the school to go on. Eventually she became more introverted and one day had an epic meltdown about having to take her brother to the pool. She argued with her mom, and when her mom came to check on her five minutes later, she had used her pajama pants to hang herself in her room. At the time she had just rendered herself unconscious, but she died a week later. It was completely unexpected and far more extreme than what would have been expected for the circumstances. As a parent, a story like that completely haunts you. You never think something like that could happen, particularly so quickly and without adequate warning. It has been on my mind ever since.
As those two stories co-mingle in my mind, and as I watch my eldest child go through life, I worry. I'd probably worry anyway, but with a kid like Jacob, I worry even more. He does have a happy-go-lucky side that comes out sometimes, but now that I see how Carter puts it out there 95% of the time, it's clear to me that Jacob has always been...different. Even at Carter's age there was always something we couldn't put our finger on. He was challenging, exhausting, particular, and not as excited about life as most kids. I mean, don't get me wrong--he had plenty of happy moments and times where he was excited, but he didn't exude daily joy quite like I see it in Carter, now that I have some means to compare. He was so serious about sports, so intent on how he played, and very opinionated on so many things that most kids just take for granted. I know I didn't enjoy parenting him at the age Carter is at now, whereas most of the time Carter is such a joy to parent. The cute moments outweigh the bad by a ton. I don't find myself wishing stages away like I did with Jacob. I was so eager to get out of the "terrible twos" or the torture that was the threes because I kept hoping the next age brought with it some relief. Heck, that was one of the big reasons we put off trying for a second child for an extra year--I just couldn't imagine having the bandwidth for another at that point.
His behavior at age five was downright scary, and it opened my eyes to how bad things could get in the future as he got bigger, stronger, and more hormonally charged. Even the most normal, logical kid gets a little loopy during adolescence, and I still worry about how any remaining demons might play into that a few years down the road. Clearly I hope to cut them off at the pass, but both of those stories were cautionary tales for me about how important it is to be vigilant and help Jacob understand himself so he can manage the hard moments and not do anything rash.
We still need to find a better therapy option because the ones we've tried haven't really resonated with him. They were both middle-aged women, and I'd love to see how he'd respond to a man who might be able to use sports and guy stuff to relate to him. We also need some family therapy so we can all co-exist more peacefully than we do now. He still doesn't think that we should be able to tell him what to do. All he sees is what he wants to do, and anything we tell him is apparently a mere suggestion, no matter how forceful or no matter how many times he's lost the same battle in the past. It's almost like he needs some neutral third party to convince him that we really are the bosses, because clearly anyone who's told him that before is just saying that to annoy him. He's convinced no one else's parents punish them! Despite my recent efforts to not lose my temper with him, he still
doesn't particularly like me around or think that I treat him fairly.
It breaks my heart that I can't connect with him. He's also still so angry about Carter--he doesn't want him around and he practically has an anxiety attack (no joke) when Carter comes in his room. He frequently says he wants to move out. At school he seems to have friends (so many kids say hi when we're there for events!), but then he'll tell us he doesn't have any. So either he's trying to get attention, or for some reason he still feels isolated despite the company of numerous friends. He also seems easily swayed by kids that have some interesting ideas about what is "fun", and we're constantly reminding him that just because someone else is doing it, it doesn't make it okay. He needs to think for himself and decide what the right thing is to do, not just go along with the crowd.
We need to talk through this stuff and find a way to manage these issues so he knows that we want to support him and so he's equipped to manage his choices as emotions as he gets older. He doesn't want to listen to us most of the time, so maybe he will listen to someone else completely unconnected to us, and realize we're all saying the same thing so it must be right! These stories were a grim reminder of how things can go terribly wrong if they're not dealt with properly, and I pray we can figure out how to help Jacob through his challenges before they become too big for any of us. Life is hard enough, and while you learn so much working your way through the problems, I want him to know he's not going to be doing it without a great support system. We love you, Jacob. Just give us a little trust and we'll give you all we have.