I’m sitting at my kitchen table, exhausted. And it’s only 11 a.m.
This was my morning—
I woke up with the beeping of the alarm clock, dreading to get out of bed. I wasn’t sure what my 8-year-old adopted son—who is battling the effects of trauma—would do today. But I could guess.
I went into his room to wake him up. He argued with me incessantly. He called me foul names. He told me he wished I was dead (this was all before I had any coffee…or had even brushed my teeth, to be frank). I stayed calm. When I walked out of the room, he threw a shoe at my head. It missed.
My husband was still home when I went into the kitchen to get breakfast ready.
He was running late for work. Before he left, he kissed me on the cheek and asked me to, “Please hold it together today.” He said, “I don’t know what’s going on with you anymore hon. He’s just a kid. We’ve talked about this.” I nodded and tried to hold back the tears. He doesn’t get it. My son doesn’t act the same way around him. He never sees it.
I watched as my husband drove off to work. I miss how we used to laugh together, how he used to look at me, how we were always on the same page. The tears I fought fell anyway. Ugh—the smirk on my son’s face when he sees my tear-streaked face still feels the same as getting the wind knocked out of me as a kid. My son didn’t let the opportunity pass this morning either.
Small victory afterward—I finally got Josh out of his bed and downstairs. Even though he threw his breakfast across the room and tried to hit me, he missed (two strikes this morning! I have to find some sort of humor…). I kept calm.
I somehow got my son into the car but had to hold his arm and guide him all the way from the kitchen table—I was holding very lightly.
This was truly the only way to get him out of the house. All was going well, until my neighbor walked outside to water her plants. That was when my son started screaming, “Ow, you’re hurting me. Please stop. Ow, mommy, ow.” He never calls me mommy without my husband, other family and friends, or strangers around. When it’s just he and I, he prefers the “B word”.
We were late to school again and it’s only the second week back from summer break. The receptionist looked at me with that look I get so often. The “here’s that crappy mom who can’t keep her kid under control” look. My hair was in a greasy ponytail. I was fully aware that I might have some remnants of breakfast somewhere on my person.
I got the late slip, my son glared at me, and walked to class. Just as I was leaving, the principal walked into the front office. I had almost made it free and clear. She asked me if I could please “visit with her a moment” in her office.
The principal and I had the same conversation we’ve had a million times.
“Jenn,” she sighed. “We’re already having the same issues with Josh. I’m asking that you get proactive this year. I understand that you’re overwhelmed and all but maybe it’d help if you took some parenting classes or spent more time with him…” That’s when I stopped paying attention.
All I could do was focus on trying not to cry or burst out in one of those creepy, uncontrollable laughs. I had just spent the entire summer break with him. Every. Single. Day. I took him to multiple therapy appointments, to the library, to the grocery store. I tried everything I could to break through to him—to show him how much I cared. The more I did, the worse it got.
I truly don’t know what I said to get out of the conversation with the principal a couple of hours ago. I don’t even care anymore. And here I sit, back in my kitchen (I cleaned up the eggs off the floor, on the cabinets, and out of my hair—yes there were a few little pieces left).
Tick. Tick. Tick. The clock is getting closer and closer to 3:14 when I have to pick Josh up again.
This afternoon will be more of the same—perhaps different people or places—but the same feelings. I feel overwhelmed, isolated, judged, sad, disappointed, and defeated. Everyday. I feel like I’m not the same person anymore. I used to feel positive and happy. I chatted with everyone. I used to make people laugh. Now I trudge out of bed.
I don’t always like my son. Quite honestly, there are times when I wonder if I love him. I can’t tell anyone so, of course. That would mean more judgment. But keeping it all in makes me feel so alone.
I have to keep going anyway. First of all, I have no other choice. I also keep going, however, because I’m the only hope my son has and I know it. I keep going because I do love him. I keep going because I made a commitment to him and have vowed, everyday, to keep it.
There’s really only one wish that I have anymore as a mom to this little boy.
I’ve let go of all those unrealistic dreams I had before adoption—happy family pictures, vacations, stress-free dinners together. I don’t expect him to love me or trust me. I understand all that he’s been through. I understand that his brain isn’t the same as other kids because of the horrible things he endured before we adopted him. I get it.
You’d think what I wish for now is rather simple, but it’s not. I just want the adults in our lives to believe me. This is not all in my head. I’m not overreacting. This isn’t my fault. I’m doing everything I can to get close to my son. I need help.
The one thing I want to hear is that they believe in me—just like they did before we adopted Josh. And I want them to really mean it. But at least I have a moment of quiet right now and my coffee. And for that, I’m grateful. I vow to recognize the good things, to keep going, and to hope for our future.
This post is a confessional fiction piece excerpted from the collective and authentic voices of parents we’ve worked with over the last 45 years here at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development.
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