It’s been a long time since I posted about our life parenting two kids with FAS and one with severe trauma. Honestly, I was simply wore out. I didn’t have the energy to write about it or even think too much about it. The day to day grind of it all was more than enough. Certainly, COVID didn’t help. It was absolutely exhausting.
It’s exhausting in so many ways, often times in ways that can be very hard to put words to. Some of the exhaustion is how few people can actually relate to what it is like to try to navigate parenting in this extreme environment. I don’t blame them, it’s very difficult to understand or relate if you haven’t experienced the things someone else has experienced. I don’t know anyone that has a child that is a flight risk at all times (many times for reasons that aren’t obvious), or a child that has made numerous death threats to other family members (how do you process that?), or a child that may simply prefer not to be part of this family.
The other challenging part we face is it isn’t easy to receive help. That may not make sense to most people that read this. We can’t simply get a babysitter for an hour or two. Often, we can’t even have family help us unless the situation is just right. We are so appreciative of all the help we do get, but the amount of effort that goes into planning and communicating is overwhelming. Not to mention watching and waiting for the text message or phone call to come that asks us to get home because something is up. I totally get why it is hard to understand why the stars must be aligned for things to go well. I know it’s also hard to understand why the kids don’t always enjoy normal kid activities and many times if things aren’t perfect or something changes unexpectedly things get off the rails immediately. I feel bad about this for those that help us. It probably doesn’t feel good and I’m sure is confusing.
I’m not a musical person, but I love music. That’s not totally accurate, I love lyrics. I’m sure I’m not alone in loving lyrics I can relate to. Lyrics that help to make sense of life and help you hold on to some hope that you are not alone in whatever you are feeling. I heard a song the other day that I’ve listened to hundreds of times before. But on this day, it spoke to me in a different way. I felt as if it was speaking about all the things my wife and I feel raising our three adopted, brain damaged, and traumatized kids.
I’ve loved the Counting Crows for what must be 25 years now. I love the lyrics that make up their songs. The song that spoke to me the other day is called “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”. The song is like one big metaphor for the life we as parents live with these challenging kids. I bet it will ring true for those in a similar situation and hopefully will help shed light on what it is like to raise challenging kids for everyone else.
“Well, I am an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame. I am an acrobat swinging trapezes through circles of flame”.
This parenting life is a tightrope. One that I have not walked in any other part of my life. You end up humbled most days by just how little you know. How important the brain is and how so much of who we are develops before we can even talk. Sadly, there is no fortune and fame to be found in this life. All there are is small wins that most wouldn’t recognize as wins at all. These tiny wins are so hard to hold onto. Many days feel like we are doing something extremely dangerous, we are holding on for dear life, and there is no safety net. You can’t train for this experience.
“If you’ve never stared off in the distance, then your life is a shame
And though I’ll never forget your face,
sometimes I can’t remember my name”.
Personally, I have to be very careful not to stare off I to the distance. I can’t give too much thought to the reality of the situation, the near future, the long-term future, what could have been or what should have been. Those are dangerous thoughts. Sometimes when tough days stack up on one another it is hard to remember what normal is. Sometimes it can be hard to remember who I am without the stress in my life. The effort never stops.
“And there is always one last light to turn out and one last bell to ring; And the last one out of the circus has to lock up everything; Or the elephants will get out and forget to remember what you said“.
These lines sum of nicely how dialed in you have to be as a parent to these kids – at all times! If you let your guard down all hell is bound to break loose. Plan for the worst and pray for something better than that. Yes, you pray for it, you don’t expect something better because you will be let down. It takes a long time to break a parent of that hope. The hope that your child will make a better choice next time or the time after that. Those are hard realizations that I think most parents don’t have to experience. You can read about some of those experiences in my past posts (I’ll link them below). I could write several more blog posts about crazy things that have happened just since we moved into a new house several months ago. We’ve made a million mistakes and try our best to learn from them all.
Our new house has more space. We were in desperate need of more space. We needed bedrooms and we needed bathrooms. We needed more space! We were very fortunate to find a house and location that fits us very well. Nothing is perfect though and we found we still didn’t get it totally right. We ended up changing around bedrooms once already to keep the peace. Every time we think we have something figured out we are brought back to reality very quickly. I think sometimes we think age (11, almost 11 and 9) will make things easier. It doesn’t. And unfortunately, I think it will continue to make it harder.
Speaking of locking the doors, we lock everything. We have locked all kinds of things. Doors, cabinets, our freezer and on and on. We lock up cabinets that we keep food in. We lock up access to certain bedrooms, my office and the basement. The basement is an important one because if we don’t thing go missing really fast and you are bound to find a kid down there watching TV all night. There isn’t much in our house that doesn’t require a password. Sometimes it can feel like a prison, but it keeps things under control and is an easy trade off considering what the alternative looks like.
All the razor perceptions that cut just a little too deep
Hey I can bleed as well as anyone, but I need someone to help me sleep.
I’m all over the place on the lines above. Those razor perceptions or judgements that go along with raising any kids, but especially challenging kids is an interesting space to live in. My personality generally lends itself to not caring about anyone’s opinions. Sometimes though it gets to me and I want to sit people down and explain everything we live with. Give me several hours to bend your ear before suggesting things seem to be getting better or we should try this or that. I understand that comments and suggestions are well intended, but they miss the mark every single time.
“So I throw my hand into the air and it swims in the beams; It’s just a brief interruption of the swirling dust sparkle jet stream; Well, I know I don’t know you and you’re probably not what you seem”.
We carry sadness of realizing we will never really know who our kids were supposed to be. They were taken from us before they were born, never to return. We will do everything we can to help them live their best lives, but these lives aren’t what they should have been. They shouldn’t be this hard. They deserved better.
“When the last king of Hollywood shatters his glass on the floor; And orders another. well, I wonder what he did that for“.
I think my wife and I feel these lines most often. The “is this real” moment. These lines represent the uncertainty we live with every day. The 0-100 escalations in a blink of an eye. The unusual and unpredictable behavior. The stories we could tell. The sadness we’ve felt. It can be a lot.
That’s when I know that I have to get out cause; I have been there before”.
These two lines are exactly who my wife and I are not. We won’t get out, we don’t want to get out, but we most certainly have been here many times before and will be here many times again. We will continue to show up. We will continue to mess this up. We will pick ourselves up. There is no other way. We will be better than yesterday!
You can see a million miles tonight
But you can’t get very far
These two lines are really sad. I think parents with challenging kids face these thoughts. Knowing the whole world is out there to explore, but you can’t leave the house (sometimes even for simple things). Knowing what they will never be able to do or experience. Knowing you will never have that full relationship with them. It’s especially hard when you have neurotypical kids and you see all the promise, the complete lack of any limitations on them.
You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast
I went through the song as it was written, except for the line above. This line is near the beginning, but I want to use it to close. It explains very well what really good parents of these challenging kids do. Good parents are those that try, those that do not give up even with the odds are against you. They are the ones that realize that they have to move with their kids. They realize they need to meet them where they are today and that tomorrow they probably aren’t in that same place. It’s not easy, sometimes they are hard to find. Sometimes they don’t want to be found. There are many potholes, traffic jams and accidents along the way, but you keep moving. You have to find what works and more importantly in this world find what doesn’t. You have to accommodate as best you can, but more than anything you have to keep moving. Isn’t that what life is all about anyway?