I haven’t talked a whole lot in recent weeks about our struggles with our “attachment challenged” children. S is still doing really great even though there are signs all around of teenage angst. I can handle it. Really. Teenagers don’t scare me. At least not because they are “teenagers.” Tim and I pledged when ours were babies to have a consistent and involved relationship with our kids through the years so that they wouldn’t be difficult teenagers. With our two bio kids there were certainly times, with my son more than daughter, that we struggled with testing the boundaries and letting go of control. Normal stuff. With S she has worked through so much and is a changed kid. She has blossomed. It was a seriously long road with many pot holes but she is God’s daughter and worth every moment I invested.
M seems to be a story whose attachment ending may not be completed any time soon. He had done well for a few weeks. Probably the most consistent he has ever been. We got through his brother’s graduation and sister’s wedding relatively unscathed. Lots of anxiety before and after but we coped. Something seemed to have happened this past weekend that flipped the switch for him. From the emptiness in his eyes to the slumped shoulders and “orphan” mentality, he is different.
One conversation that tipped me off to the change happened on the way to the dentist. M began a conversation with S about whether it would be more painful to die in a fire or by freezing to death. Yes, that would be my mother that froze to death last Christmas Eve outside her assisted living facility. To choose that topic of conversation so close to the anniversary of her death hurt me immensely. He then continued the conversation with the dental assistant. Totally inappropriate. My reaction? I merely told him it was cruel and insensitive. Regardless of why he did it (whether to purposefully hurt me or because he’s sad and processing) it was still wrong.
When probed to understand his about face he said he didn’t “deserve” the good stuff. Apparently the closer he is to me the more he feels shame about his past and the baggage he still carries around. So he pushes me away in order to avoid facing and letting go of all those things that weigh him down. Maybe the source of all this is fear of what normal looks and feels like.
I have been trying to help M confront the lies that he believes about himself. He told me again today that “just because I have a feeling it doesn’t mean I’m believing a lie.” Considering 90 percent of those thoughts are negative, yes he is believing lies. The challenge is in first recognizing the lie, then confronting it and implementing change. Easier identified than done.
Case in point. I made breadsticks to go along with “fend for yourself night” and M had his breadsticks and was waiting for his soup to warm. His dad asked him to bring him two pieces of bread. M promptly went to the refrigerator, got out the sandwich bread, took out two pieces (all while next to the yummy bread sticks lying on the counter) and brought it to his dad. Tim asked him to look at all of our plates and then at the one M had brought him and tell him what was different. We all had breadsticks. Except his dad. And M couldn’t find “what was wrong with this picture.” Playing dumb? I think so. Which throws me back into PTSD and his older bio sister. The difference tonight was, as our therapist put it today in our session, “mom can just turn you off.” And I can. I didn’t get mad. Tim didn’t get mad. I sent him to his room to eat and informed him I knew the playing dumb game and it was a bad choice. Truth is it infuriates me because he takes all the progress he’s made and flushes it. It is old, undesirable behavior that reflects a wounded heart. Hopefully it’s just a bump in the road and tomorrow will be different. I will always hope. We’ve been through too much and seen that their lives CAN be different. Here’s hoping I can resist the lure to get sucked down into the pit with him.