Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The burden of integrity

Yesterday I wrote about how Susan Social Worker lied to us (and probably to herself) about C-son's situation.  I've been hearing a lot of professional lies lately.

Late in July, after C-son threw hammers at the house and punched a glass door, I listened to the police explain to him that he wasn't in trouble; they just had to put him in handcuffs and take him away from our home.  But, of course, he was in trouble.

Last week, I got to hear C-son's new therapist explain to him the reasons for moving him to a group home.  "It's not because you did something bad", she said; "it's because when you're in a family you have feelings that you're unsafe.  And we want you to feel safe," she said.  But, of course, cursing and punching and breaking things is something bad, and that is why our family finally said he had to move out and not come back.

Integrity matters a lot to me.  It bothers me to hear people lying to this kid, telling him that he's done nothing wrong.  It's not that I want him to feel miserable, but I can't believe he doesn't understand that his actions have consequences.  Why not help this kid connect the dots?  Why not say,
"These bad things you did might not be what you wanted them to be, but because of them your life has changed"?

Integrity matters a lot to me.  So it matters a lot to me that these are the words I said to C-son back in May, and it matters to me that I've said them to him over and over and over again since then:
I've taken to reminding him that it's my job now to love him forever and ever. That when he's happy and being good and the world is going his way, I'm going to love him and take care of him. But when he's feeling terrible and misbehaving and things are awful . . . then, then I'm going to love him and take care of him. No matter what, that's my job.
Sort of hard to reconcile those words with sending him away, isn't it?

We can't take him back.  Even if K-daughter didn't have panic attacks at the thought of having him back in the house (and she does), and even if my husband weren't hyper protective of the other kids (and he is), I've realized over the past three weeks just how much C-son had taken over my life.  When he was here, I couldn't leave him alone in the house; I couldn't discipline the kids without expecting a huge blowup; my tools and phone chargers and a dozen other little things disappeared into the corners of his bedroom; life was constant stress.  The place he'll live is several hours from our home, and I'm relieved beyond description at the distance we'll have between us.

So how do I reconcile the me of May and the me of August?  Here's what I'm telling him now.  I'm saying, "I promised to love you and take care of you.  I still love you, but I can't take care of you the way you need to be taken care of.  So I'm making sure that you're in a place where you can get the care you need."   I've told him we want to stay part of his life, that we'll visit him four times a year. 

Lie number 1.  I have no idea whether the group home will really be the best place for him -- whether that's where he'll get the care he needs.  

Lie number 2.  Although we really will try to visit him, I am not doing it because I love him and miss him.  This is far more involved than I want to be with this kid now; having been burned badly I'd like to shy away completely from him.  But I can't bring myself to turn my back on the words that came out of my own mouth.  And I don't want to be Mom Number 21 (or whatever number it is) who has entered his life and disappeared without a trace.  

So I'm trying to do some small version of "right" by this kid, telling my own version of the professional lie, joining the Liars' Club.  

And there's an irony about all this that's not lost on me.  Lots of people have told me that I've done the best I could; that's sort of like saying I didn't do anything wrong.  I don't know whether that's the truth, I really don't.   But I do know this:
These things I did might not be what I wanted them to be, but because of them my life has changed.  
And I'm okay with that.


  1. You still are awesome in my book. Can anything prepare a mother for what you went through? I think you took care of him with as much grace and dignity as I've ever seen. Even a flesh and blood child can be more than a parent can handle and he/she has to be removed from the home for the sake of the other children. You gambled on someone else's child and lost. That doesn't make you a bad person, it was a bad situation where you didn't have the correct facts with which to make a decision. I'm going to believe that you made a difference in his life that won't be seen immediately, but in the end, perhaps after this life, he'll thank you for what you did for him.

    1. I have to keep telling myself, "He's a kid; I'm a grown-up. I need to stay in charge." I think it looks awesome from the outside, but from where I see it, I'm just putting one foot in front of the other, same as everybody else. Thanks (again and again) for the encouragement. Much needed! -MM

  2. Dear Annalisa,

    This is a sad story, for all involved, but especially for the kid, and it is a pity that Susan Social Worker couldn't do the simple math : we all know that the solution can't come out from an equation where some parameters have been hidden... The real equation looks bad, I have to admit, when all facts are provided.

    "Dans le verbe aimer, il y a le verbe vouloir aimer et je le crois plus fort". This was among one of the very first thing my husband-to-be told me when we met. Sometimes love doesn't come easy or naturally, but compassion, or duty, or in your case integrity, keeps us acting in love. Though this amount and quality of love seems derisory compared to what would be needed or has been promised, it is so much more than zero.

    You and your family sure have made a difference.


    1. "There's the word 'love', and in it is 'wanting to love', which is stronger". Yes, I think often that love isn't just some mushy feeling; it's an action and a verb. Don't worry if you feel it; just do it. Sounds like you have a wonderful husband. --MM