Never thought as a mom I would have to be doing this!!
Today I sent a photo and dental information to the sheriff's department so that they can keep a file for my dwarf that has run away. This information will come in handy should they find him in a ditch someplace on the side of the road and he is unable to identify himself. Good to know, right!?!
Bashful ran away on March 10, 2020. He has been gone for almost an entire month, and has had only one direct communication with any of us, and that was the Prince. Bashful sent a text to the Prince to see how he was doing the weekend after he ran away. Any other communication he sends through a brother.
Bashful, the youngest of the dwarfs has had a very complicated and troubled life. Mostly, at his own hand because he is unwilling or unable to make good choices. I will conceded, not necessarily all his fault, but he is however, slow in owning his choices in life. Yes, he has bad genetics, is predisposed to mental illness, has low cognitive functioning, is on the spectrum, and suffers from FAS, RAD, ODD, and a host of others uniqueness, all of which have made him basically a ticking time bomb.
The last two years of his life (he will be 18 in July) his "ticking" has increased. We as his parents have been aware of this and have been working at intentionally trying to bring him back around to his ownership of the situations that he finds himself in. His go to is always blame others, blame us, make excuses and create diversions about why he did what he did. We have invested hours of time during and after incidents in attempts to walk him through how the situation could have gone differently and how initial decisions could have changed the entire outcome.
We have, with the help of therapists given him tools for navigating when he feels angry, threatened, frustrated, happy, sad etc. However, even through therapy, medications and piles of grace and kindness (which often times was not easy on our part) he just did not put into place the things that were needed for him to be successful. On the occasion that did make a small change, which we would acknowledge, it was a once and done situation and almost immediately he was back into his old habits and patterns. His refusal to take instruction from anyone also impedes his ability to be successful.
We have said, that he follows that path of least resistance. On this path he has told himself he is not worthy, that he has no value, that we do not love him, or even like him for that matter, and similar to his brother, feels that this whole adoption thing was a huge mistake. He was supposed to be adopted by someone wealthy and potentially famous. Not by "Jesus loving freaks" like us, that provided him with all he needed and then some, kept his sibling unit together, and that tried to instill a work ethic, common kindness, and good character traits into the make up of who he would become.
We have lived a life of chaos with him, walking on egg shells around him as he struggled with depression, anxiety, and an extra large dose of laziness, in addition to all of the issues related to the above conditions that I mentioned. He has spent 18 months in group therapy home with others who have similar struggles, in the 5th grade going forward, but was released without graduating because he was causing others in that group to regress. Even in the simple day to day things, like doing chores, cleaning up after himself, hygiene and self care issues, there was a constant lack of compliance on his part.
In the past year I mostly stopped making conversation with him. I never approached him about anything that he needed to do. If he did not brush his teeth (and he refused) I schedule dental cleanings in between the scheduled check ups in an effort to help preserve the gums and teeth that the had. If he did not do chores, take his medications, or clean up after himself, I told the Prince and the Prince would follow up with him.
It is hard to understand from the outside what it looks like to parent such a child. How can I express what it is like not to have the basic freedoms of conversations with a child, the lack of being able to find joy of spending time together, because just one thing (and it is and was never the same thing) can set the dwarf off. Poisoning the moment, the event, the holiday or just your average Thursday commute home from school.
Likewise, it is hard to put to words how it affects your relationship with your spouse, other children in the home, and your personal ability to live a life where you are not a prisoner in your own home. Simple things like going to work, running errands, going to church, going to dinner with friends, or taking a trip become complicated maneuvers based on who is home, what needs to be locked up and or taken with you when you depart, how long you will be gone etc.
Perhaps I can list the things in the last month that I have not had to do, that had become part of my normal everyday life.
I do not have to worry if my greeting in the morning or at afternoon carpool pick up would be responded to with a grunt or an F-you.
I no longer have to lock up all electronics, keys, money, medications or food in my bedroom when I leave the house, to ensure it will be there when I return.
I do not have to work hard, in my own home, to stay out of his path. The only time he would be socially appropriate and approach me, is when he wanted something from me; money, a gift or a ride. He also could never understand why I would often times say no, or ask your father.
I no longer have to "plug in" to work, in an attempt to ignore him, while he verbally abuses me when he was upset about something that I said or did or something he perceived that I said or did.
I do not have to get in my car and leave my home for hours until his ranting ends, or it is safe for me to return home because the Prince is home. (He never behaved as poorly when the Prince was around.)
I no longer have to field calls from the school regarding his bad behaviors, suspensions, expulsions and failing grades.
I do not have to call the sheriffs to my house to restore order because I made the mistake of asking the dwarf to complete a chore the correct way.
I no longer have to worry about him sneaking on to the internet and social media sites without permission and being completely inappropriate. (sending graphic text and photo messages)
I do not have to be responsible for making him brush his teeth, take his meds, or attempt to correct his poor behavior and attitudes towards others on a daily basis.
I no longer have to take him to therapies and doctors visits, dental visits or to work, where appreciation was very little, and often times was just a hostile experience for all involved.
I do not have to worry about him threatening and bullying his brother or other siblings when I am not home.
I no longer have to listen to all his lies and feel that somewhere I failed him, because he was unable to speak truth or show good moral character traits.
I do not have to check his back pack upon his return from school each day and every time he would come in from being at a friends.
I no longer have to do random bedroom checks for contraband such as drugs, lighters, and electronics.
I do not have to worry about how to juggle services for his future to ensure his success. Setting up school meetings, IEP sessions, planning for intensive services, funding for services, and job placement for after graduation.
I no longer have to worry about waiting until everyone is asleep to go to bed myself when the Prince is not home. An attempt to prevent sneaking out at night.
I do not have to lock myself in my room, only to listen to him pounding on the door, the sliders or the windows in an effort to get my attention.
I no longer have to keep track of and juggle different sets of keys for all the spaces in our house that we had to lock up. Siblings bedrooms, guest rooms, pantries etc.
I do not have the feeling that I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It was not until the shock wore off, and the dust settled from this last incident, that I realized I am 218 pounds lighter and feel almost normal again.
His running away was proceeded by being removed from his high school for drug possession, starting at the alternative school, loosing his job, (even though the Prince and I checked in frequently with management to make sure he was doing well) getting suspended from the alternative school, and breaking and entering into our master bedroom and stealing electronics while I was at work and the Prince was out of town on business.
When something that you have lived with for a long time, that has become normal to you, is removed from you, the relief that you feel is indescribable and somewhat unsettling.
I won't lie. I have been enjoying my home and my children and my spouse more. I now have free time, since the hours each day that were spent in the above activities have ceased. Everyone that is at home, wants to be there and has mutual respect and love for one another and enjoys being in each others company. No longer are we on edge wondering if or when said dwarf is going to present with an issue, or refuse to do something, or randomly go off like a loose cannon.
There is peace in our home. There has not been peace in our home for so many years.
Understand, none of this is to say that we as his parents have not been diligent. That we are not concerned about where he is and what he is doing. Of course we are. However, the choice was his. We did not kick him out, we did not give him an ultimatum to change or leave. As a matter of fact the night that he left, I begged him to come back in the house and sit and talk things out. He refused stating it was his time, "to get the hell out of here".
We have contacted the authorities (hence their follow up paperwork requesting dental information and DNA) and reported him a run away. We have informed the schools. We have an attorney so that we can be assured that we are doing the best that we can can protect ourselves and his brother Happy of whom we have legal guardianship of, should Bashful re-appear in our lives out of the blue. There are 95 days until he turns 18, and a lot can happen in the next 95 days.
Our hearts are sick in many regards. Regardless of how you become a parent, never do you enter into parenthood thinking that any of your children will turn away from unconditional love, grace and the creature comforts of a home, and make the conscious decision to be a run-a-way. It is hard for me not to think back to the early days of his time with us. His smile, his joy at having a dog, and a dad. There are times when it is hard not to doubt, or accuse myself of not seeing a sign or doing the right things as he grew that may have prevented this from happening. When those moments come I refuse to camp out there! Instead I remember this little guy, and the joy that he was when we first met him.
There is a brokenness in this dwarf that goes beyond what society or our culture says can be overcome with love, compassion, consistency, and structure. Because if those were the fixes, we had them in spades.
No, we were not the perfect parents. No, we did not have all the answers. When we started this journey of parenting special needs kids, we were told they special needs because they were a sibling unit, not so much because of all their diagnoses, which were not ever registered for some of the younger ones, Bashful included. I am sure there were missteps along the path.
I can stand before the Lord, knowing that what He called me to do, be the momma to Bashful, I did with gusto and abandon. I threw all I had into being his momma. I have been his biggest advocate, his cheerleader, his cook, his dry cleaner, his tutor, his chauffer, his ATM, his sounding board... but in the end, to him, in this current time, none of that has mattered.
Over the years his treatment of me could have broken my spirit, or made me not care, but instead it helped me work out in advance of his running away, that as with all my adopted kids, I am just the middle of their story. I was not there in the beginning of their lives, and I may not be there in the end of their lives, but for the season in the middle where they needed to be loved unconditionally, nurtured, advocated for and kept safe, I filled that gap.
When push comes to shove deflection, excuses and depression are the means by which they deal with whom they are. Often times an unhinged reality pushes them to act or do things that because of their brains' limitations, seem like a good idea in the moment, but in the end rarely work out in anyway except poorly.
Relationships are fleeting and only are for that moment in time in which you can serve them. Aside from the times when they are manipulating you to get something from you, you are disposable to them. If they are forced to see you, live with you and interact with you on a regular basis (family/school ect) and they deem you not important in that moment, they are aggressive, disagreeable, and nasty, in the hopes of increasing the distance between you and them.
If they can manage to make you angry enough, they can convince themselves that you have stopped loving them, or they can force you to ignore them, then you reaffirm in their minds that they are unwanted, unworthy, and unloved. The cycle is vicious. It is painful and it leaves you repeatedly scratching you head in wonder.
There is also NO ability to speak to them with common sense examples, or to motivate them to do better in the moment or even plan to do better for the long term goals, because of their untethered reality. Many of the phrases that Bashful has repeated in regards to his poor choices and actions, and his future plans have included but are not limited to:
"I don't act like this with my friends." When pushed back and asked about friends, he can't give names or details about any friend, because typically he is a loner. Logically I would also assume that he has treated many people poorly over the years. He was not social on the regular, including having people over or doing things that other typical teens engage in.
"When I am on my own, I will do my own ____ ." (fill in the blank dishes/laundry/etc) When pushed back regarding why wait to start doing those things, the answer is always, "You just don't understand, why would I waste time doing them now?" Gee I don't know, maybe because you create good habits by doing daily activities repetitively...
"This year I am going to do great at school." We diligently set up binders and solutions for him to keep his work straight, and in a week or two, everything is trashed. No ability to organize thought or objects, much less lessons and facts, and so starts the trend of failing grades again. Also, no desire for self advocacy.
"This year I am going to play (insert sport of your choice)." When it is time for practices, he is too tired, he forgets to get the physical paperwork, or has failing grades by that time and can't play according to policy. When given the chance (because we paid recreation league fees) he made excuses including but not limited to rotator cuff surgery at the age of 15, for the reason that he could not get the ball infield far enough. When provided with glasses to help correct his vision issues and hit the ball with the bat, refused to wear them.
"I'm going to work and save money for a _____." ( fill in the blank new shoes/car ) And when he lived with us and we controlled his funds, he was trending in that direction. However, he never stayed on a budget, always over spending his allotted spending money for the week. He also could not understand the concept of going without for the benefit of the greater good, and after her ran away and was "on his own" blew through $1,700 in less than a week.
I am learning in this process that mental illness is not only a far reaching and painful disease for the one that suffers, but even more so for those that love the one that suffers.
I, of course, am not a professional, however, my observation is that the one that has the disability tends to be either unaware, or in denial about their uniquenesses. Is this self preservation? Is this pride? Is it just that mentally they are unable to process ?
This makes life for all very difficult. I keep thinking that life should not have to be this difficult for this dwarf (or his siblings). At some point we all have things in our life that we must take ownership of and either determine this is who I am, or nope, I am going to make some changes. Bashful is not there yet, and may never be.
Again, our hearts hurt for him. For the things and people that he walked away from. For the choices that he is making. My only solace is that through this all, none of this is a surprise to the Lord. He loves Bashful more than we do.
Mental health issues are real, they are overwhelming at all levels. It is our prayer that Bashful finds those things that he thinks he was missing here in our home, that he is safe, and that he will be able to someday mature, find his motivation, and become the man, that the Lord has protected and safe guarded since birth.
You Can't Make this Stuff Up...