What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by an anonymous reader.
Our sweet, sensitive, brave boys came to us from the foster care system. D was only six weeks old, with coffee brown skin and soft black hair. He slept through the night fairly soon thereafter and was a content and curious baby. An old soul. C was 13 months old when we brought him. He was just teething, but he was an exuberant, good-humored baby almost every minute he was awake. A real joy.
I describe them this way because this is the way the world saw them, I suppose, and because this is also very much how they were. But they also came with histories. Their time in utero was spent homeless and hungry and unwanted. When D was born, his tiny, premature body full of cocaine, he was left alone in the NICU when his birth mom was discharged. When he was returned to her weeks later in a drug rehab program she had checked into, he was shouted at when he cried, denied a bottle when he was hungry, handled roughly and left in dirty diapers. These are the accounts of the other women in the rehab facility that eventually led to his removal from his birthmother’s custody.
C was born with multiple medical issues and he underwent three heart surgeries before the age of three. He spent most of the first year of life in and out of hospital beds and at appointments with all kinds of specialists. His mother voluntarily surrendered her rights and his father continued to visit him intermittently.
Today, I have two seemingly healthy, active, very smart boys. I am so proud of who they are and what they’ve already accomplished. The older one attends a reputable private school and the younger one will likely start there next fall. What I want you to know is that I love them deeply and unconditionally, but they are extremely scarred by their pasts. That time in utero, their deliveries, their first weeks and months of life were tumultuous and impossible for most of us to understand.
Our older son still tantrums and it is exhausting for all of us. He is prone to throwing and breaking and lashing out at us. This boy who has a vocabulary far beyond his years and writes plays just for fun, once peed on the classroom floor because he didn’t want to participate in an activity. This boy who potty trained himself (really!) at 2 years old and rode a 2 wheel bicycle at age three, cannot tolerate having a substitute teacher for a day and will run away from him or her.
Our younger son never learned to nap. He never had a consistent schedule as an infant; he was poked and prodded while he tried to rest in a hospital bed, and every time they “put him to sleep” for a surgery he woke up in pain and connected to too many machines. At three, he knows his letters, numbers, and loves to spell his name, but he cannot take a simple nap.
What I want people to know when they see my kids struggling is that they are not doing it for attention. They do not really want to misbehave. They are not trying to make things more difficult for anyone. And I am not weak because I won’t put them in a time out if they break a rule or punish them if they don’t sleep. They already understand fear and rejection. It’s my job to use words carefully and lovingly, and to teach them to do the same. Therapy has done wonders for our family so far. So have compassionate, thoughtful teachers. We need as much support as we can get, and our children deserve that.