When I blogged yesterday that there is a sense of calm that has flooded through our home in the past forty-eight hours since John's exit, I thought perhaps it would be short lived. I was making at that time an intuitive assumption that his volatile presence had created at best an uneasy situation for our family system, but I had no tangible evidence. As with most human interactions, there is seldom scientifically verifiable data to confirm assumptions.
The fact is that today the calm continues. To be sure each of our children have their issues to deal with, and Tony still has outbursts, Salinda will still be a thirteen-year-old girl (fill in the blanks), and Dominyk will still be an ADHD-afflicted ten-year-old. The difference, though, is in the general atmosphere. John's directionless pacing (whether literal or metaphorical) and unpredictability have created an adverse environment, one that is noticeable only with his absence.
When Claudia blogs that she responded like a victim of domestic abuse (feeling sympathetic as a result of his expressions of perceived victimization), I think she speaks for the whole family. We have all bought the psychological lie that we have been somehow responsible for John's controlling, manipulative, stressful behavior. He has been able to instill in us the idea that if only we could somehow change (our family policies, or our parental direction, or his siblings actions) he would be fine. The bottom line is that someone who is sixteen years old, who has been given every opportunity available for five years and who has dominated the family system must make some choices of his own. His behavior and outlook have been reinforced by social services providers (who have in the past year or so begun to see what we were saying all along), the supposed child protection system (which has been most interested in protecting its own self) and other well-meaning, but misguided, people who think someone like John needs only "love."
Love he has had an abundance of, and of every possible kind. Unconditional love, yes. "Tough love," yes. Forgiving love, yes. Second-opportunity love, yes. Let's-try-it-again love, yes.
But the issue is not love. It is not commitment. It is not parental concern. The issue is squarely his. He must decide how he will live his life. He must decide whether to use violence and intimidation to get his way. We have hoped that he would have learned this in the past five years, as we and others have attempted to derail him from the corrections system. But he could not or would not listen. He has been unable to see his own self-interest in making appropriate choices.
And now the consequences are his. Troublingly they are ours, too, because this means that we will spend more time in court rooms and at social service agency tables to make case plans that may result in little change. If Claudia and I are not intentional it will mean that we still will spend more time (actively or inactively) focused upon John's concerns and issues, to the detriment of our children who deserve and need our presence in their lives now more than ever.
For today I am grateful for the calm that exists in our home. I grieve that John is where he is, miserable and angry. But for the rest of us, I am feeling freer than I have in months. To experience this corporate calm of the soul is a balm for the wounded psyche which I will not be eager to relinquish.