Friday, July 27, 2007

Playing Favorites

Once again I am in a quandary. Claudia received a text message this morning from one our kids at home that Mike is no longer in jail. "How do you know that?" she asked. "Because he knocked on my window in the night and asked me to let him in," was the response. Fortunately, Mike listened to our nineteen-year-old's response that he could not stay in our house. I feel some responsibility for the occurrence, since I mailed Mike a letter before we went (assuming he would continue to be in jail for some time) telling him that I wouldn't be able to visit him in jail this weekend because Claudia and I would be out of town. So, I am torn. I felt I did the right thing by wriitng to him while he was in jail, but I'm irritated that I did. Perhaps if I had not written he wouldn't have shown up in the middle of the night knocking on his sibling's window when he knew we were out of town. But who knows? He could have done the same thing with us sleeping in our own beds, too. When you've got a kid with FASD, you just never know.

Every time Mike is out it makes me wonder what we should do. From the beginning part of our reason in adopting older kids was so that they would have some kind of safety net after they turned eighteen and became legally "adults." Our older two sons have been able to handle that beautifully, following our family guidelines and as a result reaping the benefits of support from parents after their eighteenth birthdays. They have not stolen from us, they have not broken the law, they have not terrorized their siblings, they have not threatened to kill us, they have not kicked holes in doors, punched their way through closets or used a baseball bat to destroy windows while threatening to "fucking kill" us.

But what do you do when you've got an "adult" child who is on the streets, who begs to come home, but based on years of history you know it will be the same thing all over. It will be one or two days of relative calm and appreciation for a place to sleep, food to eat and safe people to talk with, and then he will be gone one, two or more days without any word whatsoever until he shows up in the middle of the night to ransack our home or collapse exhausted from running and drugging into the nearest couch in our home he can find.

It pains me. Because there are not any good alternatives. We cannot allow Mike to live at home because his behaviors and even his presence push our other kids way over the edge. How fair is it to other family members, younger than he, whose lives are currently in a calm, steady place? Is it moral for us to allow his negative influences to permeate our home and saboutage our younger, vulnerable children? But then again, how moral is it for us to deny him access to our home? If we are, in fact, his "forever family," how can we shut the door in his face?

It is in an intractable situation, and it makes me feel like I'm playing favorites. It makes me fee like I am unwilling to take any more risks with Mike, and that he is on his own with little parental involvement or help.

But my wife reminds me in her ever-so-logical way that it's not just about Mike and his mom and his dad any more. If it were just Mike and his parents, we could more easily work something out for him. But it isn't about just Mike, it is about our other children who deserve the right to a childhood and adolescence relatively free from the turmoil his using, law-breaking presence brings into our lives.

The most moral thing we can do is protect them from further victimization. The next most moral thing we can do is to continue to offer to help Mike navigate the complicated world of adult social services, but he has to be willing to be a part of that process, and to this point he has refused, denying that he has any diagnosis of FASD and that he needs to assistance from the state or county.

I guess it really isn't about playing favorites, but the emotional quandary it creates for me is troubling. I claim to be cynical (and with many avenues of life I guess I am), but when it comes to my kids I am not nearly as cynical as perhaps I should be. I continue to hold out hope for Mike, and he will always be my son, but he cannot live with us. And while it feels wrong, I know it is what we must do.

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