Sunday, August 05, 2007

Who Is On the Hope Train?

My wife and I are experiencing our son Mike's situation differently. I have come to realize over the course of our married life of eleven years and our adoptive parenting life of nearly that long that there is a reason 80% of couples who live with special needs children divorce. (This statistic was recently communicated to us by an employee with our state's Department of Human Services who herself is the parent of a special needs child; and while anecdotal, the statistic seems to be accurate). The odd thing about the situation Claudia and I are involved in is that this time around she is the one decidedly not on the "hope train" (as she calls it). In our typical roles it is the opposite -- I am the cynic, the realist, the skeptic and she is the one who sees the silver lining. Her contention is that somehow it is more noble to be the one with hope and optimism, not the one who is realistic, so I'm sure she is as unaccustomed to this role as I am to mine.

But I have to say that I am not on the hope train with Mike just yet. I have never believed that Mike would feel any more grateful toward us if we intervene in his life yet again, that somehow "this time" would be the decisive time that would make a difference. I am under few illusions that somehow he has figured out that at least having a place to live that isn't jail, the streets or yet another friend's is a better deal. I am sure that he feels no more incented to find a job now than he did several months ago.

All I know is that at least he cannot tell us now that the reason he has to use drugs is because of the friends he has had to stay with because he has no other place. He cannot accuse us of excising him from our lives. He can no longer use us as his best excuse for his lack of success.

Based on history I know that he will do his best to find a way to blame us for what may very well be his impending doom, for if he does not find a job within a few days, begin paying back his significant court-ordered restitution and get himself some food and pay for his electricity, he will be in a difficult place once again.

The frustration with Mike, and with this I am in full accord with my wife, is that he does not learn from experience. He has always been eager to blame someone else for his plight. He has been a victim from the beginning, looking for someone to rescue his sorry butt, while offering little in return. I'm not sure three months of homelessness, another four weeks of sitting in jail and countless episodes of breaking the law (with its consequences) have taught him anything. It is the continual battle of wondering whether he is capable (with his organic brain damage) of learning from experience, or if he has just learned how to use that to his advantage. I really can't speak to that, because as bright as I am, and as experienced and trained in the human experience I have become, such diagnosis is elusive.

The one thing I've learned from Miike over the years is that for him life is a minute-by-minute, day-by-day sort of experience. Whether he can live differently or not, I do not know. And so I much take some joy in each minute that he is not committing an illegal act or wandering aimlessly. Beyond that I cannot go.

I'm not on the hope train yet, but I don't want to see it heading out of the depot without having experienced at least a few glimpses of what might have been either.


Linda B. said...

Bart, this is what is so frustrating with figuring out our 15 yr old daughter. What is FASD and what is manipulation. It makes parenting her so very difficult, second guessing all the time if I what we are doing is the right thing. Most of the time Chuck and I are don't agree how to parent her so I can see how the 80% could be true. It is such a stressor. I am really hoping Mike can make this work this time. If he doesn't, it is no reflection on yours or Claudia's parenting, that's for sure. You have done more for him (and for all of your kids) than most parents would. Your kids are very fortunate to have you. I know you feel the same about having them. They teach us so much about being human. Good luck~

Bart said...

You've hit the nail on the head, Linda. Those of us who parent kids with FASD will never really be able to distinguish between manipulation and disability. And if we can't, we certainly can't expect a legal system that is founded upon the principle of personal responsibility to get it either. Thanks for your affirming words about Claudia's and my parenting commmitment. Many times we simply want to run away from the challenges (especially when we find good alternatives that they refuse to step into) this presents, but we want to help as much as we can without enabling a sense of dependency ... another continuing challenge!