I had every intention of starting to share some of the hilarious moments that we have had as a family since my last post. But life had another idea. Trauma reared its ugly head within our home in a way that has broken all of our hearts in an immense way. We found there was not just physical abuse between the boys here but also verbal, emotional and sexual. The county was gracious to allow us to keep the younger of the two boys, Little T, while the older had to be moved to a different home.
And I was relieved. Doesn’t that sound so harsh? If I had heard a foster mom say that before experiencing what we went through here I would have cringed. I would have likely judged her in my naivety and I would have likely thought less of her. Of course that is not the appropriate “Christian” response but I am being vulnerable here. Life in our house between April and June became a horror story for me. Mental illness was not something that I had been prepared for. Training prepped me in trauma care, de-escalating situations effectively and quickly, understanding the youth brain as it developed under abuse and neglect. But it did not prepare me for a true chemical imbalance (likely as genetic as situational) or for the way the state would refuse to cooperate or provide what the child needed (medication, therapy, psycho-evaluations, etc). Physical attacks, feces on the walls, anger and hatred towards us and his brother, crisis intervention calls with me pleading for him to be admitted for all of our safety and peace, threats, sleeping with my bedroom door locked, and having Little T sleep on the couch to keep him free from abuse. We had to move every single thing from the bedroom of this child except for the bed and his clothing for fear of him harming himself, property, or us. It was awful to say the least. So while I was so sad and so hurt and felt like an enormous failure when this child was transferred out my home, I was also relieved. Finally, I could leave my bedroom unlocked when I slept. Finally, I could wake up and make breakfast without an hour long fiasco of defiance and screaming. Rick could work night shift and sleep past 6am without being woken to the screaming child and sounds of banging and violence in our home. And most importantly, Little T could be safe. He could be himself and start to experience joy, an emotion he never truly experienced before in his 7 young years. He could sleep without unwanted touches and he could experiment and fail without mocking voices.
Of course the child removed from here was conditioned to behave the way he behaved. Of course genetics and mental illness caused me to lose the nature vs. nurture battle with him. Of course we all are so sad that he has gone. Yet in the midst of this God has shown himself faithful. He has allowed Little T to express himself and share some of the horror stories he had experienced. A month or so ago we had a campfire with the neighbor kids out back. As all kids do, they started to make up and go around the fire telling scary stories. Little T listened for awhile to these scary stories and everyone’s responses to them. After thirty minutes or so he decided it was his turn. Except that he told true stories. He interpreted “scary story time” as things that happen to people that are scary or horrible. He told the audience story after story of abuse, hardship, poverty, neglect, injury, fear, and traumatic events. We were stunned silent. Since then, he has started to open up to counselors and detectives alike and is choosing to use his voice to not be a victim. I couldn’t be more proud of him as a “mom”. Yet I wonder, what will happen to this little guy? Will his life experiences overpower the good that we can pour into him? If we become eligible to adopt him will he maintain the strength and willpower to swim upstream the long and arduous battle he will have before him to live a “normal” life unlike all of those in his genetic line? Will he keep the faith and finish the race with God each step of the way?
I do not know the answer to these things. I do know that in only four months of dealing with what every caseworker, supervisor, and counselor advises as one of the “worst cases they have ever seen” I feel like a veteran of war. Please do not misunderstand me to minimize what war is truly like or what first respondents must deal with on a daily basis. I simply am expressing that the level of second hand trauma I have been exposed to, on top of my own, has made a tremendous impact on me. The way I see life now is so
different from before being a foster parent. The lines under my eyes and the bags from sleepless nights are visible evidence to the pain I feel in my heart. God is good, yet we live in a fallen world. It is much more “fallen” than I ever realized. As one that always seeks to find justification or good in every person I encounter and give chance after chance for them to redeem themselves after a fail, I am shocked at the inexplicable evil and torture humans can subject one another to. Not just to one another, to a child, a helpless child with no voice or self defense or way of escape. To abuse a little child and still force them to need you to feed them, provide shelter for them, and attach to you because of those needs is unfathomable.
So while my intention was to share some of the funny things going on here…I just am not at a place to do that yet. Right now things are just too real. Yet, Little T is thriving here with us at this time. He has transferred schools and is enjoying his summer break. We are working to catch-up on some schoolwork each day and reading skills, and we are slowly introducing the idea of a good God. (His view of God so far has consisted of him begging his mom to stop the abuse of her associate, and his mom telling him to blame “God” for bringing said abuser into her life when she was lonely.) We planned a family road trip around Little T and exposed him to many different things in our small section of the world which he immensely enjoyed.
Parenting has been all-consuming for me as we start at zero in teaching a child everything. How to brush your teeth, how to use a fork or spoon (no, we don’t put our whole face in our cereal bowl we have spoons), this is how to use your imagination, this is how to put your clothes on right side out, this is how you put your shoes on the right foot, here is how you wipe in the bathroom, how to not drown in a pool of water, respond in a conversation, pour a glass of milk, personal space, eat a meal with family, etc. My girlfriend told me prior to being a parent to “think of the neglected children as aliens, foreign to earth” and she was right! The neglect and abuse has disabled these kids in every way, they know none of the basic things that we all grew up taking for granted in knowing. It is exhausting and I have had to pull away from most of society as I invest in this child and my own self care (still being disabled) and marriage. Beyond that there is no energy right now. Cramming 7 years of childhood into four months was hard but not as hard as it has been for Little T. He has grown and changed so much these four months! Each day he has a new achievement we get to celebrate here together!
Good or bad, right or wrong, this is what life is right now for the Ash family. We have taken the mission field and brought it not only to our front door, but invited it in as a permanent guest. The encouragement received from those dear to us has truly, truly, kept us afloat. So if you have sent a card or something to us and I have not responded please do forgive me. This valley is only a temporary one and we are beginning to see the crest of it alas! I wonder if this is how God feels with us sometimes? If He is all-consumed with pushing us towards our destiny and his purposes, no wonder he takes a sabbath rest!