Therapy…Clubs…and Good Days…

…show we are moving in the right direction. We are 2 weeks into therapy for T. We found him a really good one who does play therapy. I pull T out of school a couple hours early every Friday so he can have a “play date” with our new friend (the therapist). Today he said he had a list of things to talk about during his play date, that he didn’t want to talk me about. I let him know that this is what the play dates are for, to talk to our friend about things he didn’t want to talk to me about. He has been so excited for the last couple days about this weeks play date. I love seeing him so excited about something that will be so good for him. 

Last Saturday T talked to his dad on the phone. Actually, dad talked to him. T’s silence was extremely abnormal, as he usually can’t stop talking when he’s on the phone. I knew something was up, but I didn’t want to push the issue that night. The next couple days were full of attitude and anger. I finally sat him down and asked what was going on. He said he didn’t want to talk about it because he didn’t want to get in trouble. I told him he won’t be in trouble for telling me what was upsetting him, he said he knows he won’t be in trouble with me, but he would be in trouble with dad. 

What?!?! Wow! Now I have to know. We have been working on not keeping secrets, and in one phone call, dad puts a stop to all of the work we’d done. Apparently, according to mom and dad, he misunderstood the “conversation”. Dad said he told him that “Auntie (that’s me) is the only person you can trust. Don’t talk to anyone else. Don’t trust anyone else.” Now keep in mind that dad knows what’s going on, and knows that T is going to therapy, which by the way, I was told by both mom and dad that I had to be in every session with him, which I refuse to do, because this little boy has been through so much and he needs to be free to talk about any and all of it if that’s what he wants and needs. 

Back to the phone call…what the heck was dad thinking? Why bring up who T is “allowed” to talk to unless you’re trying to keep him from talking? Unless you have something to hide? Who am I kidding? Dad has a lot to hide. But that’s on him, and little T should not be forced to carry the weight of his dad’s burdens. T already knows more than he should about drugs, and suicide, and being the adult.

Wednesday was a not so good day at school. T hit 3 kids, punched them. All for different reasons. Then he dropped the F bomb in class. Privileges were revoked for this unacceptable behavior. He accepted responsibility and loss of privileges, so I know he realized he messed up. Uncle took T along to visit our son Sean, who had a brilliant idea to tell T about “The fresh boys club” and told him he could be part of it only if he can show he can control his anger and his language. 2 great days later, and he’s trying to earn his way in 🙂

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Secrets and Lies…

…are toxic. I think that many adults, maybe even most adults, would agree that secrets can be dangerous. After all, isn’t that why we keep them? To protect those we love? Or maybe, if we’re honest with ourselves, we keep them to protect us. 

I have secrets. And I assume everyone does. I don’t have many people in my life that I trust enough to tell them to, so I just keep them to myself. I wish I could trust someone enough to tell, but I’ve been hurt too many times. Secrets weigh a lot. They weigh me down. They make me feel in control…but in control of what? They make the walls I’ve built thicker, so it’s harder to let someone in. But I still keep them. Afraid of being judged, or letting someone down (heaven knows I’ve done that enough), or of losing people I love. I long for someone I can trust enough to tell my secrets to so I can shed the weight. Sometimes I feel like it’s too late to tell anyone, too much time has passed and it won’t make a difference anymore. Sometimes I feel like it’s too soon to tell anyone, like some obscure statute of limitations hasn’t run out yet.

I got a call from T’s school. They said there had been an incident and could I come to school immediately. I got in my car and drove the 4 blocks to his school. When I turned the corner to the 4th block I saw a police car at the school and I knew the officer was there to talk to me. My mind raced as I thought of all the possibilities. T is a good kid, a great kid. I didn’t know what “the incident” was, but I knew it wasn’t good. As I walk in to the office I am greeted by the vice principal and the officer. We walked into the principals office and the door was closed behind us. My heart felt like it was missing at least every other beat. The vice principal began to explain and as reality set in, I felt lost, angry, scared, upset, unsure of how to handle the news I had just received.

T has been keeping secrets for over a year. At 7 years old he should not have secrets, especially heavy ones. Over a year ago, he was touched, and ask to do things by another student, inappropriate things. He did what was asked of him, and some others he wasn’t willing to talk about today. Sometime over the last couple weeks he asked a couple other kids to do these things with him, the same things that were done to him over a year ago. I don’t understand, and I doubt I ever will. If I’m this confused, I can only imagine how much more confusion he has been dealing with. Gathering details…recorded interview with the officer…I can barely wrap my mind around it. I need time to think and to process the information, but I can’t yet. I’ve got stuff to do today. Stuff that must get done today. 

When we finally get home I can’t stand the thought of being home, so dinner will be a dinner out tonight. At dinner I decide that I need to give his parents a chance to process the information. I need to give them the same instructions the officer gave me. “Don’t punish him. He’s not in trouble. Talk to him about private parts, about how they are his, and no one else is allowed to touch them. If he is willing to talk, then listen. Don’t pry and don’t ask questions in a way that will lead his answers. Love him. Let him know he is not at fault.” I write an email. I write it knowing that dad will not be able to read it all before calling to yell at me and freak out about what happened to his son, but hoping that he reads it all. He doesn’t. I write it hoping to give them a chance to process the information before they try to talk to him. I didn’t have time to process it, I was brought in, sat down, given the facts, and told to take him home and keep him out of school on Monday. My phone rings just minutes after sending the email. Apparently, they missed the part of the email where I tell them I’m giving them a chance to process the information. 

I talk to dad as best I can while he yells at me, grilling me to tell him the facts. I’m in a restaurant. I excuse myself to walk to the store where “Uncle” and T will meet me. Dad keeps yelling and telling me to “beat his ass” for what happened. Yup. Not gonna happen. I’ve been tense all afternoon, and I’m tensing up more talking to dad. Dad keeps yelling and I try to tell him I need to go so I can be present with Tanis and give him the attention and support he needs. Dad tells me “He’s fine…you need to calm me down!” My battery dies and I feel relieved that the yelling has stopped for the moment. Then I began to feel angry as I process what dad said during the “conversation”. T is willing to talk to me, he seems a little embarrassed, and not quite sure why he isn’t in trouble, but when we got home he told me everything. If I punish him at this point, then that open line of communication stops dead in its tracks. 

T is sorry I had to come to the school because of what happened. I’m not worried about coming to the school. I’m worried about the effects this will have on T long term. I love this little boy. My family and I have sacrificed so much to be here for him. I feel like dad thinks I’m nothing more than a babysitter he can boss around. I’m trying to protect T and help him and teach him right from wrong. I haven’t had a 7 year old in my house for almost 10 years, and it’s not easy trying to pick up where someone else left off. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s worth it. 

Much too much, and much too overdue…

…for a reality check. 

I’ve been wanting to post this for a while:
June 29, 2015

Daughter, sister, auntie, mother, mom, grandma (Umma), friend, confidant…these are just a few of the titles that I am very proud of. I assume that many share these, and similar titles (son, father, dad, brother, uncle, etc.) 

These are a part of who I am, and while carrying these titles is sometimes difficult, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Recent events have led me to evaluate and reevaluate why I have these titles and why I choose to continue to live in this difficult and harsh world despite the hardships that I face in life. Life is full of choices, and every choice (good or bad) has consequences. The consequences of holding a child in your arms and telling them that you love them may range anywhere from a small hint of a smile to a tantrum with that child screaming that they don’t love you, and everything in between and beyond. 

I want to talk about one choice in particular that has had an impact on my life and the lives of everyone I know. Suicide. 

Now, I know that some of you will read this and say to yourselves “I’ve never considered suicide” or “I don’t know anyone who has killed themselves”, but I promise that it has still impacted some aspect of your life. 

My dad made this decision almost 31 years ago. I was 8. I don’t know if he realized what an impact this decision would have on the people in his life until it was too late. I don’t know if he considered the impact this choice would have. 

I have spent many nights (and some days) blaming myself for his choice. I know, I know, it’s not my fault. But let me tell you something. I was not good enough for him to live for. Do you want to know what else? Neither were my brothers, my mom, his siblings, his nieces and nephews, his friends. No one was. If only I wasn’t such a brat. If only I didn’t roll my eyes when he told me he loved me, if only I had not told that lie and gotten caught, if only I had not thrown a jealous fit over something my brothers got praise for, if only…if only…if only…

For those who wonder how my dads decision has impacted their lives when they never even knew him, let me clarify. I know that the choice was his, and it was a choice, regardless of what led to it. In my mind, and in my heart, I know he made this choice not as a result of anything I did, but as a result of his feelings of depression, desperation, and despair. That doesn’t remove the blame that I placed on myself at the age of 8, and some part of me still finds reasons to take the blame. I am a different person because of his decision. I approach people differently, I have a different outlook on life, and I handle situations differently than I imagine I would have if he had decided to stick around. My attitude about life and relationships is different. That has had an impact on the lives of everyone I have come into contact with. Based on the 6 degrees of separation (look it up), his decision has impacted you too. You may, or may not know someone who has contemplated, or decided on, suicide. You may, or may not know that someone close to you has thought about it. 

I too have contemplated suicide when life has been difficult, but I have also taken time to consider the consequences and the impact it would have on those I love. I have considered what I would miss out on, what I would force others to miss out on. This is where I return to those titles I mentioned earlier. Based solely on my decision, my brothers, mom, children, nieces and nephews, granddaughter, friends would not have me to turn to in times of happiness, sorrow, or need. They would not be able to text or call me when they have something to share. Sure, I could take away my earthly pains by choosing to take my own life, or I can choose to live, realizing that these earthly pains are just a reminder of where I came from, how much I’ve grown, (and even though I find it hard to admit at times) how much I love my life and value the relationships I’ve made. 

Recently I had a very close friend tell me he wanted to take his life. He has a young son, T, he has raised alone for most of the boys life as his way of supporting his wife’s Navy career, and he has done an amazing job. His boy is not perfect, but man is he smart, and full of piss and vinegar. My friends life has not been easy…full of disappointments, abandonment, addiction, prison…the list goes on and on. But despite his very difficult life, he was able to marry an amazing woman, have a son, and raise him to be one of the most respectful 6 year olds I’ve ever met. This boy is my friends whole world…yet, while his boy was in his care, he chose to try and end his life.

I drove over 26 hours, by myself, to go pick T up. When I got there, my friend asked me why his life is so hard. I told him, and I believe every word of it, “because God knows what a strong person you are, even if you don’t.” I reminded him of the many pity parties I had as a teenager with him on my porch swing about how I blamed myself for my dads decision. I pointed out his son, and the burden he would be placing on his son if he took his own life. Then, he had the nerve to ask me a question. He asked “What about me?” I felt the blood rush to my head as I responded “What about you?” I mean really! You choose to give up with no regard to the consequences everyone else has to live with, and you really want me to answer that question! Honestly! I told him his life hasn’t been about him since his son was born. As the sole caretaker of that boy, and claiming that his boy means everything to him, he made a decision to leave his boy and attempt to end his life…had he succeeded, had his wife not called me to ask for help, his boy (his world) would’ve ended up in foster care with the potential to follow his dad’s difficult life path. 

He had lost his dang mind. I knew he needed to have his mental state evaluated, and the stress was sending him into seizures. I chose to call an ambulance. I needed to do whatever it took to protect his son, who, by the way, was telling me what “medicine” to give his dad to help him recover from his seizures, and where to find it. I had to argue with a 6 year old about the best way to care for someone after a seizure. The sheriffs department arrived first. My friend has NEVER had a positive experience with officers before. I explained that to the officers and they were able to miraculously put his mind at ease and he had a conversation with 2 officers for the first time in his life. (Thank you officers Jace and J.J.) They asked him to go to the hospital to be evaluated. I was in shock when he said yes. Relieved, but shocked. After arriving at the hospital, I let him say bye to his son, and we started on the long drive home. I now have temporary custody. His mom deploys in a few months, and wants him to be in a stable environment while she’s away. 

Last night was the first night he’s stayed over with us in a couple years. He had a meltdown, not because he is here away from his dad, but because he knew what his dad had done. He asked me what’s going to happen to him if his dad kills himself. He is worried that he will never see his dad again, and he’s worried about the “house” they lived in, and what will happen to their stuff. A 6 year old boy worrying about how he’ll get food, and take care of himself. No matter how much I tried to tell him I would worry for him, he couldn’t let go of that stress he had been carrying around since he witnessed his dad’s first attempt to take his own life. T told me of 3 separate instances that he knew about.

The messages I want to send to anyone who may read this…

  1. Suicide is a choice.
  2. Suicide is a selfish choice
  3. Suicide affects everyone
  4. It’s not all about you
  5. The world revolves around the sun…it does not revolve around you
  6. Your life may be very difficult, but someone else has it worse
  7. There is help out there, and you can find simply by asking
  8. You are not alone
  9. If you are thinking about suicide, even just a little bit, talk to someone

Adoption goes both ways…sometimes in the same family…

…which can make for some very difficult conversations. I was young. Almost a year out of high school. Trying to be on my own, without being on my own. In a relationship and unable to see how unhealthy it was. I moved back home with my then fiancé (JR). I found myself pregnant, living with mom, unsure of how to tell her. The circumstances that led to the pregnancy are irrelevant. It’s the lack of support that was most impactful. 

I wasn’t married yet, and I dreaded the disappointment mom would have when she found out. JR told his mom first. She threatened to tell my mom if I didn’t. I told mom, and the disappointment was evident. He moved back in with his parents, in Utah. My high school friend invited me to visit her in CA. I went. Met a man in the military, married him 12 days later. I’ll admit it was a desperate move on my part. I didn’t see it then, but I had this need to not be alone, and I wanted my unborn child to be raised by both a mom and a dad. He Said he wanted to be that dad, and I wanted to believe he really did, but I was wrong.  

Long story short, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Married, but all alone, I didn’t feel I had any support from my family. They were all so disappointed in me. My husband gave me an ultimatum, either the baby goes, or we both go. With no lifeline, and a fear of my child being taken away and given to strangers if I left too, I started searching for a family who would adopt her and love her as their own. I found that family, and sent her on her journey to her new family and her new life at one month, one week, and one day old. Although it’s been almost 20 years, and I have had contact, and pictures and visits, there is not a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t ache, and cry out, for her to be mine again. And yet, I know she is where she belongs. She will always be mine, even though she isn’t. 

Almost 3 years later, and still married, I was pregnant again. Depression hit hard…I was not strong enough to raise the first child, how could I find the strength to raise the second. I was fighting a battle within myself that still rages on to this day. 

Not long after giving birth to another beautiful baby girl, my husband took her and left me. The battle stopped being an internal one and I fought for her to be returned me, a few months later I traveled across the country with my little girl to escape and to keep her safe from the abuse that now plagued my marriage. God was watching over me as I divorced him and kept my daughter safe. 

4 years later and living near the town I grew up in, I found myself in love and engaged to the man of my dreams. He knew my past, he knew my struggles, and he loved us both still. We married and he adopted my daughter. He has 3 children, and with my 2 (the one I placed for adoption included), we had 5, but someone has been missing. Infertility and other issues have kept us from having another baby, and so we looked into adoption, but the timing wasn’t right for us. We tried sperm donors, but again, the timing wasn’t right for us. As silly as it sounds to most of the world, I know there is another child waiting to join our family. I have seen him, talked to him in my dreams, I know his name. We know Gods timing is not ours, but I find it so hard, too hard, to be patient. My faith has been tested, and many times I know I have failed that test. 

As we’ve opened our home to people in need, they have adopted us as family, and ties have varied as they move out and move on. Full adoption, step parent adoption, unofficial adoption, all start with choice. Never easy, never to be taken lightly. Natural families have choices too, but it’s not the same. The family who adopted my first born…they chose her. My husband who adopted my youngest…he chose her. The people we have helped…they chose us. Adoption goes both ways.

House Rules…

…are apparently negotiable (at least some people think they are). I was raised in an LDS family. Mom tried to teach me at an early age how important church is in having a happy life. It’s a lesson that I really began to grasp when I was married to my ex-husband and living across the country from my family. I had fallen away from the church as a result of hurt feelings and feeling a lack of compassion and support from local church leaders before I got married. My ex husband and I were living with his dad and step mom and I was no longer allowed to attend my church. I had to attend theirs or lose the roof over my head. Not being allowed to attend my church left a big impression on me and I finally understood what mom tried to teach me so many years before. Another lesson I learned about church was that the rules and guidelines put in place by the church are less about controlling and limiting the people, and more about protecting them and helping them to live a truly happy life. Drugs, alcohol, and sex can give you the illusion of happiness, but when the consequences hit, the misery sets in. Only when we protect ourselves from this stuff are we truly happy.

Now, years later and remarried with a good sized family that is spread across many states and countries, I want to be able to maintain a certain spirit, or feeling, in my home. I consider myself to be a pretty strict parent. I see the potential my children have and I expect them to live up to that potential. I have children who drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex outside of marriage, and I am hard on them. When they come into my home they know that I do not allow that stuff in my home. They will quickly be removed from my home if the rules are not followed. They know this and yet they still have a choice. They are welcome to leave anytime they feel the rules are not worth following. I know it sounds harsh. I have many children (natural, step, adopted, foster, etc.) and I have to protect the ones who are too young or immature to protect themselves. I also need to protect my home and myself.

I have begun to notice issues with my husband becoming far more relaxed on the issue of following rules. He will encourage others to break the rules, often unintentionally, but encourage them still the same. I will tell one or more of the children to do something and he will give them an easier, or lesser, job to do, or just tell them to do the bare minimum to get by. I know my family hates when I yell, and they all know this will lead to me yelling, so I don’t understand why he does it. We currently have 2 of our kids, and temporary custody of another child living with us, and trying to get full custody of yet another. Gaining custody of these kids is important to both of us, at least he says it’s important to him, so why does he continue to allow turmoil in our home that could jeopardize these kids well being. I just don’t get it.

I know he’s a good dad, but I wonder how long until he becomes so absent minded that it all goes down the drain. Some days I feel like we’re pretty close to hitting that point. I have to be strong. I have always felt like the mean parent. I know it comes from the years of him being a weekend dad to 3 of them, and always feeling like he had to buy their love. This was a cycle that started long before I came into the picture, and he allowed it to continue until it became normalized. I felt forced into the role of bad cop while my husband enjoyed playing good cop. Since I came in to the family at the height of this cycle, I could see the damaging effects much clearer than the others could, but I was too late to fix it. I hope that someday they will understand why I am the kind of parent I am. 

A Letter To Sean and Jess…

Dear Sean and Jessica,

These are some of the things I know. I know that life hasn’t been easy for you. I know that you have both missed out on things, whether by your own choices or the decisions that dad and I have made that have affected your lives. I know that we aren’t able to give you everything we want to give you. I know that sometimes you two get along great, but most of the time you don’t get along at all. I know that at times you both feel alone, abandoned, let down, frustrated, unloved, misunderstood, hurt, and devalued. 

Even more important than the things I have listed above: I know that dad and I love you. I know that you are independant minded. I know that you are valued. I know that you are heard. I know that you are handsome and beautiful. I know that you are amazing human beings with something unique to offer the world. I know that you are talented. I know that you are strong. I know that you are resilient. I know that you are smart. I know that you are watched over by guardian angels. I know that you are children of a Heavenly Father who is aware of your struggles. I know that you are passionate. I know that you are interesting. I know that you are my children!

No family is perfect, and ours is no exception. We will sometimes agree, and sometimes not. We have rules that you don’t mind, and others that you hate. We have high expectations because we know your potential.  We love you, and that will never change. 

Love, 

Mom (Latrisa)

As we grow together and learn from each other…