“The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.”
The last few days have been tough. If I am being honest, the last few weeks have been tough. Having Ozzie home full-time (since school break began) has been an adjustment for everyone…him, the other kids, and me. Being together full-time has magnified the behaviors we were seeing a little bit of while he was in school and providing opportunities to deal with the bigger heart issues that are now revealing themselves.
When Tyler moved in the judge gave us permission to home school him from the start. As a result we jumped into full-time parenting and bonding from day 1. Those that have followed this blog from the beginning remember what those first 6 months were like….UGH! 🙂 When Ozzie moved in his judge required him to attend our local public school. As a result, even though he has lived with us for 5 months, we are just now beginning the intensive parenting/bonding process that comes from spending 24 hours a day together. It is only through time and togetherness that our real selves, our deep issues, our greatest fears and sharpest edges are exposed. That is what is happening now…with all of us. This last month has been a time of discovery as we have seen the best and worst of Ozzie as well as the best and worst of ourselves.
When you prepare for adoption you are told that there will often be a “honeymoon period,” a block of time at the beginning when everyone is on their best behavior and the sailing is smooth. With time and increased trust and comfort our real selves are revealed and our demons are exposed. One simply cannot “hold it together” forever and at some point we break. For an abused child that break happens as a result of increased trust as well as a need to test that building trust.
Our tough week began last Friday when Ozzie’s social worker brought a few more boxes of his possessions from his previous foster family’s home. In the box was a scrapbook from his last pre-adoptive placement. He has eager to show me the pictures inside. On the first page were pictures of a celebration. There were decorations, fancy clothes and a cake that read, “Welcome home Ozzie and Zoey to your forever family!” There were pictures of the parents hugging and loving on the kids. The book was filled with happy family moments and to look at it you would assume it was the perfect family. Ozzie and his sister were only there 5 months, the same amount of time he has been with us. I don’t know the whole story as to why the placement failed other than knowing that the parents asked the children be moved. They said that the kids were too much for them.
It was after sharing this walk down memory lane with Ozzie that the behaviors we have been seeing for weeks escalated.
The final breakdown led to our breakthrough. Here is what happened…
The day began with tears. Ozzie woke up in a grumpy mood. As we sat in the livingroom Rusty was eagerly sharing his excitement about Scout camp next week. When I asked him what he was most excited about Ozzie interrupted and said, “I am most excited for Rusty to leave for a week so I don’t have to see him.” After attempting to mend the hurt feelings and anger that his words created I sent Ozzie outside to do his morning chores. There were tears as the other kids poured out the hurt they have been feeling this last week as they have dealt with tantrums, mean words, hitting, and fighting from their little brother.
After having a good talk with the older three I headed outside to check on the two little boys. As I approached I found Tyler in the animal pen helping Ozzie by scooping the old water from the trough. Harley, our pot belly pig, likes to soak in the water trough much to the disgust of the other animal who drink that water. 🙂 So part of filling the trough often requires taking a bucket and scooping the dirty water out first. Ozzie hates the scooping part of his job so Tyler volunteered to scoop while Ozzie filled it with the hose. I walked onto the scene as Tyler was scooping water while Ozzie was sprayed Tyler’s bike with water. Ozzie didn’t know I was behind him as Tyler asked him not to get his bike wet. Ozzie laughed and turned the hose on the bike again.
“Ozzie!” I called out behind him.
He jumped in surprise and quickly replied, “It was an accident!”
The boys finished filling the water as I supervised. When they were done I told Tyler to bring me Ozzie’s bike so that he could have a turn spraying it. It was then that Ozzie flipped out. “No,” he yelled, “nobody is going to spray my bike! My bike is special! Tyler don’t you touch my bike!”
Tyler was walking across the yard when Ozzie took off and tackled Tyler from behind. I ran over as Ozzie sat on Tyler and started hitting him and clawing him with his nails.
I pulled Ozzie off Tyler. Tyler was crying. Molly was looking panicked, Rusty was running to turn the hose off and Grace had smoke pouring from her ears.
Ozzie was defiant. I told Ozzie that if he was going to get Tyler’s bike wet than Tyler could spray his bike.
“But my stuff is special!” he kept yelling as he threw himself on the ground…kicking, screaming, and hitting himself in the head.
It was then I scooped him up and carried him out to the fence post, in the corner of the field, to cool off. The entire way he fought me. He kicked, he clawed, and then sat down on the ground, refusing to move. It was a flashback to 2 years ago. It was a full-blown Tyler tantrum. The only difference being the lack of body mass and strength that Tyler had to fight me with. I scooped him up and placed him on the fence and told him that when he calmed down we would talk. I sent the other kids inside while he screamed from his perch…
“I hate you all!”
“I’m going to crush you Tyler!
“Nobody touches my stuff!”
“I’m always the victim!”
I water and weeded and did yard work while he raged. I stayed close by but let him burn out before we talked. I learned with Tyler that there is no communicating in the midst of the storm. I have to let them rage until they are exhausted. I always stay by them as they rage so they know they are not abandoned or alone but they must release that anger before the healing can come. Then there is the crash. The rigidity and tension leave their little bodies and they are exposed. The wall falls and I can see their hearts.
Ozzie’s tantrum lasted almost four hours from beginning to end. When he was done screaming I walked over to him.
“Can we talk?” I asked.
“This is how I always act,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“In my old homes,” he answered, “this is how I always was. At my birth home and my foster homes I always hit and yelled and lied and did really bad things. That is why they always got rid of me.”
There it was. The heart revealed. The anger was a wall hiding a broken heart. The behavior was a protection from more hurt.
I gathered him in my arms and whispered, “You aren’t going anywhere. There is nothing you can do to make us send you away. You are here forever. You are family.”
I pulled back and smiled at him. “You might be spending a lot of time on the fence post if you keep making the same choices but it will be our fence post because you’re not going anywhere.” 🙂
It was then that the floodgates opened and he sobbed. He squeezed my neck and cried into my shoulder and whispered back, “I’m sorry Momma…I love you.”
I have learned in this adoption journey that the hardest days are often the days when the most growth happens. Breakdowns bring breakthroughs. The bad behavior is often the cracking and crumbling of a wall built over years of hurt and disappointment. The words, “I hate you” are actually the pleading of a broken boy asking, “Will you still love me?”
It is in the midst of those really hard days that we are reminded that those who most need our love often ask for it in the most unloving ways.