“Are you having second thoughts?” my sister asked me during a recent phone conversation.
“I love you, sis, but you sound hostile.”
Hmmm. Well, to tell you the truth, I feel a little hostile. Today…about thirty minutes ago, to be exact…Jason and Dillon left the house. In about two hours, they will arrive in Carmi, Illinois, where Jason will check Dillon into a children’s home there. He will be there for at least a year. While we can talk to him once a week, we won’t see him again until Labor Day weekend. I know. Shocking, right?
Do you want to know why he’s in a children’s home? First, let me tell you the wrong answers to that question. It’s not because we didn’t try. Good heavens. We have been pouring our whole lives into that kid for the past year and a half. It’s not because he’s depressed and/or bi-polar…at least that’s not the opinion of the professionals that we have seen. It’s not because we panicked when we found out he had committed a crime and was facing felony charges. No, we were calm about that. It’s not because we beat him (a story he has told the neighbors and his boy scout leader). We are tempted to beat him on a regular basis, but we don’t do it. It’s not because we don’t want him or love him anymore. We do love him. Good heavens, we love him.
No, the reason Dillon is in a children’s home is because that’s what he wanted to have happen. He told us a year and a half ago that he would rather live with anyone else in the whole wide world, and he hasn’t changed his position on that. Despite our efforts to help him find happiness, he has steadily and relentlessly pursued a campaign of hatred. The loathing he has for me cannot even be described. It’s not the “I hate you!” bursts that are common for some teens; it’s a never-stopping-never-giving-up offensive. It oozes out of every interaction the two of us have, regardless of anything I do. His hatred for me now spills over onto his friends, his siblings, and his father. He dropped out of confirmation class two weeks before the big day; he complains about wanting friends but refuses our efforts to help him make friends (swim team, etc.); when he’s angry, he runs out of the house screaming that he doesn’t want to get “beat up” again (complete hogwash, but the neighbors are sold). When the Boy Scout leader met Jason at the car to warn us that he is, in fact, a mandatory reporter (as are we, ironically), we realized how far Dillon was/is willing to go to get out of our house.
And why? Why does he hate us so much? Honestly, we have no idea. We live like most people we know…we eat meals together, we go on family outings, we clean the house together, we watch movies/read books/play games in the evenings. Although we’re too busy and lazy to do it often, we get together with family friends from time to time. The other kids have friends that they hang out with. We are religious (pun intended) about attending church and church functions; those people are our family of faith. Although we occasionally raise our voices, we do not beat our children; nor do we saddle them with slavish amounts of chores (another accusation). We give and expect respect, we apologize and accept apologies, we work together to live in peace and harmony. At least, the rest of us do.
At the placement interview at the children’s home, the director and house parents were amazed that we were still married. They said they never see that. They asked Dillon if he had been fishing or swimming, if he had ever gone to the zoo or an amusement park, if he liked sports…many of the kids who come to them have never experienced any of those things. Victims of poverty and neglect/abuse, they have lived on the fringes of life. Our son, on the other hand, has experienced all of that (and more). They asked me why we were placing Dillon there. I answered that his relentless hatred of me had just become unbearable. They asked him if he had any response to that, and he shrugged and said no, that was pretty much true. (Does this sound like a child who is terrified of me…which is what he claims? After all, we had a two-hour car ride home after this…after he sat at a table and told people that he hated me…oy.)
So. Dillon is gone…at least temporarily. And we’re hostile and embarrassed and sad and relieved…all at the same time. But, at least there’s a little space to heal and rest…and figure out how to pay for this home. They are very kind, and they are taking his adoption stipend as payment (which isn’t enough to support him, but it is a big chunk out of our budget). When we explained to Dillon the financial sacrifices that this will mean for the rest of the family, do you want to know his response? He asked if we could buy him a new bike to take with him to the home. Can you guess the answer to that question?
Do I still sound hostile?