Residential Parenting Blues

My son entered residential just after Christmas at age nine. For two years prior he was daily making any semblance of normalcy at home impossible.  We were living in a constant state of chaos and crisis, often cycling our son through psychiatric hospitalizations and crisis calls. All safety measures we attempted were viewed by my son as challenges which he paid no heed to. We had no means of keeping him, our pets, our home, our other children, or ourselves safe. Creative means of homicide was the daily driving force in his mind.

Finally finding a residential placement was like winning the lottery. We felt like this was the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. The whole family was able to take a collective sigh of relief. We survived! He was safe. We were safe. We thought, mistakenly, that now serious, down-to-business intervention was going to finally take place.

Yet, here we are, nearly three years later, and reality has set in. Just as he was resistant to all our attachment and therapies we has attempted while he was at home, so that resistance continues now. He no longer calls home unless he wants us to send him something. He no longer participates in family therapy, group therapies, school on most days, or even daily hygiene and chores.He has refused to even put forth enough effort to make the most basic of levels. His aggression has increased. He regularly  assaults peers and staff, both verbally and physically. He has stated his long term goal is prison. Returning home is no longer an option on the table. This is not at all where we hoped we would be.

Yet, our visits are remarkably special. We get meaningful conversation, hugs, and dare I say-Connection! Those visits have become everything now, because, despite every bad report we get, for those few hours we spend with him, we are getting the best possible version of him.

During Christmas only one of his younger siblings feels safe enough or has any desire to see him. These two have always shared a very close brother-bond. It may very well be the only real connection our son allows himself. He is twelve now. He has grown nearly a foot this year and is incredibly athletic-a boy in a man body now. As I sat poolside at the hotel watching the boys splash and be caught up in play, I was taken right back to his first summer with us at age four where we spent every day just like this moment here. We had such hope for him and for our family then.

Now, I am very uncertain for what his future holds. I do not know how to parent from this angle- as a spectator, with a heavy heart still completely full of mother-love. I have friends who are walking very similar, lonely, uncertain paths.  When hope is hard to find it is still comforting to know that we are not the only family in this struggle. They may only have a listening ear, but it is everything to know someone else out there understands the hurt, the anger/frustration, hope or hopelessness, the feelings of failure-all of it. I read another mother declare it perfectly, “Our son intersects with us in meaningful ways….sometimes.” That may truly be the best that we get.

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