We’re parenting children who have come from past trauma. Some have major special needs that require us to be hands on all the time. This begs the question: Will he or she ever live on their own, apart from us?
I pick my child up from the residential facility he lives in on a warm Sunday morning. He’s in high spirits as we slowly walk through the reinforced doors and down the sidewalk toward my car. Our conversation bounces from movies, to who the Colts are playing later that day, to whether or not I think Thanos can be defeated in the next Avengers film. It feels good to be with him. I love him deeply.
Unfortunately, we’re in this season because of his dangerous choices. A little more than a year ago, the choice to have him in our house was taken from us. It was excruciating, but the right choice to make. He’s a good kid, but a vital part of his brain is missing due to pre-natal drug and alcohol exposure. He often is incapable of keeping himself, or others around him, safe. When he lived with us, there were good days, but oftentimes, many more bad ones. And unfortunately the bad ones could have been fatal if a change didn’t happen.
On this day, for the next 10 hours, he’s all ours, and to the core of my being it feels good. This feels right. He should be with us.
Later in the day, as I watch him help his mother with a project on our farm, a series of questions flash through my mind. “Will he ever not need assistance? Will he be able to live in an apartment when he’s in his 20s? Go to college? Hold down a job? Get married? Raise a family of his own?”
Until this point, he hasn’t been able to do anything on his own. Granted he’s only 15, but anytime he’s been with us, or lived at home, we’ve had to keep two sets of eyes on him at all times. The tragedy of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is that it primarily damages the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Logic, reasoning, impulse control are all affected. Really bad, impulsive choices often ensue. It’s exhausting. For him and us.
And then I realize that he’s a freshmen in high school. In less than four years he’ll graduate from high school. Kind of mind blowing considering that it felt like just yesterday I was changing his diapers and laying him down for naps in his crib! The reality of life closes in on me like an evening fog. At this stage in parenting, most parents are envisioning their child moving into the college they chose, and then graduating, and then getting a job, and then raising a family. And then…ahh, the golden years where they travel to the kid’s house, stay for the weekend, and spoil those precious grandkids!
I don’t want to claim delusions of grandeur here…but? Just not reality for us. And it might not be reality for you either. The reality is that my child, and yours, may never fully be independent. That’s the truth we are wrestling with.
Here’s what I’ve journeyed through and now grasped fully…
My child may never fully live independently.
He may always need my assistance, or involvement, beyond that of other children. The tough thing about the trauma our kiddos have gone through is that it impacts their entire life, well into adulthood. And that, in turn, impacts ours. And I’m OK with that. I’m not bitter toward my child. I’m not bitter toward his past. This is what it is. I am his dad. And I love him more than anything.
The positive here is that I get to continue to be involved in his life. Of course, in today’s age, lots and lots of services have begun to pop up all over the country that are drastically changing the future for our children. We have already begun to research and plan for this. We want his life to be as bright and full of possibility as it can be. Because…it is! And we continue to believe in our child even though this journey has been hard. He’s smart, and funny, and charismatic. He has so much potential. I’m thankful that I get to be involved in that.
Maybe you’re reading this and feeling hopeless. I get it. If you’re like me, you didn’t sign up for this. But let me encourage you by telling you that you’re not alone. If I can offer you nothing else through this post, let me just say that I am right there with you. And, I would love to hear from you. We created this community as an outlet for parents to share, and lead on one another. Use the comment section below and let us know what has been the hardest part about parenting children from hard places.
Let’s together believe in a bright future. Let’s believe in our children. They are beautiful, and they are worth it!
This article originally appeared here.