Secondly know this - I love my son. Everything I have ever done has been to help him and I have to reminder myself daily that I am not a failure as a mother. There is nothing I could have done differently to change the outcome. Not even love could change it.
Such an all encompassing and sweeping diagnosis for a disorder which has turned my life inside out and will continue to do so as long as I live because I am his mother. There is no 'cure'. You can try modify behaviour but it is like trying to take a horse to water and forcing it to drink. You can only do so much and you as a parent have to accept and make peace with that. Even when it tears away at your soul daily.
I delivered a screaming, red faced angry little boy into this world nearly 16 years ago. Healthy in all respects on the surface... However once home the fun really started. If I picked him up he arched away, if I put him down he screamed blue murder. He had to have my undivided attention and is an active child, with no mute button and the ability to go for hours after everyone else has dropped from pure exhaustion. He doesn't understand the notion of fair play and is that kid who not only does not share but also snatches everyone else's toys with a wicked glee that has had me apologising more than once to irate parents. He will pounce on any perceived weakness and lacks any kind of filter that society expects.
Primary School was punctuated with trips to doctors, paediatricians, educational psychologists, play therapists and psychiatrists and other psychologists. Something was wrong but nobody could really tell me what. Most of the time I was just told he was 'naughty'. If only it had been that simple. Along with health professionals came the medications - everything from Ritalin to Lithium and so many others I can't name or remember. My local pharmacist soon knew me by sight and could tell by my face and the change in dose or medication whether it was a good or bad patch.
If I thought that was hell it was only the tip of the iceberg. The worst was the shunning he received from his peers. How could I explain why his elder brother got invited to all the parties and sleepovers and he never did. Why only half his class would show up for his birthday party and why he was always picked last. It broke my heart to see him passed over again and again and made me work even harder to try and find a solution. I could see his little heart breaking and when those skinny little arms wound their way around my neck I felt his pain. Surely there was something somebody could do to help him and help me? Help him fit in...
But NOTHING worked. He didn't respond to any attempts to discipline or behaviour modification from an early age. It also didn't matter who delivered the discipline, he simply would not tow the line. He would tell the therapists what they wanted to hear and go out and do the complete opposite. On the flip side I had an older son who did tow the line, understanding that certain behaviour was unacceptable and that as the punishment was no fun to rather keep the nose clean. Surely I was missing the link somewhere and my youngest not responding was my fault? I wasn't being a good parent and was missing the signs as I scrambled even more furiously to fix it.
All done with the only the love a parent can have for their child. I wanted to help him anyway I could. So between 2012-2015 we tried 5 different schooling environments, consented to 4 stints in the psychiatric hospital and tolerated the numerous medication adjustments and changes - following the recommendations from the professionals to the letter.
Not so much as a flicker of improvement or modification.
I could not believe a child would WANT to be in trouble ALL the time. He refused to go to school. He ripped up furniture in the house. He called me every foul name he could think of and a few that even I had never heard of. He manipulated the situation at every turn and I just couldn't win no matter what I did and as I spiralled further into despair he took every chance to keep knocking me down. He has told me to my face he knows I am the 'weak link' and that because I love him I will bend. So make no mistake he KNOWS what he is doing. He is an intelligent child who can and does manipulate everyone he comes into contact with. There are still times when he catches me at a weak moment and I crumble, thinking I'm getting it wrong and it must be my fault.
This is the typical behaviour of a narcissist by the way and an anti-social personality type, the worst 2 of all the personality types you get. Convince your victim that they are to blame - having been there with his father it didn't take me to long to understand I was seeing the same pattern in him but I felt helpless to stop it.
At the beginning of last year, after living with his dad for 3 months, he returned to me and started at a small private school which we hoped would be the turning point. He knew it was Last Stop City. If things fell apart I would have no alternative but to seek other care for him. I hoped and prayed that he would see I meant it and tow the line. Sadly by the end of the first term it was apparent he wouldn't and despite all his promises to behave it all fell apart, again. Given the increasing pattern of violence and abuse and the fact that I knew that once he hit 15 he could be put into an adult prison situation if he took his rage out on someone outside of the home I had to take drastic steps to save him from himself.
I myself by this stage I had been in therapy for 6 months and was edging ever close to a complete breakdown. As much as I hated it I knew that for my own sanity and his safety I was at the end of the road - take action or go over that edge into an abyss from which none of us might ever have recovered.
So I took action.
I approached Social Services and after 7 months of what can only be described as hell on earth he was taken into Boys Town and started at a new school. The day I got the call to say Boys Town consented to taking him I broke down and cried because despite it being the right thing I still felt I had let him down. I hadn't been the Mom he needed. I couldn't fix him.
He went in on the 15th of August 2014 and for the first time in 14 years and 11 months I knew what a quiet morning was again. I knew what it was to come home to a quiet home in the evening and also the peace of not having to get phone calls from schools to fetch him after the latest meltdown in class.
I feel immense guilt at feeling that relief. He is my baby. I shouldn't have seemed so eager to send him away but in hindsight I know it is the single right decision I have made in the nearly 18 years I have been a parent and no matter how many times I beat myself up for making it I would not change it.
Has it worked? Nearly a year down the line it is still to early to tell. Behaviours are ingrained and take time to correct, added to which his condition is simply who he is, no amount of medication can cure it - it is not a chemical imbalance. Simply Genetic Roulette. By some miracle he LOVES the school he is at, which is a first in his entire school career. Although he is building relationships with his peers he refuses to tell them where he lives. I accept that, it is his path to walk. Maybe one day he will be in a place where he can share that with his friends. Right now he doesn't feel safe enough and I respect that.
He hates being at Boys Town and I know this but there are moments when he seems to accept that this is how it will be. On the whole these winter holidays passed with little incident - a lot of walking on eggshells but relatively peaceful. Of course today I glimpsed the screaming horrible child who tells me how much he hates me and what a lousy mother I am. It hurts, a lot, but I have found ways to deal with the hurt and still put him in my car and take him back - even though I come home and cry my eyes out.
Part of him knows what he is doing and part of him is still a kid. I can never find the correct balance so I take the knocks and try and heal the wounds later.
He is a complicated child who lacks empathy but craves love. He is determined to walk to the beat of his own drum but wants unconditional acceptance from all. He will happily make you a meal and 30 minutes later have flipped over something trivial and be throwing the plate at you.
He is worse then just unpredictable - you never know when he will boil over and it is usually with a massive sigh of relief that we see the end of holidays and weekends he he home. We must be the only family who enjoy the first day of a new term and Mondays every 2nd week.
But as much as I sigh with relief I still miss him when he isn't at home. Even though he doesn't have an off switch and will talk non stop sometimes I just miss the background noise that tells me he's around. I miss being able to check in on him at night and make sure he is tucked in warmly. I miss being able to tell him every day I love him - reality is I have to start getting him independent of me so I can't even call every day. It is the little things, making his favourite meal, giving him a quick hug, sharing a giggle - those are the most painful to bear.
I hope one day he will understand why I took this step. That it was never because I didn't want him around or that I got tired of being his mom or it was easier to pass the buck. But rather that it was the only way I knew how to be his mom and keep him safe, from himself. I know I will spend the next few days beating back the demons in my head telling me what an awful Mother I am for sending him away, but the little nugget of truth will eventually quieten down those demons and I will again rest easily knowing I have done the absolute best I could, with what I had at the time.
There is no easy way to be a parent. No manual for so called 'normal' kids. Add any kind of challenging child and you increase the worries tenfold.
So next time you see a mom in an aisle at the shops dealing with what appears to just be a bratty child demanding his or her own way just pause before you pass judgement that it is just another parent getting it wrong and giving in - it could be something far more complex than that and they may be battling forces they don't even know about yet. If you've been there, even with a normal kid, just give an encouraging smile and if possible a gentle whisper that they are doing the best they can, even if they don't believe it right in that moment.
Parenting truly does take a village. A village of tolerance, empathy and love to fellow parents. All of us are in the dark just trying our best.
In my heart - In your heart - forever my boy xxx