Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I am Catholic, part 2

On that night in the church, I cried my heart out to God. Why was this happening to us? I thought that all my years of dealing with children would have prepared me for the challenge of this one child. I started babysitting kids when I was 10 years old. I had been a glorified traveling nanny for a few months after I graduated from high school for a group of doctors who were trying to recruit residents for the new Barberton Family Practice Center. When my children were little, I ran a daycare in my home for several years. I was a Girl Scout leader, Room mother, lunch lady, and had worked with children who had fetal alcohol syndrome at a local daycare for parents who were in treatment for addiction problems. We raised our own children well. Children were my life. Surely I could straighten this one child out.

I put everything I had into my nephew. I enrolled him in a school for children with Asperger's syndrome, found him a new therapist, and placed him in a school for karate that was also designed to help with self-esteem issues. I even went from full time to part time work so that I would have the time20to get him to where he needed to go, and to be home when the construction work was going on. My children were really starting to resent the intrusion their cousin was making in all of our lives. I really believed that I could"fix" him, and hoped that they would eventually understand why I was trying so hard.

But my attempts to help my nephew weren't working. He had learned very well how to control my in-laws during the 6 years that he had lived with them, and they couldn't see through it. My nephew also has Neurofibromatosis type II, and there were some small shadows of tumors on his brain. And while this could possibly make him prone to headaches, they always seemed to conveniently appear Monday through Friday at 8:00 a.m., before we were supposed to leave to drop him off at his school. I don't mean to make light of his illness, it's a very serious one. He will have to be monitored the rest of his life to watch for tumors. Nevertheless, he knew how to use it to manipulate those around him.

On the mornings when he would attempt to get ill in our bathroom, I would ignore it, and make him get in the car so I could take him to school. I was becoming someone I didn't know anymore…this wasn't me. I had never treated a child like before. I had learned to put up a wall of emotionless expression whenever dealing with him so that he couldn't see that I had any amount of sympathy for him anymore, because if he saw me crack, he would use it to manipulate me. I didn't like the person I had to become when I was around him. I felt like a robot, not being able to give him normal reactions to things he would do or say. He would say cruel things about my family, and make up things one had said about the other that had no basis in truth, in his attempt to pit us against each other.

A couple of years ago, we were told that my nephew was incapable of feeling how other people do. His doctor said that he had severe attachment problems, and that he would probably always be this way. As long as he was placed somewhere where his basic needs were being met, it was the best that could be hoped for. But we didn't know this at the time that he lived with us. He had been abused in various forms during the first 3 years of his life, before he lived with my in-laws. But I was going to fix him. In hindsight, I understand this now; that there wasn't a whole lot I could have done to help him. At the time though, I felt like a failure.

So, on that night in the church, I was on my knees, praying for an answer. I was at a loss for what to do next. I expect that there was an answer to my outcry, but I didn't hear it on that night.

The breaking point with my nephew came 6 months after he began to live with us. It was a horrid day. He started in on Katie and me from the moment he opened his eyes that morning, telling me things she had said about me, and then would go to her and tell her lies too. By 4 o'clock of that afternoon, I'd had enough. I called my in-laws, and told them I was moving all my nephew's belongings out to our front porch, and that they better come and get him right now. And while this finally resolved the issue of him being out of our home, my severe guilt was just beginning. I had failed.

After my nephew was gone, I didn't go back to that church for a long time. I do know that it comforted me whenever I was there. But I chose to walk away from it. My guilt from kicking him out of our home was eating away at me, and I couldn't make it stop. I stayed trapped in a Hell of my own making for the next 3 years.

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