Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Six years ago today

Six years ago today, I showed up at an RTC to pick Tortuga up and bring him home. He was so excited and terrified about the move that the moment I met him he announced "I'm not going with you. I am staying here. I changed my mind." I sat down next to him and told him I could tell he was scared but we would get through this together. He was adamant that he wasn't leaving. I explained that he was leaving because the RTC could not keep him any longer. However, if he preferred to go to a different foster home we could talk to his social worker about that. (The RTC claimed money had run out and he was being kicked out for lack of funding not because of any progress he had made.) Immediately he changed his mind and said he preferred to come home with me. At that moment I fully recognized (but didn't fully appreciate) that we were in for an uphill battle/transition. Tortuga was terrified of EVERYTHING and like many who experience this type of fear he postured a self-confidence and cockiness that didn't quite mask the terror. We welcomed him home to much celebration from Pollito (his bio brother) and Corazon. They were soooo excited to have their big brother home and insisted we have cake, balloons and presents.

We overwhelmed him with activity that week. The following day he started a new school in a special education classroom for kids with cognitive issues and language based issues. The day after was Valentine's Day and we scrambled to help him write cards for the 8 other kids in his class. At the time he could barely write his name and most of the time it was not spelled correctly. The next two days were filled with testing and we picked him up from school on Friday and drove 9 hours to visit C.'s family in PA for what turned into a 10 day visit because her father was critically ill and hospitalized. To top it all off, we announced at the hospital room that C. was 3 months pregnant with Milagro! The poor kid was so overwhelmed he didn't have time to process much less react. Through it all he was amazingly calm (although he was also heavily medicated). We were moving so fast and dealing with so much that week that we weren't able to keep up with the meds schedule the RTC has sent him home on.  In retrospect that turned out to be a blessing because when we returned to Boston and checked in with his psychiatrist explaining what he had missed and what we had observed we made the decision to ween him off several of his meds and made a plan to take him completely off all the various drugs he was on and try to find "the real kid" underneath it all. And see that kid we did. So much of it is unbloggable. He had so many issues, gaps, negative behaviors and trying to find our way out from under the violence and aggression, the bullying, the impulse control issues, the fear, the lack of so many basic skills, etc was overwhelming.

Today he still struggles with many issues but all of them are issues to a lesser degree and some are completely gone. At times the healing he has done is incredible to believe. Other times I find myself exclaiming in frustration "Why are we still dealing with this?!!!!" On this day I want to honor how far Tortuga has come. He can read. He no longer rages. His meltdowns are few and far between. He is kind. He is caring. He can read and write above grade level even though his early assessments indicated he was borderline MR. He loves to read, write, draw, poetry, play guitar, sports, legos, chess, learn about history and science, going for hikes, riding his bike, skateboard, and scooter, help our elderly neighbors, and spend time with the family. He can spend hours focusing on one activity and he has begun to learn to laugh at himself. This doesn't mean we don't have major struggles with rudeness, trust, meanness, fear, anxiety, bad judgment, impatience, and aggression. We do and we know he still doesn't trust us. He still uses information as a weapon both against people (when he has it and uses it) and against himself/us (he withholds vital information until it becomes a major issue). But he is healing.

When he came home we were told by therapists and social workers "no one would blame you if you didn't adopt him." It seemed unfathomable to us that at age 7 everyone would have already given up on him. It was clear he had given up on himself. So much of our struggle with him has been to help him recognize that he is a good person, that he can nurture the good in himself and express that. We have had to help him see that there is much he can accomplish if he sets his mind to it but that he has to let go of all the "stuff" that gets in his way. It is hard. Very hard. He is no longer 7. He is almost 14. Each day we struggle I go to bed wondering if we can keep doing this. Each morning I remind myself that we have a new day, a new opportunity to try again, a new chance for success. Some days, he surprises me because he goes back to being that child who behaves like a trapped and wounded animal. Other days he surprises me because he rises about that and he move beyond those primal feelings. Today, I am most proud of him because he keeps trying. He is still willing to try. He still fights us on many levels. He still doesn't trust us. Yet there are glimmers of hope. I know he loves us. Three years ago he would have said that he didn't need or want us. Today, he cannot imagine living anywhere else and talks of being with us forever (we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it. :-) ) I don't know what the future will bring nor do I know if it will be enough but for today I honor and celebrate the progress and the hope. For today, that is enough.


Lee said...

What a beautiful post and the light shining in his eyes makes me believe that even more healing and growing will happen!

GB's Mom said...


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