Friday, April 13, 2012

I'm doing the best that I can.

There are hundreds of thousands of women in the world raising angry sixteen year old boys, some single-handedly.  Some of them have been hurt by these young men; they've been slapped, pushed, and/or beaten down.  I know this.  I've heard the stories yet listened from an outsider's point of view.  She needs to take control of the situation.  She needs to teach him how to treat people with respect.  As a mother, somehow she's failed to teach him right from wrong...somehow she's failed.

Last night my point of view was altered when I joined this circle of women.  With one horrifying nose-to-nose moment, as William stared me down and bellowed that I leave his room or he would physically make me, I was instantly initiated.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD):  A severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.

30 years ago, a young girl stood outside her high school gymnasium after performing in a stage show.  Her former boyfriend, who had repeatedly sexually assaulted her while they were dating, appeared and demanded to take her home.  She said no.  He started yelling, insisting that she leave or he would physically force her.  She said no again.  He grabbed her arm hard and twisted.  She pulled away.  The sound of a sharp crack across her cheek could be heard across the courtyard.  Shock, humiliation, and grief.  She tried to slap back but his rage had taken over.  He was stronger, taller, and showed no respect for this person standing before him.  She started screaming...

William's anger was developed and thriving well before he came to live with us.  By six years old he had seen and experienced more horror and violence than most of us will ever encounter in our lifetimes.  He's been professionally diagnosed with PTSD.  He takes medication for it.  So yesterday, when I confronted him about something - something so utterly insignificant - he flew into a rage. 

There we were, two individuals standing toe-to-toe, each now escalated into our own personal PTS war.  Mine was standing against a predator - a bully, ready to hurt me again.  His was knowing that he'd done something wrong, was backed into a corner, and terrified of the consequences.  Fight or flight.  Obviously, he's a fighter.  Years later, I was ready to protect myself.

My son's been warned in the past; under no circumstances does he lay a hand on me or anyone else when he's angry.  There have been previous times when his anger was within punching range of my face or when I've ducked to avoid a flying object.  He knew if it happened again, I'd call the police.  I meant what I said. 

My calling the police wasn't because I was afraid of him hurting me.  The memory of my adoloscent battle is still as fresh as it was the day it happened.  That day, I swore I would never allow someone to physically assault me again - at least without properly defending myself.  Last night, the police were called to keep me from unleashing thirty years of shock, humiliation, and grief upon my little boy.  When my broken, fragile kiddo - the one I held as a six year old foster son - placed his hard, heavy hand on my shoulder and pushed me roughly away I wanted fight back.  How dare he touch me?  I'll show him!  No, I won't.  I'll never push back.  No matter what he does to me, I can't allow that hurt girl to retaliate no matter how desperately she wants to.

I don't know how other mothers do it.  There's no key, no magic trick, or in my case - no handbook.  One day at a time.  I need to hang on to the hope that things will get better but when the ugliness shows itself again - and it will - I have to pull out the sweet, priceless memory of the first time I heard him say, "Mama, I wuv you". 

I'm doing the best that I can.  I have not failed.  As long as I'm living, my baby he'll be.