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3 years ago  ::  Sep 03, 2011 - 12:06AM #1
Twinkle4ever
Posts: 5

My husband and I have been empty nesters for the past 8 months.  Prior to that we were consumed with the drama of helping a boy that we had custody of for 6 years.  While we were so occupied, we didn't realize it but we more or less kept to ourselves.  Now we find that we have very few friends and an almost nonexistent social life.  I have a biological daughter who is now 23, divorced from her father when she was 18 months, remarried when she was 6.  My husband and I tried to have children together but found out he was infertile, talked about being foster parents but decided against it because we didn't think we could handle getting attached and having problems when they moved on.  Six years ago, a situation arose in which two brothers who had no family to care for them needed a family.  My husband and I took them in, the oldest was 18 and the youngest 12.  They had a background of abuse.  The 18 year old became a firefighter/EMT and moved out.  We got custody through the court of the 12 year old and tried to help him get on track with school and got him therapy for behavior problems.  It would seem to work for a while but he would be suspended from school, then expelled, sent to a group home, went to the Commonwealth Challenge here in Virginia for six months & got his GED, came home and got into drugs and criminal behavior again.  When he turned 18 he left without telling us anything, we filed a police report thinking he was hurt, but found out he had chosen to leave although he had no job or place to go.  Around the same time our daughter moved out on her own.  We have very mixed feelings about this.  We were relieved we didn't have the drama of the issues dealing with the 18 yr old, but upset that we couldn't help him in the six years that he lived with us.  We know that he is engaging in criminal behavior and that he will be arrested soon for a felony.  I feel like such a failure and it breaks my heart that we couldn't help him.  I know in my mind that everyone makes their own choices in life and that we are not responsible for his choices but my heart hurts for this boy and for us.  I can't even describe the emptiness I feel at times, the older boy has nothing to do with us or his brother.  It is like we are grieving although no one has died, only my idea of the family that I thought we had did die.  Was I just fooling myself by thinking I was creating a family but it was never really there?  It just crumbled away like it never existed.  I do better at times but there is always this emptiness and at times I become overwhelmed and cry when I'm by myself, I don't like to cry in front of people.  I am lonely and hurting and I know we have to get back to a normal life or whatever that is for us.

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3 years ago  ::  Sep 03, 2011 - 1:23AM #2
karbie
Posts: 3,329

You and your husband were fighting odds to have either of the boys turn out well, since they had obviously been abused physically, mentally and emotionally before you ever met them. I'd guess that the eldest boy might have had some childhood before the abuse became all pervasive, but that everything was going full throttle for the younger one until he came to you. He might not have been able to form the same kind of loving attachment you could give, especially if he'd been born addicted or to an addict mother. He could say the words, but it would have been hard for him to truly understand the emotions that should have come with them.


So he took off at 18? As soon as he legally could, he wanted to be free to do whatever he wanted to with no rules. I'm so sorry that you both have been hurt and your family fragmented like this. Did your daughter resent all the time and attention these boys "took away" from her? She may not have said so, but that might be why you don't hear from her. Have you tried to contact her, see if you could meet for coffee/lunch/dinner on neutral ground? I am NOT trying to criticize you over this at all, nor am I saying you did anything wrong except have your hands full. At 23 it's not to late to rebuild a relationship with her and I hope she decides to meet with you.


I'm not a professional, but i heard a lot about cases when a friend was first a Guardian Ad Litem, then went on to become a licensed social worker. The Guardian protects the rights of the child and speaks for the child in custody cases and/or abuse cases. Unlike a social worker, a Guardian can enter hearsay evidence--lie neighbors reporting yelling, screaming, kids who haven't been seen for awhile that can make an impact on how a judge rules.


I had to break with 2 of my friends when my son's immune system was so bad I was supposed to keep him away from dogs and cats and people who owned them, especially cats. My 2 closest friends had multiple cats. I ended up home-schooling him, so I have some idea of how isolated you became. He's been married going on 2 years now and they have a cat found abandoned at her parent's church. During the years his health was bad, I poured every moment to keeping him going and it didn't do my own health any good. He had a tutor in high school --again over health issues--and it put a strain on us all. He finished college and has a job that he can do from home on bad days. But it's hard to go from a year or more of 24/7 care to empty nest and my heart goes out to you.


I mentioned the Guardian program if you still wanted to help kids but not take them  into your home. I don't know about your area; in ours it isn't a paid position.


You didn't fail. Either or both of those boys could be dead from drugs or gang wars if you hadn't taken them in when you did. At their current ages, you may hear from at least your daughter and the older boy in the future. I have friends here that keep me going and you might find some groups here you like. In your own area, are there any programs through your library? Take dance lessons, or  check out historical things in your area.


Frankly, after all the stress and drama you've been through, you need some time to recover physically and emotionally from it all. You did more than anyone else did when you stepped up and took those boys in and I praise you for it.

"You are letting your opinion be colored by facts again."
'When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you."
these are both from my father.
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3 years ago  ::  Sep 03, 2011 - 11:03AM #3
Twinkle4ever
Posts: 5

My husband and I have realized that we were very naive...we thought it would make a difference to bring children into our home and give them love and consistency.  We weren't prepared to deal with children who are emotionally damaged.  (The boy's mother was on drugs during both of her pregnancies, and gave the boys to her mother & stepfather, the grandmother was sick and died soon thereafter, and the grandfather couldn't care for them and passed them onto a maternal uncle & his wife who were very young but the only family who was willing to take them in.  They had a newborn and didn't have time for the boys but wanted the money they received ...they got a TANIF (sp?) check since they were relatives).  The aunt singled out the younger boy for abuse.


We took him to several therapists to try to figure out how to help him, he never talked much and things came out slowly.  Each time we heard events that happened to him, my husband and I would be upset and grieve, since we were hearing it for the first time, it seemed like to us it had just happened.  We found out that he had reactive attachment disorder, and that he would probably never form an attachment to us or anyone.


I didn't mean to imply that we don't have a relationship with our daughter, she just happened to move out at around the same time.  She lives with her boyfriend close by and they are at our house nearly every day.  We made sure that we gave her the attention she deserved and she also tried with the boys as we did.  I'm sure there were times that she resented them for the time and aggravation, but we are happy that we do have a good relationship with her.


There was a Guardian Ad Litem assigned when we were going through the process to obtain custody.  They told us that there was nothing that could be done about the abuse because it had already happened.  We were discouraged because there was evidence but no one was willing to make any statements and it seemed that the courts and the social service office in our county were not willing to pursue anything.


I think that I am so upset now because of the news that he has been engaging in more serious illegal activity and he will be arrested and what he has done is a felony.  When he first came to live with us we told him that we knew he was at a crossroad and that we wanted to help him to go down the right path and that whatever help he needed we would give him.  We told him that while he lived with us, we didn't want him to steal or use drugs but that we would help him to get the skills to be able to get a job to work for what he wanted in life.  We explained to him that if he ever brought drugs into the house or if any of his friends did, we could lose our jobs and that we could not stand for him jeopardizing our livelihood like that.  Like I said, we were naive to think that he would do what we wanted him to do.  He would always say the right things and he had a lot of people fooled.  I guess part of what we feel is betrayal for taking a child in and treating them like a son and they really never had any intention of doing anything other than what he wanted to do all along.


I have been getting more involved in an exercise group and in our church.  I knit and crochet a lot and I find that it is both satisfying and healing to create things for yourself or for others.    My husband is currently not working.  He hasn't really found any groups or activities to join.  He says he is happy we don't have the drama now but he also doesn't want to talk about things, I think like a lot of men he doesn't want to talk about his feelings and maybe because of that it may take him a while to bounce back.    I have a full time job that pays very well but is sometimes stressful.  My husband is very supportive of me and he is also an excellent cook, does the laundry and keeps the house and yard clean.  Many of my friends whose husbands are out of work tell me they wish their husband would cook or do laundry so I know I am lucky.


Thank you so much for your supportive words and taking the time to reply.  It really helps to know that someone cares.

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3 years ago  ::  Sep 05, 2011 - 4:48AM #4
karbie
Posts: 3,329

I'm so glad I misread about your daughter! I'd have loved to be wrong about the boys being born addicted and abused before they came to you, for everyone's sake. It just didn't sound like it could be anything else from what you described, and you weren't to blame for their inability to love you back.


I'm glad that you've got a good job, and doing the cooking and laundry is a good way for your husband to keep his hands and mind busy. He's doing something constructive and your love for each other helped you through this long ordeal. Your mutual love and faith kept this from destroying your marriage and you obviously always showed a united front. Those boys would have played you against each other if there had been the slightest opening. They weren't even given the proper nurture and nutrients before they were born and began life going through withdrawal. You did more than anyone else did by them at least learning to go through the motions. I'm just grateful neither of them got into major legal trouble while they lived with you. I think you can take that for about as much gratitude as they could give you--while they moved out as soon as they were 18, they didn't want to risk getting kicked out.


I saw your post and just wanted you to know that someone had heard you. You both did everything you could for them, and more than anyone else was willing to do. I'd hate to think what being in the system until they aged out or were in prison would have done to them. They got to be together and live as brothers instead of being torn apart--I doubt that would have happened without your family. I'm sorry they were too damaged to understand love and return it.


 

"You are letting your opinion be colored by facts again."
'When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you."
these are both from my father.
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3 years ago  ::  Sep 28, 2011 - 10:48AM #5
christine3
Posts: 7,406
Hi Twinkle,

Wow, the memories.  I was a very troubled teen, with a mother who never wanted to be a mother and let us know it regularly, and an alcoholic father who committed suicide when I was 12 (I found him).  Two younger brothers, one of whom committed suicide when he was 23, and the other brother who I had no contact with, and the sibling relationship has never been repaired.  I've tried but to no avail.  I moved out of the house when I was 18, and lived on the streets rather than go home because of the memories, and rather than being with a narcissistic mother.  Since then, I've seen my mother a handful of times, the visits always ending badly.

You never know what's going on in the mind of a teenager or young adult if they have learned not to talk about problems.  They can't possibly open up on their own, unless it is in outbursts, angry retorts, blaming.  Even in the most loving homes where both parents were great, there is going to be that societal expectation for children to go out and make it on her or his own, be an adult. 

Part of the problem in the United States is that we have had so much, that people don't have the same kinds of bonds as in developing countries where people have to pool together and work together.  Here in the United States, many children get the idea from society that they have to fend for themselves when they leave home, and while they are doing that, it takes up all their energy.  When they have difficulties and don't know how to do things, they see it as a weakness to have to ask.  They don't realize that they don't have to invent the wheel all over again.  They don't realize their parents have been through growing up and leaving home, and their parents are a resource for information on how to do things. 

They have to be constantly reminded to communicate.  Their communication skills are challenged anyway just because they are young, and so they have to be gently reminded that no matter how difficult it is to put something into words, they have to try...it is a skill like any other.

Also, adults are much more knowledgeable and capable of taking the first step to communicate.  There are grudges and mistakes on both sides but a child is far less able to climb over the walls to communicate.  Children have far less coping skills than parents simply because of age and inexperience with life.  Parents can see both sides of the problem when children can rarely see that their parents are as human as everyone; even as adults they think they are unequal with their parents.  Your first steps can go on and on--50 first steps you may have to make!  You must be the first one to reach out, because they aren't going to do it.  As parents we know when our children are suffering, while children don't have a clue that their parents are suffering.  Parents have such good coping skills that they can completely mask their suffering to their children so their children don't know.

So if you want to talk to your children, call them.  Be honest about your feelings.  If you are hurting, tell them.  Ask if you can talk to them more often, and let them know how often you need to talk, to feel like you are still a family.  If you know in your heart you've made mistakes, don't simply say that you've made mistakes, but specify them and tell them what you've learned.  If they see you doing that, they will learn how to do it too.  I always tell myself that a nut is difficult to crack without the proper tool, but the meat inside is well worth it.

I was a very good parent, because I learned from both my parents what NOT to do in parenting.  They made so many mistakes, that it is no wonder why I never made it back to my one remaining parent, my mother.  We never repaired.  I grew up essentially alone and had to learn everything on my own, with no family at all.  However, I turned out good.  As a parent I was very loving, very communicative, yet my daughter still had the usual "fly away out of the nest" behavior.  I had to reach out to her constantly at first.  It took 7 long years of reaching out until she matured and realized that we were equals, friends.  She didn't want to at first; she wanted to be left alone to be an adult.  Being an adult with no parent was so exhilarating to her! 

No matter how much you tried and succeeded in being a good parent (as parents go), there are still things that have to be worked out.  We are only human.  When you apologize for specific things you know they are holding grudges about, it creates a little opening where some air can come in.  You can do it.  Never give up.
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3 years ago  ::  Oct 02, 2011 - 2:59PM #6
dreamhealth
Posts: 617

Sep 3, 2011 -- 12:06AM, Twinkle4ever wrote:

My husband and I have been empty nesters for the past 8 months.  Prior to that we were consumed with the drama of helping a boy that we had custody of for 6 years.  While we were so occupied, we didn't realize it but we more or less kept to ourselves.  Now we find that we have very few friends and an almost nonexistent social life.  I have a biological daughter who is now 23, divorced from her father when she was 18 months, remarried when she was 6.  My husband and I tried to have children together but found out he was infertile, talked about being foster parents but decided against it because we didn't think we could handle getting attached and having problems when they moved on.  Six years ago, a situation arose in which two brothers who had no family to care for them needed a family.  My husband and I took them in, the oldest was 18 and the youngest 12.  They had a background of abuse.  The 18 year old became a firefighter/EMT and moved out.  We got custody through the court of the 12 year old and tried to help him get on track with school and got him therapy for behavior problems.  It would seem to work for a while but he would be suspended from school, then expelled, sent to a group home, went to the Commonwealth Challenge here in Virginia for six months & got his GED, came home and got into drugs and criminal behavior again.  When he turned 18 he left without telling us anything, we filed a police report thinking he was hurt, but found out he had chosen to leave although he had no job or place to go.  Around the same time our daughter moved out on her own.  We have very mixed feelings about this.  We were relieved we didn't have the drama of the issues dealing with the 18 yr old, but upset that we couldn't help him in the six years that he lived with us.  We know that he is engaging in criminal behavior and that he will be arrested soon for a felony.  I feel like such a failure and it breaks my heart that we couldn't help him.  I know in my mind that everyone makes their own choices in life and that we are not responsible for his choices but my heart hurts for this boy and for us.  I can't even describe the emptiness I feel at times, the older boy has nothing to do with us or his brother.  It is like we are grieving although no one has died, only my idea of the family that I thought we had did die.  Was I just fooling myself by thinking I was creating a family but it was never really there?  It just crumbled away like it never existed.  I do better at times but there is always this emptiness and at times I become overwhelmed and cry when I'm by myself, I don't like to cry in front of people.  I am lonely and hurting and I know we have to get back to a normal life or whatever that is for us.


Your work was done the minute they left.  It is hard for a young person to keep in touch with somebody they want to leave, and leaving isn't the point: they need, all of us do, to take that final step and do life themselves. I hate it when my mother calls to see "how I'm doing!" I mentored a young man through college and getting on his own andgetting a career  as a teacher. He got his job out of State and is content tp let the "relationship" break down. In return, I deleted him from my Facebook account
(which I helped him to make) after a few years of saying nothing. There is no relationship when you are helping someone: you are the fruit tree, and they pick your branches as needed.

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3 years ago  ::  Oct 02, 2011 - 5:36PM #7
joycon
Posts: 2,788

Hi Twinkle. I am sorry you are feeling as if you are a failure. You are not. It was a wonderful thing you and your husband did. You provided a home for those boys and you provided them with love and life lessons. They, and your daughter, choose how to use those life lessons. I know you are grieving the loss of the family unit that you thought you had, but that doesn't mean it will stay the same. The only constant in life is change.


I don't believe your (or my) job is done the minute they walk out the door. I think we can still be open to them to talk to us, to offer advice (IF they ask), and to love and pray for them. You have both made an impact in their lives.

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3 years ago  ::  Oct 05, 2011 - 8:46PM #8
karbie
Posts: 3,329

If you look at the damage that was done to both boys before they were even born, you and your family achieved so much. Just being willing to take both brothers was good of you. One of the problems I've read about addicted babies is the amount of pain sheer touch causes them as they go through the pain of withdrawal, beginning the day they are born.


I have fibromyalgia, and was told by a neurologist the fact that I have sleep apnea makes it worse. In a truly severe attack, I'd remove my skin if I could just to remove the pressure on the nerves. I also got to go through involuntary withdrawal on all the medications I've been on for years due to my primary pain relief patches taking 10 days instead of 2 to reach me out of state. When I could no longer keep down water I was hospitalized. The process of getting rid of any trace of even blood pressure medication scared my older sister because my head shape changed.


That isn't a poor me because it was a few years ago and because I at least knew what was going on with my body. It also answered those "Do I really need this pill?" doubts because I found out how I'd be without them. YUCK. but those babies had no road maps except being in a world of hurt. The sort of bonding that comes from newborns being held, loved, cuddled and having a dependable caregiver to feed and change them was missing. So those connections were never made.


What you did for those boys was heroic in my book. Don't blame yourselves because they were incapable of returning the love you gave them or appreciating all you did for them. The oldest boy wouldn't have been able to get through the disciplined schedule of the boot camp he went through to become a firefighter if he hadn't had the benefit of the schedules and goal orientation you taught him. Impulse control, which scientists now think may not fully develop until age 25, is another casualty of their developmental delays. You did more than many parents have been able to accomplish with their biological children.


As for the youngest--no one could have done more for him than you did. Whether or not they are capable of gratitude at a later date is unknown. Love is never wasted. Your daughter got to see parenthood, love and dedication at their furthest reach.

"You are letting your opinion be colored by facts again."
'When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you."
these are both from my father.
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3 years ago  ::  Oct 15, 2011 - 6:31AM #9
belleo
Posts: 2,867

Abuse does terrible things to people . It is true that some steal and do drugs ... I was horribly abused for many years and I remained silent for a long time . It was the love of good people that cracked the shell of my heart . They introduced me to praise . God is love and he heals .

Just me
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3 years ago  ::  Oct 17, 2011 - 4:59PM #10
MarleneEmmett5
Posts: 1,704

Bello:
there are all kinds of abuse. Emotional,Physical,Verbial.
I've been the victum of all three.
The person who was my Abuser, my adoptive Father.
It didn't begin till I turned 6,after I was diagnosed with Epilepsy.
When I was diagnosed,my dad's whole world began to crumble,slowly.

When I was adopted,it was because his wife had an emergency hysterectomy at the
age of 26 while on their honeymoon.
They adopted a little girl who they thought was "perfect"
But at the age of 5 I began to drop things and also to 'Space out".
When I was 6 I was diagnosed with Epilepsy.

This is when the emotional abuse began.
One day I heard my dad tell my mother these words;
"I'll take you anywhere you need to go, I'll pay for any medications she needs,
i'll take you to any doctor's appointments but I don't want anything to do with the Child"

My father,the man I loved closed his heart towards me.
It's 37 years ago and it still hurts like it was yesterday.......
The other emotional abuse came when he'd make cracks about my weight.
Or he'd say "Oh you'll never amount to anything"
Really did a number on my self confidence.

The Physical Abuse didn't happen till Spring of 1974.
My mom suffered a stroke on January 26,1974.

Now something happened in my life on 3-27-73 that I was still greiving from when my mom
had her stroke. What happened was that I was made to undergo an unwanted abortion.
It was about a year after I had the abortion that she had the stroke.

Now in March of 1974 we found out she had an inopberable brain tumor.
I had to keep quiet about my problems and concentrate on my mother.
She was the "important person now, not me".
I also had to keep quiet about her having Cancer.
She was not to know. Ever.

Now this is when my dad took out his frustrations on me.
I became his punching board.
He kicked me in the ribs,back and he slapped me around.
And I had nobody to go cry to. I was all alone.
Some of my mom's sisters didn't beleive me when I told them daddy hit me
their answer was "oh you're dad would never do that"
I told them "well he did it" and he's waited till mom can't help me anymore"!!!

My mom's gone 38 years as of this past September 29th.
She passed on the Jewish High Holiday's in 1974.

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