This past weekend as I visited my child I reflected on the growth of my oldest boy nearly a year after placing him in a residential school. However, I I also revisited the heartache I suffered in silence in bringing him and eventually leaving him.
This weekend a 17-year-old boy named Michael brought from his home state to my son’s school accompanied by his mother and grandmother. For the previous 58 days, they lived out of Ronald McDonald home and their car as Michael was stabilized. See he is the youngest of the two children and has been considered the healthy on per his mother. His oldest sister has is on the spectrum. However, Michael was born with a brain defect that went undetected until it ruptured. Now he has permanent brain damage, tracheotomy, and gi-tube. Even though I pass them in the parent’s home earlier that day, God had it so that both Kenneth and I were at the door when they were unloading. During this time, I shared the love and care that they could except for Michael to receive while here. During the next couple of days, we saw each other in passing, briefly talking as we passed each other. Mainly I encouraged them to rest and rejoice in the little progress they have seen since he arrived. The mother smiled at the fact her son was able to have on regular clothes or he could set up in his reclining chair. Little things so many parents take for granted, those with children in hospitals or away from home, because the care the child needs is more than what is possible to be provided at home, marvel and relishes in as if they are newborn children just learning for the first time.
But there’s another side many do not see. The pain in the realization we can’t care for our child. The belief we have failed them as a parent; that we are abandoning them by sending them away. That our love for them isn’t strong enough that we are being selfish. Before I left yesterday, I went to the room of Michael’s mom and grandmother to say goodbye and to ensure them they are doing what is best for Michael. That’s is when grandma, who came to the door, broke down. She asked how do they just leave him? I had to tell her, you just do. I reminded her they have had 17 years of his smiles, his laughs and knowing full well if he could talk he wouldn’t want to see her like she was at that moment and has been since the rupture. Yes, it’s hard, yes it hurts like hell, but you are doing what is best for Michael. You have done all you can do; you have placed him in a facility that is well known for their care of individuals with brain injuries. Then you pray! Pray for the care he will receive going forward, you pray for the improvement in his health. Then you pray for God to fill the void is absence will cause, you pray for the strength to continue living your life because others individual still needs your care. You pray for your mental and physical health. I left my number if they ever wanted to talk. I know what it’s like to find yourself with no one understood what you are dealing with internally because some things you cannot comfort if you haven’t comprehended.
A year ago July 13th, we load up the car with clothing, food, toys, form and forms of information and head out to the place I affectionately call my “House of Eli”. The place that will train, raise, teach and care for my son until he is twenty-one years of age. During the whole trip, I had to stay silent to my true feelings and thoughts, just as I had leading up to that day. Yes, I had those around me that understood the struggle I was having and agreeing with the decision to send my baby to this school was best for all of us.
However, when your marriage has ended, and you are blamed for the condition of your child; when your youngest child heart really don’t understand why, though logically can repeat the reason for his brother leaving, all while feeling he is being ripped away from him and blames you for sending him away and not loving either of them; all the agreements to your decision means nothing when you find yourself alone. Many of times I cried in silence when the surrounding noise or my pillow could smoother the sound of my heart breaking. Days I worked on autopilot doing that which needed to be done, all while not knowing which way I was supposed to go. Depression being my nightly comforter understanding it had to go hiding when we were in public, so one one would truly see how or what I was feeling. There are decisions we make that another will never understand the depth of our pain and terror unless they are directly affected.
My heart goes out to Michael’s family and others that realized after so many years of thinking they have a healthy child, their dreams for their child was drastically cut short. My heart goes out to the many families who realize that their little ones will need to be raised outside their home to ensure that they are given a chance in life. My hearts breaks for the many parents that must make the hard decision to be unselfish and live with the pain and loss that loving their child will cause. For the many parents who send their child to a home away from home, I pray you find the support, through the school or other groups to understand you are not alone and others that not only understand but those that has or are walking along that same path.
Just a side bar.
It angers me when others criticize the way we handle and train our children without understanding the true nature of a child, especially since mental health and autism has no special mark that gives visual awareness to a child’s disability. It frustrates me even further when other parents of special needs children or not criticize the decision a parent makes to place their child on medication, generally out of ignorance, fear, denial of their own situation. It burns me when your family feels you are crying victim when you say you are tired and need a break and yet they chose not to deal with your child because they know that they could not deal in your space. But my anger is worse when the parent (generally mom) is isolated from friends, family and foes because others don’t understand, don’t agree, or don’t want to deal. That when you decided that medication is the safest route to protect your child from himself beside all other supports you have in place. When you decide that the needs of your child have physically and financially outgrown your ability to give your child proper care and chance in life to live to their fullest ability by placing them in a school that has the manpower and training need to give them life. Know you are not alone and that others are here to help you along the way.
Originally Published 10/2016 Tribenjamin