‘Tis the Season

Belief is a touchy subject. It is difficult for me to accept something exists without absolute proof — to have faith — and yet, the majority of what I do believe cannot be proven. It is internal. If I feel something is true, then I hold it as true with or without tangible evidence. But I cannot join in the blind faith so many of my friends and family possess.

I transferred to a private Christian academy for my final three years of high school, not because I believed in God, but because my dad did. When he was diagnosed, I started receiving Social Security benefits. When he died, the amount increased to over $800 a month. I didn’t want that money. It was insulting to think that it was adequate compensation for his loss, but it was his, so I decided to use it for something that would make him happy. And it did turn out to be a blessing.

Christmas is all about belief. The Pagan Yule, Jesus’s birth, Santa, Commercialism, family: there is something for almost everyone. Until my son started preschool, he knew where the presents came from: Mommy, Grandma, aunts and uncles. Then he sees that other kids believe in a jolly old elf-master, and he starts playing along.

At four, Hugo convinced himself that Santa was real in order to be like other kids — at four, it was already obvious to him that he wasn’t like them at all — and, at eight, he continues the myth. It’s familiar in a world that has changed too much. His logical mind allows him to prove, rather than disprove, Santa because of his need for stability. Rather than question why Santa looks so different in every store, Hugo reasons that these people are Santa’s representatives from the North Pole. They are agents sent out to find out what small children want for Christmas, and they only way to obtain that information is by looking like Santa. Little kids are very shy and stranger-conscious after all.

I don’t like Santa Claus. He steals too many of my mom points. I tolerate his presence because I understand. There really has been too much change for one boy to handle: he’s lost his grandfather and his brother, and he’s moved across country leaving almost his entire family behind. He’s rarely given much explanation — he feels as if his opinion doesn’t matter and that he doesn’t have a choice in regards to his own life.

If I were him, I’d be angry too.

I began with the concept of belief — how difficult it is for me. It seems so easy for my son; he seems to believe in everything: God, Santa, homicidal robots, etc. I don’t understand how he believes, but I do understand some of the why.

I’ve never bothered to give him real answers. I assumed that he didn’t need to believe in anything because I don’t need to. He’s eight years old — of course he does!

And that barely touches on how much I have failed him…

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Outburst

There are things you should never say to your child:

  1. I should just let them take you to prison; that’s where you’re headed if things don’t change.
  2. I should have let grandma keep you because I’m obviously failing as your mom.
  3. There’s a reason you don’t have a father, but you’re turning into him anyway.
  4. After what you did, I’m ashamed to claim you as my son.

A few days ago, I said all of those and more. Perhaps it would have been better to whip him – everyone keeps telling me that’s what he needs, and it is acceptable, and often encouraged, where we live – but I have never been able to physically hurt anyone. The few times I’ve gone the corporal punishment route, I’ve burst into tears and had to stop to hug him and apologize. The only lesson he learned from that was how to manipulate mom with tears. Great parenting, Jane.

There’s something going on with him (has been going on with him for five years) that is causing him to get angry and have violent outbursts. There’s no excuse for the things I said to him; I’m to the point of giving up because nothing ever truly changes. It doesn’t get better: that adage is mere propaganda. Just when things start to seem ok – his medicine appears to be working, he brings his grades back up, or he has a great weekend – everything falls apart, and I end up in front of the school board.

Most of my friends are Christians. They tell me I need to trust God, to pray, to go to church, to ask for help, etc. None of that is going to happen. Church is a band aid that hides the festering wound; it does not heal the soul: that is more useless propaganda. My son believes, and he is no better off for it. If anything, his belief has created a rift in our relationship; he stopped confiding in me after he went to church camp this summer, and his behavior is worse than ever. Whatever respect he had for me has disappeared. So, while my words were inappropriate, they are, to an extent, justifiable.

I never wanted to be a mom: that’s the one awful thing I didn’t say.

He was perfect when he was younger. I thought I had somehow hit the baby jackpot. He was beautiful, smart, sweet, and well-behaved. I fell in love, which is incredible because I don’t love anybody.

Then, everything changed. I started getting calls from preschool. He was expelled. Calls from kindergarten. Suspension. Isolation for the rest of K-5 and 1st grade. Appointments with doctors and psychiatrists who all said that it was too soon to know anything. Behavior plans for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. More suspensions. Doctors. Five failed medications. Treatment for an attention disorder he doesn’t have. Counsellors addressing the problems but failing to address the cause of those problems.

Something is going on. Everyone has an opinion, but no one is listening to me. He is dealing with major depression and severe anxiety, exactly what I have been dealing with my whole life. But no one wants to give an 8-year-old antidepressants – no one wants to believe that a young child can have panic attacks. Doctors prescribe harmful stimulants to control negative behavior, yet they won’t prescribe something that might actually treat the root of that behavior?

I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m physically ill from stress. I’m making bad choices because of how lost and alone I feel.

But more importantly: my son is hurting, and I don’t know how to help him. My son is afraid, and I can’t comfort him. All I seem to be able to do is make us both cry.