I have had many challenging moments raising my son through his emotional and mental issues. As infuriating and distressing as these episodes have been, they aren’t nearly as difficult as that of child abandonment. Our circumstances are extremely complicated. To try to explain it in one blog would not do justice to depict how messy and hard it has been and still is.
My son’s father has never been a pleasant or helpful person to me or to my son. He is defiant, disrespectful, spiteful, foolishly rigid, manipulative to say the least – all behaviors my son has also displayed. He has been what I call “predictably unpredictable” or “consistently inconsistent” because he has never really played a steady part in being a father to my son. When my son was little, he probably saw him 6x a year at best – all at random times convenient for him. [He lived in the next town over.] He finally started to follow a consistent visitation pattern when my son was approaching middle school – when I had enough and took him to court to enforce a schedule. Surprisingly he followed this enforcement for a few years.
During that time, his father started to see first hand my son’s difficult personality. Sometimes he, too, would get caught up in the power struggle that is so common when dealing with a person diagnosed with ODD. This man claimed to have control and intimidation but when the two of them went at it, he wasn’t as resilient and firm as he boasted.
Their relationship took a turn when my son was 14. My son had decided against taking practice tests at school (which the school was OK with) and when his father caught wind of what he thought was defiance, he unexpectedly picked him up from school that day to discipline him. That discipline turned into assault – leaving my son with scratches on his arm and partial hearing loss in his left ear. I came home after work sensing something was off with my son so I asked if he was OK. He looked broken; I could see it in his eyes. He was extremely reluctant to talk but finally told me what happened. I took him to the urgent center to get examined (he had a swollen eardrum).
I called family services the next day, unbeknownst to either of them. Everyone knew about it – the school, the doctor – but everyone failed to report it which was simply unethical. His father was investigated by family services of course (and was even defiant towards them) and from that moment, he chose to stop being in my son’s life. To this day no one knows I reported it. I don’t regret it because it was the right thing to do. Had he struck my son harder the outcome would’ve been a lot worse – criminal included.
I think about a lot of things when it comes to my situation and relationship with my son. Many of those thoughts are somewhat easy to deal with. But when it comes to a parent deliberately abandoning his/her own child, which is what that man has done to him, it is gut wrenchingly impossible to imagine. One of the strategies I learn in therapy is to empathize and put myself in my son’s shoes so that I can adjust my reactions appropriately for a better outcome between us. When I have the courage to examine this particular episode so that I can understand my son better, it is just extremely hard because I can only imagine the deep pain he feels that his dad rejected him and left him. As I write this, I cry, thinking about it.
This particular topic is the hardest of all to deal with in our journey. I’m not sure how to heal my son from this. No one can really give me good advice – therapists included – because child abandonment is just incomprehensible. I guess the only thing I can do is be here for my son, like I have always done, and do the best I can to give him double the love and support he needs.