Eight days . . . that is how long it's been since our 13 year old told a lie, got into a little trouble and stopped speaking to us! I realize this post is going to sound flat out wacky to friends who have not adopted a wounded child AND to those who know how strict we are. Some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering how in the world we have allowed a child to shun us for eight days. Hang with me . . .
For the five years since our 4th oldest has come into the family, we have entered a cycle in which he lies (pathologically), we discipline (through grounding or other consequences that speak to the infraction), he cries hysterically for upwards of an hour and then gives us the "silent treatment" for days at a time. We have tried many methods to cope with this vicious cycle and have not found a way to break this pattern. We can not, as responsible parents, allow him to lie to us without addressing it. He can not, for some unknown reason, be confronted on a lie without spiraling into a crying jag. It is one of life's great mysteries - like Stonehenge or crop circles.
In days gone by, I made sure to put a swift end to his silent treatment by going to him and MAKING him talk it out. I would tell him how much we love him, pray with him, hug him, etc. Sometimes I would even go as far as to take responsibility for the silent time by telling him that I, as the adult, should come to him and make sure our relationship was good after any discipline is meted out. He always acquiesced and things would get back to "normal". This last EVENT hit me right in the heart and my husband and I both became as fed up as we have ever been with the "silent treatment". This young man is hurtling toward 14 years old and he has no idea how to "do" relationships. He is all take and no give. We decided this time around that we are not pursuing him. HE told the lie. HE chose to throw a two hour tantrum in his room and HE needs to "man up" and fix the mess he made with his silent treatment.
I told him so.
I marched into his room after waiting FOUR DAYS for him to start talking to/hanging out with the family again. I let him know that he created this chasm with his attitude and he needed to figure out how to fix it. He said "okay" and proceeded to continue on in silence.
He comes quickly when called to dinner, mind you. He is all too happy to accept rides home from football practice with us. He had no problem ordering off the menu at our recent family dinner out or washing his sweaty football clothes in our washer. He just doesn't want to talk to us.
His pride is killing the relationship between himself and the rest of us.
I have come close, on several occasions, to slipping back into the old habit of having a nice long talk with him and spoon feeding him his repentance. But I can't.
I feel so strongly in my spirit that this NEEDS to come from him. It's okay if it sounds like bumbling. It can be off the mark. It can be out of left field and not really address the problem but it needs to be HIS effort to mend HIS mistakes.
He is becoming a man. He is handsome and athletic. Girls are stupid around him. Although our family does not condone dating in the teen years (we're a "courtship only" operation), he is under our roof less than the other children as our only public school student. He will have the opportunity to reject our teaching and "date" if he can keep it under wraps. His lying is going to deeply wound some unsuspecting young lady. She will not be so gracious as to chase him down and hand feed him an apology. He MUST learn to mend fences.
He craves friendships with other young men but as a person with no ability to admit his mistakes and genuinely ask for forgiveness, he risks extreme loneliness in the years ahead. He has to acquire the skill of humbly seeking restoration.
He hopes to join the military someday. The ability to accept correction WITHOUT the silent treatment following that correction is crucial. A commanding officer is not going to allow him to stare blankly because he's "mad". The discipline will be sure and swift in this environment and his "hurt feelings" aren't going to amount to a hill of beans in the REAL WORLD.
I can not bend on this one. I can not go to him and fix his mess.
It would be most unloving for me to, once again, show him how to "undo" what he's done.
I could have stopped this snowball of silence on day one by walking right up to him and telling him how ridiculous and disrespectful his behavior is. He would have WELCOMED that contact, as he has in the past, and been grateful for that springboard from which to re initiate communication.
He is waiting for it. I can tell. Even though I told him it was up to him to figure out how to fix this, he is holding out hope that I will miss him so much I'll come and sit on the edge of his bed and start the ball rolling... again.
Starting now, I am free from keeping him from feeling the true effects of his actions.
This is a game of "chicken" and I am not flinching. I want to but I won't.
This is the ugly side of older/wounded child adoption. These things that happen in our home are things I would have NEVER allowed back in the day when I knew everything about parenting. . . back when a friend once told me that spanking didn't work with her son and I replied, full of an obnoxious amount of confidence, that she just wasn't doing it hard enough. Back when I had two perfect children, one boy and one girl, and I had "Ezzo-ed" them into little Pharisees, I would have criticized a mom like me for being such a wuss. I would have blamed her for letting a 13 year old have too much power and I would not have been her friend. She would have sickened me.
But that was then. I am much stupider now and those black and white parenting issues sometimes muddle into a gray pool of mush. Every behavior infraction isn't a "sin" and I'm not a meaner version of Jesus - doling out justice but never mercy.
I am feeling my way along the cave wall in the dark and praying that the voice I hear is who I think it to be and not an imposter, giving bum advice on how to deal with this difficult child.
I still, five years into this adoption, have NO idea why God did not give that young man to a more experienced family. Why he did not go someplace where he would be the center of someone's universe instead of such a fringe character in a scenario with parents who still have so much to learn.
Right now, he sleeps under his Pottery Barn Kids comforter with the surfer emblazoned on it. He has his first football game tomorrow where he will play second string. I KNOW he wanted to talk about the game with us today several times but he would not allow himself. He bit back the excitement and stoically trudged along beside us. I know him. He is nervous and excited. He usually chatters incessantly when he's like that but not this time.
I don't know how long he can hold out. We invited him to come watch a DVD with us a few nights ago and he said "okay" and then never came out of his room. He is acting like the offended party rather than the OFFENDER.
I want to shake him and hug him all at once. I think the "shaking" thing is looking more attractive than the "hugging", in all honesty.
It is my prayer that tomorrow, in the morning, as I wake him up for school, he will decide to tear down the wall of silence he has built and humble himself.
If not, I'll do what I do worst . . .wait.