Some days we get so caught up in the daily grind of nonsense chatter, firestarting, urine puddles and being called names that we lose focus on the little successes that might be there. We get lost in the muck of the day to day. The little tiny baby steps go unnoticed by us because we are in the trenches. It takes something big for us to notice.
A few years ago I noticed something big in my middle son.
Before we knew we had attachment challenged children, when it was just “my bad parenting” that two of our boys were out of control, we adopted an infant with Down Syndrome. Our middle son, who at the time was 8, a bully, picked on little kids, especially his little brother, was the type to steal candy from babies and laugh as they cried. Yep, I had that kid. We knew it was learned orphanage behavior but after five years of working on it, we hadn’t gotten very far in getting rid of it, except that he got sneakier and stopped doing it in front of adults. So when we brought baby home, the boys were not allowed near her without very close supervision. The rest of the time, she was literally “on” me or in an alarmed room.
Middle son fell in love. He wanted to hold her. He was gentle. He wanted to feed her the bottle. He did an excellent job of holding it just right. He stroked her head full of long hair (yes at birth she looked like she had hair from one of those troll dolls from the 80s) and spoke gentle words into her ear, whispering, and she’d gaze into his eyes. He would sit for hours, just holding her carefully, while she slept on his lap. I was always hovering nearby, waiting for “the moment” when something would happen. It never happened. As she grew older, he would willingly play with her. He taught her to walk. He would watch Bubble Guppies for hours on end with her if that’s what she wanted to do. He’d be silly to make her laugh. He was gentle and kind and loving in a way we’d never seen before. And Little Miss absolutely adored her big brother, he was her favorite by far, she favored him over Mommy most days. When he’d come home from school, she’d jump up and down screaming her name for him. And he’d immediately drop to his knees and hug her.
That year, the year she turned 3, I met with his teacher and learned astonishing news about my middle son. HE was the one that stood up for the special needs kids in school. HE was the one that went out of his way to play with them, to understand them, to protect them. There was a boy in his class with autism and developmental delays that was very rough and physical, and middle son endured it without complaining, questioning, or responding. He’d simply say, “Gentle, now, be gentle,” just like he did to his baby sister. And that boy adored him as well. He was the one that all the little kids knew and adored. He was their protector, their shield, from mean bigger kids. He stood up for them on the bus, he stood up for them on the playground. And he never, ever said a mean word to them. In 4th grade he had a huge following of kindergarten and first graders, they all knew his name and who he was, they all loved him (much to his embarrassment). Three years prior I know he would have been the older kid that they would have run from the moment they saw him coming.
He had healed. A part of him had opened up to love and the ability to give and care, it had healed a part of his heart that had been so closed off for the 5 years prior that we’d known him. Nothing we’d done had helped, and we tried a lot of things. But this baby girl, with big brown eyes and crazy hair, had worked her way into his heart and opened it, and caused healing.
A kid I was afraid would be one of those “kids that kill” by age 11 is now the kid that I am proud to say watches out for the little kids in the neighborhood. Instead of stealing candy from the little kids, he gives his to them. And we take no credit for that, either.
In that area, he has healed. I am proud of him. I am proud to say I’m his mom. He came out of that dark place and has learned to give and care for littles and those with special needs. He still has things to work through, but I know he can and will. I think his baby sister will be his cheerleader through all of it.
If it can happen to me, it can happen to you, too.
Just keep hanging in there.