So, I wrote the teacher a short book this morning. I’m not sure how it will be received, but I don’t feel that matters. I don’t want to feel like I have to justify myself before her, but I feel that I need to stand up for myself. I don’t want her to know the dirty details of my sons’ experiences–they truly are none of her business–but I want her to know enough that she may not make this mistake again.
I’ll spare you all the super lengthy message and just share the highlights. I know, I know….you have a hard time believing that I could write on and on at length!
I just wanted to let you know that I called [the school] and left a message before work yesterday, requesting a change in ES for both boys. I really love you, S, and am concerned that will hurt you. But, I have requested a male teacher for the boys.
R’s counselor and I have messaged rather lengthy messages back and forth and I’ve shared everything with several of my DV advocates, so I’m feeling much calmer and have greater clarity now. I had been absolutely panicked that I was losing R. The counselor referred to it as “resurfacing” and the advocates called it a “setback.” They said this is “classic.” Though it feels like the end of the world to me, it is to be expected. At first, all I could think was, “A year of hard work in counseling gone!” It’s not. I’ve been assured that it will not take as long or as much to bring him out of it this time.
I blame myself. With all of the extra court and visitation nightmares this fall and winter I took on too much extra work, and I wore myself out. I didn’t stay on top of things the way I should have and subjugated responsibilities that I should not have.
I know you have a big heart and a tremendous amount of love for all kids. But, a terrible amount of damage was facilitated by a lack of understanding of R’s history and of DV. Acknowledging the difficulties in my children’s lives and the fact that they are at risk is not a judgment. It is not a statement that I don’t see the good in my own children–the good that you are seeing. It is a responsible recognition of our reality.
[I texted her a couple of weeks ago that I was worried about R, and she texted back, "Mercy before judgment." Hence, all of my references to judgment.]
I believe in my children, but I also cannot underestimate the damage that was done. I can’t naively insist that they can forget what they’ve been through and forge ahead. I cannot ignore statistics that tell me what kind of danger they are in.
I would like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the last two years from counselors, advocates, authors, educators, and pastors involved in domestic violence and our lives.
[This is where I really got long winded!!! How do you compress those complexities into short form? I also shared, without details, about an experience my son suffered at the age of two. He doesn't remember it, and his counselor and I both agree that we don't need to remind him or inform him. He has enough to process. However, the problems are still there because the memory and experience do exist in his subconscious. This teacher encouraged a detrimental relationship with a girl whose own parents are in the middle of a bitter divorce and custody battle. I even believe she orchestrated time for them together. The teacher had asked about a convenient time for testing to be done. I told her I absolutely could not do it in the middle of the afternoon because of work. She arranged for it in the middle of the afternoon with no explanation. She also arranged for this girl to take her test at the same time. Since both kids had to be dropped off way early due to parental time constraints, the teacher conveniently took them to a coffee shop and hung out until test time.]
My sons are at risk for developing this behavior. There are many, many things, occurrences, that indicate R and E are at high risk. I have not shared those things with you because I didn’t feel it was necessary information for you to have in order to be their ES. They have been in counseling, and those things have been dealt with appropriately there by well trained mental health professionals. I think sharing too much of that stuff with you or anyone else not involved in their therapy is akin to creating a smear campaign against my own children. I’d like for them to completely heal and to be able to hold their heads up high without everyone in town knowing all the dirty details. Surface is all I’ve felt was necessary to be told for a basic understanding.
Without all of the background though you couldn’t possibly make appropriate judgment calls on R’s behavior or choices. Yet, in my own weakness and fatigue I subjugated some things to you that I needed to be bucking up and watching over. There is something else in R’s background that happened when he was two. He doesn’t even remember it. I put the children in counseling then, too, and I took R in for a physical exam. Every single professional involved at that time gave me the same warnings and instructions. They stated that there would be certain trigger times that I would need to watch for. Such as, when he went through puberty, when he got his first girlfriend or developed feelings for a girl or at least when all of his friends started playing the boyfriend/girlfriend game. R’s relationship with M has not been healthy. However, you stated that they bring out the best in each other, so I sat on my laurels and didn’t pay any attention to anything going on. That is NOT your fault. That is MINE. All of the warning signs were there. The lack of interest in activities that he previously enjoyed. The ditching of old friends for these new friends of M’s. I read the texts between the two of them. They were nothing but very negative parent bashing sessions. That does not facilitate healthy family relationships or fixing of any existent issues. It only fuels any underlying anger or depression. R has been diagnosed by an extremely well educated, well positioned mental health professional with over three decades of experience with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Dysthymia (I say that just so you know that those are not labels I’m using to judge him but are honest to goodness diagnoses). That was a dangerous relationship for him, and I should have been protecting my son. (By the way, R does NOT know about the experience. He was so little he does not remember it. Either that, or he blocked it. Either way, his counselor and I discussed it and both of us felt strongly that R did not need to be informed of it. He has enough to process. However, those memories are still there subconsciously, and he still responds to them.)
Blah, blah, blah……..I go on about perimeters, lying, gaslighting, boundaries.…..
So, all that being said, I’m not changing ES’s because I am upset with you. I recognize my own weaknesses and feel that a stronger, positive male role model coming into the home weekly is vital. The boys have been missing 4-H because R didn’t want to go anymore. We’ll be going tonight though. For the same reason, the reason why I enrolled them in the first place, the positive male role models. We begin seeing R’s counselor again on the 13th, and he, too, was an amazing role model for R (and E, too).
[I said other stuff here about old home school friends and re-establishing and encouraging those relationships.]
(However, I’m not just subjugating my responsibilities to these men, merely looking for them to play a supportive role) I’ll also be taking the younger three back to their DV support group next week. We haven’t been since before Christmas because it’s too easy at the end of a work day to come home and veg. I’ll be making the effort again.
I’m trying to see this all positively. It was a wake up call to me that we are no where near out of the woods, that we may never be. It took 16 years for R to damage us, it certainly is going to take longer than a year for us to recover.
I need to get back to proactively parenting.
The only thing that I would like to suggest to you is that in reading your texts they really went against recommended guidelines as far as your personal comments and opinions and your questions. Since you obviously had already judged me and did not trust me, I would suggest that the appropriate thing to have done is refer R back to his counselor since he does have an established, long term relationship with a mental health professional who knows all of his background and would have been able to help him were he truly in any danger.
I hope you understand. I do love you, S. I just love my kids more and feel this change is crucial to their recovery.
It will be interesting to see how she responds, if she responds, or if I just get a call from the new ES to schedule a visit. Either way, I’ve taken personal responsibility for my own failures and I’ve held her accountable for hers. She’s the only one who can accept her own personal responsibility.