Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Tyranny of the Mentally Ill

It's been two weeks since Noah's grandmother walked away with him and decided not to let us parent him. So many have offered their prayers for us and for Noah and I can tell that the prayers of the righteous are indeed effective as promised in the scriptures. Thanks to those prayers, we have been blessed with a lot of clarity in thought and feeling over the past two weeks. Initially, I was heart-broken to have only an empty crib left of the little life we spent the last 8 months raising and nurturing and bringing to emotional health. Then something interesting began to happen. We began to realize that in many ways we are greatly relieved. In my heart that seems selfish and childish but as our minds and hearts began to clear, we recognized the many ways that Noah's grandmother held us in her control.

Our parenting of him, unfortunately, had very little to do with Noah and everything to do with his grandmother. I was not able to do anything with Noah without wondering if my way of doing it would upset his grandmother, would be the source of yet another confrontation, would be met with criticism - and I mean anything - from wiping his jiggly little dupa to dressing him to handling his therapists and filling his sippy cup. We realized that, while we thought we were drifting more and more into a parental role, his grandmother had never really given up an ounce of control. On many days, I wondered which child was more difficult to raise - Noah or his 63 year old grandmother. Without Noah in our home, we are finally getting out from under what I've been thinking of as the Tyranny of the Mentally Ill. It feels good to not have to worry about every minute decision I make in a child's life, to not grimace when the phone rings, to not plan my arguments and plot the boundaries I'll be laying down that day...

We have an interesting call on our marriage and our family. We take people in. We adopt children whom others have spent time messing up before they get to us. We bring in young mothers and their babies. We provide respite for other parents who can't get past the next minute without a break from their children who have serious needs (and, thankfully, the favor is returned). And we listen...a people, moms, dads who have been affected by the cycles of poverty, mental illness, abuse. We've been around the block a few times now and we're no longer the doe-eyed optimists. These cycles are hard to break, even harder if you are the one doing the soul-breaking labor of cutting into them and leaving them behind. There have been times in the journey when we've been thankful that God has said, "You've given enough. You've done your share in this one's life. Well done good and faithful servant." We might not understand Him saying that when the timing seems way too early to have done much good so this must remain another mystery of our faith.

Ten years ago we lost another baby. We had him in our home as an adoptive placement for 3 months when the birthfather bailed himself out of jail and decided to try to be a dad (that was a nice Christmas present the week before Christmas). It wasn't long before he was back in jail - this time until his son will turn 16 or 17. I talked to his mom a couple of years ago and she says the baby we would have raised in our home is turning into a punk like his dad. At age 7 he was already belligerent, defiant, a ladies' man with a flattering tongue. For ten years we've been praying for that baby, now a 10 year old, to come home to us, for God to do some miracle, for the course of his life to be altered and end the cycle of poverty and abuse he's in. I have his dad's prison address sticky-noted to my computer monitor so I can write to him someday again. He always writes back - he's bored, lonely, says he's changed but I don't know.

So when people say they will pray for Noah to return, I have my doubts - doubts that are founded in a deepening understanding of the reality of life on this side of God's triumphant kingdom.

I had a dream a couple of nights ago. It was an icky dream but good in that for the first time I was able to separate my feelings for Noah, my lost son, from my feelings towards his grandmother. I think that dream is probably the beginning of the real grieving process now that we've begun to sort out the pscyhological abuse we've endured for the past year. Yes, continue to pray for Noah. He is now stuck back in the cycle of co-dependency. His grandmother will continue to define herself in his existence. Unless something drastic changes, he will lose the emerging personality we finally saw in him here to the tyranny of expectations set on him by the mentally ill. It is too subtle to report to any governing agency. He certainly isn't being neglected or physically abused, just subject to the never-ending existence of the poor and their problems. After all, Jesus did promise us that the poor we would always have.


DebD said...

Thanks for sharing about your life - this was very eye-opening, but encouraging at the same time.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

What interesting and liberating insights you have gained!

We just never know what works out for the best, and what won't. I know it still hurts, though.

You will raise whatever children God sends to you to raise.