This year, one of Junior’s teachers told us that his grade in language arts has been suffering, even failing.  Rest assured, he is working on improving his writing.  For enough kids, that can be the case as well, and may simply be due to aptitude.  For others like Junior, there may be various factors at play, which should also be taken into account.

For several years, Junior has been attending school just part-time.  The reason for that is because he (and we) seem to benefit most from a combination of both homeschool and public school.  It’s good for him because he can get the necessary individual attention on subjects at home, while it’s good for us to have other teachers teach him what we don’t want to.  In addition, he can also take some elective courses along with his class on social and relational development.  Plus, he’s a very social individual and loves to be around people.

As a result, he has developed a sort of love-hate relationship with other kids.  He so much wants to be accepted and treated as their friend, but he ends up making more enemies in the process.  One result of this was the day he was violently choked by a bully at school.  He was playing a game with kids at recess when the school bully got hurt.  Junior and another kid started laughing at him and so the bully started choking the other kid.  However, when Junior didn’t stop laughing, the bully stopped with the first kid and started choking him!

One of the staff members at his elementary school considered him to be a “provocative victim” to which both my wife and I thought was a pretty accurate description that has stuck.  In the name of fun, he persistently provokes others to the point of anger without being grossly offensive.  Then he ends up suffering for it.  He’s a concrete thinker and his personality is charming, yet…abrasive.  At times I feel for the guy that he doesn’t even see how he’s offending people so much, but then I see him do it and I get irritated because he still persists in doing it.  He’s not terribly malicious. However, he’s still guilty.

These behavior problems have plagued him for his entire short life from a grade school Bruin, now to a Jr. High Trojan.  And now he’s ostracized and bullied still more.  He worships fun and himself at the expense of everything else.  I’m convinced that all this is related to his learning challenges as well and may affect him for years to come.  Yes, he’s only in sixth grade now, but how do you teach someone to change their spots?  May God help him.

Now that you know a bit about our oldest, please allow me to introduce you to our other two boys and what makes them unique.

Our middle son is a wonderful calming influence in my life, except when he’s bothered by his brothers.  He is generally respectful and compliant, has a quirky sweetness to his nature, usually wears his Disney “Cars” cap slightly cocked to the left, and at times likes to be called by his self-given nickname of “Shadow.”  With minor direction and encouragement he has even become an early reader and learner prior to kindergarten at the “Bruins” grade school.  He has also benefitted from having had a strider bike (one of those kid’s bikes without pedals), easily graduating to pedals and no training wheels with relative ease.  With enough early successes, it makes me wonder what new challenges he may be needing next.

The youngest one is our toddler and, like many, a real mover.  In fact, he rarely stops moving during the course of a day.  Even from before he was born he moved A LOT.  One of his favorite things to say is, “I do it.” or “I did it.”  Some people can be proud and just don’t want to acknowledge their need for help, but he genuinely seems to like the sense of personal accomplishment from doing things on his own.  He also likes autonomy while at the same time being clingy.  As an example, he is constantly at mom’s side when she’s cooking, or really doing anything, and he wants to do everything.  And while he’s in the kitchen, he’s also figured out some other tricks.  Lately, one of the funny things he likes to do is put his stuffed animals and toys in his appliance of choice.  We haven’t got a good answer out of him yet as to why, but we still get a kick out of it.

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Even as young as they are, all three brothers seem pretty close, literally.  Actually, they’re all crammed into a small bedroom with two bunk beds and a makeshift trundle.  And they don’t stop growing!  Something will have to be done before long, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

I believe God gave my wife and I the heart to adopt, for our first son, a little boy from the state foster system.  Now, looking back in retrospect, I can probably say that he’s a little more than we bargained for and I might have even thought twice about adoption had I known what we’d be getting into.  Nevertheless, I think it was meant as much for our growth as it was for his, and ever since, we continue to love him more and more.

Before we adopted him, he had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  The label itself may not be too uncommon these days and even familiar to many.  However, we didn’t explain or even talk about it with him for a number of years because we didn’t want him to take it on as part of his identity.  For us though, that label seemed to explain a lot.  His past seemed to produce his relationally disconnected, volatile and erratic behavior that now can often characterize him.

At first we thought it may just be his ADHD, and it may well be to a degree.  However, occasionally he’s also shown both verbal and motor tics, which by definition would be considered Tourette’s Syndrome and more likely is.  To date though, ADHD is the only thing he’s been diagnosed for because we’ve never taken him to a doctor to be diagnosed for more.  It’s probably safe to say that he’d just be prescribed some meds, which for the most part we are against.  And although meds may be an option for some, we just aren’t willing to lean too heavily on popping a pill to solve problems, nor do we want the side effects that may be associated with them or for him to possibly become dependent on them later.

More recently, we’ve realized he’s been exhibiting some seemingly psychopathic tendencies, and that those have been present for a while now.  We’ve known too that he’s quite narcissistic and has a problem feeling empathy.  It’s this that can actually be one of the most aggravating things for me about him because he is continually overbearing, acting thoughtlessly towards others.  In all honesty, some days it feels like he’s constantly being reprimanded, so it’s no surprise that he struggles with shame.  And as parents, we also struggle with shaming him and continually knowing how to respond.

To me, writing all this feels like it paints a somewhat bleak picture of him.  But as much as his chronic annoyances can bother everyone around him, don’t get me wrong.  If you know him, he’s the most fun-loving (in fact, too fun-loving to his own detriment), high-energy and charming eleven-year-old you’d know.  He is particularly outgoing and charismatic as evidenced in how he used to go up to complete strangers and give them a hug and kiss (which we’ve since put a stop to).  It’s also worth noting that he can be quite persuasive.  And so, since he’s quite the up and coming salesman, with a little more perfecting of his skills, someday I’m sure he’ll be a force to reckon with.

Hello and thank you for visiting!  This blog is a window into the life of my family of three boys and some of the things I’ve learned who I am as a father parenting them.  The intent here is to document some of the stories about each of them and especially the relational and behavioral challenges of our oldest.  Likewise, my hope in writing this is to pass on some encouragement and lessons we’ve learned to other parents who may possibly be facing similar challenges.

On one level, it’s simply a collection of stories to document for our family’s own personal record.  On another level though, it’s a period in the life of our family defined by Bruins and Trojans, the school mascots for the local elementary and middle schools where our oldest has attended.  Each mascot a “bookend” of sorts for that period and a way to describe the stages of life and struggles he’s been through.

It should be stated first off that we adopted our oldest when he was just 5 years old.  But sadly, by that tender age he’d already been in and out of numerous foster homes, kicked out of 2 preschools, and had experienced more hurt than any child ever should.  He didn’t suffer collateral damage from any of the typical kinds of physical, sexual or drug abuse.  Rather, he was a victim of severe neglect, affecting him emotionally as well as physically and relationally for possibly the rest of his life.

What are the effects of abusive neglect, you ask?  Well, there are many, which I may get into more in subsequent posts.  I should also say that my wife is the researcher of the family and could give better description and explanation than I can, so please forgive me for any mistakes in writing.  However, without getting into much more here, we have a few stories to share and hope you will be able to benefit from them, even if they’re nothing more than a little entertainment.  So feel free to read more and send an email if you are so inclined.  Thanks again and come back soon!