As parents, we see our children deal with disappointment. We watch as our son is the last chosen for the kickball team at recess, we watch as our daughter is shunned by the kids on the playground, we hear our children being called names by other children. We hug our children, hold them close, and use carefully chosen words to ensure they are strengthened for the next time it happens. We work diligently to build their self esteem, giving them the tools they need to stand stronger and firmer in the face of disappointment for the rest of their lives.
What happens, however, when our words are not strong enough? What happens when no matter what we tell them, they choose to believe otherwise? Children, especially those with special needs, may not hear the positive words we tell them, but instead dwell more on the negative words, feelings, and emotions. As a parent, how do we handle that?
One of the most heartbreaking things that D has said in therapy is that he believes the girls don’t love him. He justifies his thinking with, “But I am mean to them. I hit them. I act ugly to them.” and so on. His belief is so heartbreaking, in fact, that he would tell them, “Say, ‘I don’t love you!'” If they said, “I love you, D.” He would hit them, yell at them, and threaten them. I would tell him they love him, so let them say it. They would say, “but we do love you, D.” When all was said and done, they were conditioned by him to say, “I don’t love you, D.” when they wanted to tell him they love him.
We have talked about this a lot in therapy and when the situations arose. He now lets them say they love him and most of the time, he’ll say, “I love you too!” The music to my ears with those words…Beautiful! However, he does still have doubt. He does still say occasionally that he knows they don’t love him.
In order to show just how much they love him, I have decided to share with you (and his therapist so that she can share with him) a few stories that show how much they do love him.
Easter Sunday we were on our way to go visit him. The girls had asked to stay with Grandma & Papa, so Daddy buckled them in the car and told them goodbye. I leaned in and hugged and kissed each girl good bye and asked, “Spike, Is there anything you’d like me to tell D?” She started the sniveling that comes just before sobbing and said, “Please tell him that I love him and I miss him.” I nearly lost my own tears. I kissed her and backed out of the car. I took a couple of seconds to regain my own composure and asked, “Pouty, is there anything you want me to tell D?” She said, “Tell him I miss him and want him to come home.” I kissed her and looked up. Spike had tears rolling down her face. I asked what was wrong, she said, “I love my D.”
Yesterday the girls were playing with a toy phone. Spike said, “Oh look, it’s time to call my D.” She said, “Hey, D! How are you? How has your day been? Are you having a good day?” (all with the same enthusiasm she would have if she found out we were taking her to Chuck E Cheese) She gave Pouty the phone who said, “Hey, D! I love you! I miss you!” The next time they played, I ‘talked’ to D and told him I love him and miss him. Then, Spike took the phone and said, “I love you and miss you, D. Yeah… Yeah… Ok, go around to the front. There is an ambulance there, it will bring you home!” Once again, I nearly lost it.
Today, a couple of times out of the blue I looked up to catch Spike watching tv with wet eyes. I asked what was wrong and one of those times she burst in to tears and said, “I miss my brother so much, Mommy! I love him and I want him to come home!”
These girls think their big brother hung the moon. They talk about when he comes home, they will get to play xyz with him. They talk about how much they miss him, love him, etc. It is so heartbreaking to know that their safety is one of the things that helped us make our decision about his placement, but that they are also his biggest supporters. We all miss him and love him.
I pray that through therapy, he will come to know and trust that the love is genuine.