Thursday, January 14, 2010

Feeling Guilty for Only Grumbling

My son has a bruise on his nose. A bruise and a scratch. The bruise is new. The scratch is at least a week old.

When I first noticed the scratch, I asked him what happened. He said, "I don't want to talk about it." That's code for: I did something I wasn't supposed to do and got hurt.

I respected his wishes and didn't ask any more.

Tonight, after I gave him a bath, I noticed the bruise on his nose. It's not black-and-blue, but faintly reddened and blends into his dark brown skin. I asked him what happened and he started to get angry, "[The bus aide] pinched my nose!"

WHAT? The bus aide? The person who's supposed to be keeping him safe on the bus pinched his nose?

I'm going to interrupt myself here to note that today's not my assigned day to post at Hopeful Parents, but I couldn't resist after this incident tonight. I need and want to vent to other parents who understand. Since yesterday's writer missed, I'm figuring this is okay with everyone.


The bus aide pinched his nose. And the scratch? The bus aide did that, too.

What's weird for me right now is that while I'm able to use italics and caps like nobody's business in this post, I'm having a hard time feeling really angry and upset. It seems like I should be flying off the handle and figuring out exactly how I'm going to make sure everybody knows not to mess with my son again. But honestly? I'm only annoyed. And I'm feeling guilty with myself that I'm not freaking livid. Maybe if I type it in all caps -- FREAKING LIVID!!!!! -- that would help.


And now for some history. We adopted my son as an infant. He grew to have major behavioral issues -- so bad that by the time he was four, he had been removed from two schools. One of the schools was a therapeutic school designed for kids like him. He was asked to leave because he was a danger to himself and others. He's been hospitalized in the "psych ward" twice. And he's only five. Yes, five.

In the past, he's been violent, raging, aggressive. He's broken two toilets in our house, cracked a car seat. And by car seat, I mean the actual seat that comes with the car. The seat that's supposed to protect passengers in a car accident. Yep, my son cracked it using only the power of his legs. He's damaged nearly every wall in the house by throwing objects at them while in an utter rage. He's hurt my husband and I to the point where we stopped noticing all the scabs and bruises on our own arms, as though a bunch of superficial wounds were just part of the normal back-drop of everyday life around here.

Today, things are much better. But much better doesn't mean "normal." In fact, just yesterday as I was leaving the hospital with my son, a security guard -- the kind with guns -- asked me if I needed help with him. So, yeah. Things are somewhere between not scratched up every day, but nowhere near appropriate.

When I tell the story -- and I mean really tell the story -- about our family and life with my son during his particularly rage-filled fourth year, a common response I hear is "There's a reason God gave him to you." (Whenever I hear this, I wonder if people would say this to parents who didn't adopt their child. But that's another beef for a different day.)

I don't know if I believe that God gave him to us or that there was some pre-ordained destiny that brought us together, but I have thought that if my son were placed in any other household, he might have been dead. It's plausible that other parents who may not have the patience that my husband and I have would have beaten my son to death. Of course, that would be worst case scenario. Or maybe it's the thought that helped me feel better about myself during one hell of a year.

Regardless, what I learned after being beaten by my son nearly daily for months and months is that humans are animals. We have animal instincts. When we are attacked, our instinct is to attack back. It takes a lot of fortitude, strength of character, and personal restraint not to lash back at someone who has clawed at your mouth so hard that blood drips from four deep scratches finger-length apart.

Which brings me back to his nose. It is bruised and scratched. His bus aide did it. And tomorrow, I'm going to drive my son to school and get the aide fired. I'm sure they'll fire him for this, right? I mean, you can't harm a child! (Actually, I'm not that mad. I should have used a period on that sentence. But it seems like I should use an exclamation point, because I feel like I should be raising hell. But let's face it, the dude's going to get fired whether or not I'm feeling particularly heated.) If the school balks, the I'll report the aide to the department of children and family services, and I'll report the school to the department of specialized services. And if that doesn't work, I'll send the pictures I've taken to my friend who runs a PR firm and get this story on the news. It won't go that far. I am confident the school will do the right thing.

The bottom line is that I know what happens next, and know how to escalate the situation if I have to. I'm annoyed that I have to do any of it. And I'm feeling guilty for only feeling annoyed and not FREAKING PISSED.

Nope...still not pissed.


  1. I know a woman here in LA who makes her living as an attorney and does a lot of special needs abuse cases. I went to a seminar once that was sobering -- it's an area that we as parents must be aware of, without getting hysterical. I know you'll do the right thing -- you are a brave and amazing mother and that boy needs you. Strength and courage to you...

  2. Thank you so much for writing this post! I too have a son, almost 7, who uses his fists, feet, and head (butting) to express himself. Typically daily. I am often attempting to explain to others how difficult it is when I am bruised and hurt to not lash back at him. It truly is an instinct and it is not easy to put aside. But, I do. And I also know that there are many people who cannot. Clearly the bus aide is one of them. And people like that should not be working with children. Anyone's children!
    It is especially frightening when I think that perhaps the bus aide thought he/she could get away with it because your child would not or could not identify her/ him as being the one who did it. That just fires me up. Our children have a dramatically increased risk of being physically or sexually abused by a perpetrator because they are or may be unable to verbalize the person who attacked them.
    Thank you for truly being a hopeful that is actively working to give a voice to those who may not have one.

  3. The last year was an extremely violent one for us as well. My son who had previously been very withdrawn and unemotional became overwhelmed by rages and violent outbursts. I get the lack of intense emotion that you are feeling regarding the incident with the aide. Sometime all the umph is just sucked right out. It doesn't mean we won't do what's right, or feel permissive about what happened. It's just that the emotions are tired and the mind craves calm and you just can't seem to stir up any more intensity, no matter what kind of punctuation you use.
    Wishing you and your family a calm and peaceful year

  4. Thank you so much for your honesty. I've had those "meh" moments myself. I think that patient people like us, who hold it together over and over again in the face of overwhelming strife, are even-keeled to a fault at times. I too feel weird when I don't get angry or lash out in these situations, but that's just my temperament. Meh.

  5. ITA w/ mama edge. Couldn't have said it better myself.

  6. I am so sorry that this happened to E-Niner. I am thankful that you are his mother, but sorry that you all have to live with such stresses.
    I'm very glad that you are going to get to the bottom of this, and that a person who abuses children is going to be exposed. Exposed, reported and prevented from being in a position of power EVER AGAIN, I hope.
    God bless your family!

  7. There's no formula for how we are 'supposed' to feel in these kinds of situations. You can't beat yourself up for not feeling the way you think you should. Well, you can - but don't.
    You will do what you need to do for your precious boy. You will protect him - and no doubt others in the process. And you will do it with a very rare degree of understanding and compassion.

  8. Hi there,
    Do you have an individual blog as well? Your post sounfs very similar to our situation which is somewhat chronicled on my blog. I would be very interested in learning more about you and your child if you are comfortable sharing.

  9. I'd like to hear the bus aide's side of the story. Maybe he (it's a guy, right?) got kicked in the nads by an angry kid. Maybe he got poked in the eye so bad that his cornea was scratched and he just reacted and tried to push your son away, to make him stop biting and attacking. And maybe, in the course of trying to fend off the biting, scratching, raging child, your son's nose got scratched and bruised.
    I'm not saying it's right, but if kids come charging and gnashing at you, what are you supposed to do? Stand there and speak gently to them? That would be my hope, but sometimes, when you're attacked you sway at the attacker because you're startled and you inflict a bruise.
    I just think it would be good to hear the aide's side of the story.