This post deals with family abuse, and might be triggering for some readers.
My son tells me he loves me all the time.
He tells me when he is happy and dancing around the room listening to music through his headphones, his body twitching and jerking to show off his unique dance moves.
I can hear Justin Bieber, or Justin Timberlake singing back at me because the music is just that loud. In these moments he gives me the thumbs-up sign and dips low like Ludicrous in Bieber’s ‘Baby’ video. Our bond is firmly secure.
He also tells me he loves me while he is hitting me. His face blotchy and tear-filled with rage, as I try to hug him tight.
He kisses me and tells me he loves me as he is punching me with one hand and trying to pull my hair with the other. If he gets in a kick to my gut he will say sorry before I even feel it.
As I put on his headphones and find the Beatles song ‘Let it be’ on his Spotify he starts to calm down, turning and kissing me with his snot-filled mouth and nose.
“I love you, mummy.”
I know he means it. In these moments he is begging for me to help him navigate his intense emotions.
I am asked by the situation to remain calm, and to be his guide through jealousy, disappointment, and helplessness, and to put aside my own feelings of helplessness.
My sweet and stubborn 13-year-old son, Dominic. Dom was born missing part of his 15th chromosome in two places.
At five weeks old he was the victim of physical abuse and shaken four times, suffering a catastrophic brain injury. When I met Dominic as a sweet 15-month-old, we were already his third foster home. His adoption would be finalised the next year.
I would spend years with Dominic in and out of hospitals, my husband and I constantly researching his medical conditions.
We would spend days driving in the car to remote places for intense therapy sessions and new evaluations.
Always seeking the right diagnosis in the hopes of finding the best ways to raise him. When Dominic was unable to respond to typical parenting techniques, I invested in books about trauma and mindfulness and attachment. Always hoping, because I promised him I would never give up.
People often hear Dominic’s story and feel this need to assume I am some kind of angel, or that I am some kind of incredible human for giving so much.
So much thought, so much time, so much sacrifice, so many books, so much…of my life.
I am not any more special than the next parent who would do exactly what I did, probably even doing it better than me. I am experienced, but I am also flawed. I still carry all my own trauma. I am still human.
I am a permissive parent, and it has ruined my relationship with my disabled son.
I didn’t start out with the intention of being permissive. I didn’t ponder how I could overindulge my children. It was not the goal.
It just happens, slowly, in little pieces of time that become like dominoes crashing down around you all at once.