My son Silent One came home to us when he was six years old, having survived terrible trauma in his early years. We took him to a well regarded child psychologist for an evaluation not long after he joined the family. Or at least we tried to.
Six year old Silent One was having none of this evaluation. We had parked not that far from the psychologist’s office and were walking towards her office. About 30 feet from the office entrance, Silent One decided not to take another step. A blazing fire of fear and anger roared in his eyes. I could not budge him an inch. Not with cajoling words, not with tugs on his arms. He was not going to go into that building. He began to throw things into traffic, even taking off his shoes to launch like missiles at moving cars. A honking driver must have alerted the psychologist, because she came outside.
Dr. Rose suggested we go to a nearby bakery. She and I had a well deserved cup of coffee, while I bribed Silent One with a cookie to stay in our general vicinity. I tried not to be embarrassed that he was eating bits of the cookie under the table. Whenever he would begin to stray, I would break off another chunk of cookie and beckon him back. Dr. Rose assured me that observing Silent One like this was helpful, and we chatted.
A week later I brought Silent One back to Dr. Rose’s office, and this time he was willing to go inside. A battery of tests later, we left the office. And the next time, my husband and I returned sans Silent One.
I will never forget what Dr. Rose said about my son.
It went like this. “I have been a child psychologist for a long time and I have worked on the county’s toughest foster care cases over the past 15 years. Silent One’s case is the worst I have ever seen. You should adjust your expectations about your son’s future. He will likely never heal from his trauma. He will not be able to attach to you like a son and return your love. He will likely never get over his academic hurdles. There’s a good chance he will not be able to live as an independent adult.”
My hopes were dashed. When we returned home, I burst into tears and was inconsolable. After I cried it out, I got out of bed to make everyone some food. I glanced at my son. My son. My beautiful son. I could see within him something worth loving. Something beautiful in the present and even more promising in the future. In that instant, I vowed to find a therapist who could see what I saw in Silent One.
Luckily, we did find a terrific therapist who specialized in attachment and adoption. She saw in him a wonderful, lovable person.
Skipping ahead nine years, Silent One is an awesome young man with a bright future. He gives me hugs and kisses every day. He cracks the funniest jokes. He is a high school athlete, who won an award for how well he cheers on his teammates. School hasn’t be easy, but he’s made A/B honor roll multiple times. He’s a talented artist and writer. In short, he’s the kind of 15-year-old boy that any mom would be proud to call son.
As we ready ourselves for foster care, I often worry about being asked to take in “a bad case” foster kid. Certainly, we have set parameters (see my previous blog). But I remind my self that we had the “worst case ever” in Silent One. And his is one of the best things that has every happened in my life.