So, anyway, three weeks later, I'm down to 3 kids again and no dog. But, I do have the will to blog.
So, I guess I'm going to do a fancy retrospective blog. Well, probably a few blogs because there's no way that I could fit it into one without losing everyone half-way through. :)
So, this will be "The Big Brother Visited: the mini-series!"
And here we go...
I spent 2 weeks and 3 days of my summer with my children's brother. And I learned why I got the reactions that I got from smarter people than me when I told them that he is 12.
He is a troubled 12 year old who has been through too much. He is also a boy that wants to love and be loved, but really, really has no clue how. At times, I wanted to wrap my arms around him and show him how to love and, at times, I wanted to throw him off a roof. I experienced every emotion that I can think of. From excitement to frustration to loving to seriously pissed off to pride to...ok, I'll stop, but the point is it was very emotionally eventful.
On the day of his arrival, we spent the day frantically preparing. So, of course, when he got here, we were exhausted. So, the case worker pulled into our driveway and here comes Patrick, casually wandering in with a suitcase. I was so nervous. Every time that we had seen him in the past, he had been fairly quiet; so I was expecting some challenges in trying to get him to talk to us. That turned out to be an unrealistic expectation.
After visiting for awhile, his case worker pulled out of the driveway. We walked into the house and he started talking. And, he didn't stop. And we were totally thrown. He talked to us about the boys' skin and hair (and what we should be doing differently), wrestling (not my favorite moments), and anything else that popped into his head. Ok, what is going on? Then at the end of the night, he casually told us that William asked if he wanted to stay permanently and he said that he could do that. We ended the night, feeling pretty good about things, totally thrown that this kid had basically just asked us to adopt him, and wondering if we should.
The next day, we took him to one of our favorite restaurants. He was mightily unimpressed. He laid down for most of the meal and had no patience for his brothers. I started to see his stubborn streak and his need for control. I did understand why. In my head, I got that these kids feel so out of control that they have to get control in any way possible. I had experienced it with William. But dealing with a need for control in a William and a bitter 12 year old; now, that's why they invented the cliche "apples and oranges."
One of my favorite examples is this. We got in the van. Everyone buckled up, except for Patrick. Brian casually asked him to buckle up. He casually ignored him. I asked him with a jokey voice that was full of eggshells and he sighed, but didn't buckle. It took at least two more requests before he finally gave in. Ridiculous, really. We're trying to make sure you arrive safely at our destination and this is what you are going to fight us on? I didn't think too much of it, at the time, because, well, I didn't want to. I wanted everything to be rosy and easy. But, obviously, that's not possible.
The first few days passed and we quickly departed the official honeymoon phase. Actually, I think we left that after the first night, if lying down in a restaurant was any evidence. And, although, he was pleasant to me, said please when asking for food, didn't kick holes in the wall, or shave my eyebrows in my sleep; it wasn't going as well as I hoped.
It was clear, pretty quickly, that he just plain had no idea how to behave in a family environment. He had no immediate sense of loyalty to William, Antwan, and Lizzie. And, really, it just seemed like he found them annoying. Lizzie won him over, first. Because, well, she's Lizzie and even the grumpiest pre-teen can't resist her for long. ;) But, I found myself in a situation where I was referee-ing all the time. He seemed to think I was favoring my kids, no matter how hard I tried to stay neutral. He didn't (or said that he didn't) like anything that they liked and got sick joy out of telling them so. One of his favorites was criticizing Batman. Now, hold on there, we love Batman. We watch the cartoon together and enjoy it as a family. So, it kind of stung. Besides, what's wrong with you, man?? Batman is super cool! ;)
In a way, it felt like he had always been here. If he had, the bickering and arguing would've been natural. What 12 year old doesn't find his little brothers annoying? But, he hadn't and it didn't make sense to me why he was blowing this chance to bond. I quickly realized my romanticized, sweet family reunion was apparently not going to happen. I could accept that because this whole thing wasn't about me. But, the problem was what was happening. William was getting hurt. You see, William, like me, built this up in his head. On top of that, William is desperate for a loving big brother. But, what he got was a brother who had very little patience for his random questions and basically everything else he did. I could see that it was hurting him and it was awful to watch.
So, I could deal with the constant talking, the constant eating, and the constant antagonizing. But, my children were getting hurt. That was not ok.
When we enthusiastically agreed to a visit, Brian and I talked about it, over and over. The big thing that we agreed on was that our three came first. We had to make sure that nothing would harm them. At the time, I couldn't imagine how any harm could come to them. But, I learned.
When you think about it, we combined an emotionally damaged 12 year old who had an unstable past and turns out, has trouble with relationships with 3 happy-go-lucky kids who have been taught about courtesy and the importance of being considerate of people's feelings. And, oh yeah, and one of those three happy-go-lucky kids is William who despite being happy-go-lucky is insecure and gets his feelings hurt easily. So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But, I still was.
I was counting the days. I had no idea how I could make it. My friend came over and I literally cred in her arms because I felt so lost and defeated. I mean, it wasn't all bad. He was polite, funny, and helped cook dinner (whether I wanted him to or not.). And, I felt like we were bonding. But, it was not, in any way, how it was supposed to be.
I knew that I had to get through it. Despite it being tempting, I knew that I couldn't send him back early. I could not and would not do that to him. I would not add to his rejections. So, I gave William lots of extra hugs, got lots of hugs from Brian for myself, felt super jealous when he left for work, and started a new day. Over and over.
So, at this point, if this was a tv mini-series which, quite frankly, it is in my head. (Jennifer Garner plays me, by the way.) You'd now see some intriguing scenes of me losing it in a grocery store and getting my first silent treatment from him. But, there are also a couple of touching heart-to-hearts. ;) So, please come back for part 2!