---If you want to know what the heck I'm talking about in this blog, check out part 1. :)
We were hanging in there. As much as it hurt my heart, I knew it wasn't meshing like it was supposed to. (Or, at least, like I thought it was supposed to.) Brian and I talked about it every night, every morning, and everytime that we hid in the bedroom for a few minutes. It just wasn't a good match. And, as upsetting as that was, you really can't force it. That's not good for anyone.
So, that's how I started to see things. They would spend time together and even if they didn't appreciate it now, they would appreciate it later. And he'd be welcome to come for future (maybe shorter) visits. At that point, I couldn't imagine what would change my mind. I w
as becoming painfully aware that I didn't have the ability to give all four of them the attention that they needed. In fact, I felt like I was barely talking to my own kids because I was always talking to him,
It took the pressure off. But, it still made me sad.
Then, there was the day in Winn Dixie. We stopped for hair cuts for William and Antwan. They were not good hair cuts. They really weren't. But, the stylist was new and I didn't bother to make a fuss about it, but Patrick was beside himself. He was angry and a little too loud about his disgust. So, attitude in hand, we left Great Clips and headed to Winn Dixie. Shopping with the kids when they are on their best behavior is not easy. Shopping when Patrick is cranky, Antwan is squirmy, and Lizzie really wants the popsicles that you didn't buy her (because we have some at home) is extra hard. (William, however, is always good at the store.) So, this was the scene. We were walking through the store. Lizzie was crying because she wanted popsicles. Apparently, she chose this summer to test out the tantrum in the grocery store angle. Antwan was demonstrating his cool moves as he bounced up and down the aisles. William, thankfully, was sitting in the cart playing his 3ds. And, Patrick was engaging in a running commentary of the event. It just plain sucked. He wanted me to buy Lizzie the popsicles so she'd stop crying. He said that they were ungrateful children who never say thank you (not true), and he disagreed with everything that I did to deal with them. Finally, I snapped.
I did something that I've never done. I yelled at my child (my temporary one, anyway) in the middle of the grocery store. I told him that I couldn't take him criticizing everything that I do all the time and that I didn't want him criticizing the kids. I said that they are good kids and I was doing the best I could. I pointed out that he hadn't said "thank you" for one thing since he had been with us. (He would say please when asking for something, but never thank you.) I told him that he needed to back off.
Not my best moment. I was not even a little proud of myself for this. Although, I don't really think anyone could really blame me... But, I was ashamed of myself. I'm not going to bother denying that it felt good, though. ;) So, I felt a little better. But, he definitely didn't. At the beginning, he kept interrupting to argue my points, but then he just stopped talking. We shopped in silence. We drove home in silence. He went to his room in silence. Quite frankly, it was a nice break. But, I didn't know what was going to happen next.
Before the visit, his case worker told us that he secludes himself when upset, so I wasn't surprised and knew to give him space. It gave me time to plan my conversation with him when he was willing to talk. It would be so well-delivered. I would apologize for losing my cool and calmly explain how I feel. He would understand, hear me out, and then everything would be wonderful. Yep, had it all figured out.
So, a little before dinner time, Brian and William were doing what they do. Trying on costumes. :) You may or may not know that we are a little nerdy. And, once a year, at least, we put on elaborate costumes and parade around a sci-fi fantasy convention in Atlanta (Dragoncon). Why? Because it's fun. The kids get to put on costumes, we get to put on costumes. We meet our favorite celebrities and lots of cool people. Now you know. :) We hadn't talked about Dragoncon much because I could only imagine what a grumpy 12 year old would think about that. ;) But, since he was avoiding us, Brian thought it would be a good time to geek out with William a little. So, they dressed up as Nick Fury and Agent Coulson which, if you've seen The Avengers or any of the pre-Avengers movies, you know that's pretty cool. Yep, just an average night at the Parkers....
I don't know if it intrigued him or if it was an easy way to slip out, but Patrick came wandering out and started talking to them about the costumes. I came out of the room where I was admittedly enjoying my own space and headed to the kitchen to make dinner. Next thing I know, he has joined me and is casually talking to me about the dinner that I was making. I was so confused. He acted like nothing happened, so I did the same. The rest of the night, I could tell that he was making concerted efforts to be nice and polite. He started saying thank you.and made a point of brushing his teeth. The night before, he told Brian that he only brushes in the morning. Gross, but evidently another fun way to have control of something. So, it was kind of significant. So, I never had the conversation. But, in a weird way, I felt like we understood each other.
My frazzled mom routine at the grocery store turned out to be the first step to actually bonding with him. And, for a couple of days, he made an extra effort to say thank you more and let me do the parenting. And, I made an extra effort to thank him for saying thank you, etc. We were being crazy grateful over here. But, he still wasn't being particularly nice to William. He was bonding to me, but not him.
After a day that seemed to be reserved for William bashing, I experimented with direct, calm communication. Crazy, huh? I talked about the fact that I knew that William is a lot to take sometimes. Despite, his excellent behavior in grocery stores, he is actually pretty high-maintenance. But, I told Patrick that I needed him to try to be more patient. I told him that William is very sensitive and more than anything he just wants to spend time with his big brother. I acknowledged that this was not easy for him and it was a different situation than he was used to. I said all the wonderful and well-thought out things that I could think of.
Over the next few days, I saw more efforts. He was being more patient with all the kids and being more polite to them. He even started playing with them a little. I don't know if he was trying super hard or if he was finally bonding with them. Or maybe a combination? But, things were getting better. For the first time, I didn't end the day feeling totally defeated and wondering how I would make it through. I was able to start worrying less about my children's emotional state.
This is when the game changed. He started letting me in a little more. And I was kind of enjoying being in. And, I was officially starting to love him.
I couldn't help but wonder if maybe it could all work out.
Next time! Patrick tells me about his past, consistently dislikes every fun activity that I plan, and actually asks me to buy him a Batman cup...