She's also the analogy queen. It's like she has a Analogy Thesaurasus and she skims through it before each session. But, I'm not making fun of her, it's brilliant. The point of analogies is to drive a point home and they do. One of her favorites is to say that William has a fire burning inside him and it's causing smoke. The smoke equals the behaviors (i.e. lying, stealing, etc) but until we figure out what's going on inside (what's causing the fire), we can't really help him. Just putting out the smoke won't stop the fire.
We wouldn't have him in counseling if we didn't realize that there was turmoil within, but the analogy does, in fact, drive the point home. I'm frustrated with his behaviors and I can ground him all I want, send him to bed early, or whatever else I can think of; but that won't solve the problem. She's not suggesting that he doesn't deserve consequences for actions, she's just suggesting that we keep it in perspective. To wear our "perspectiples."
I have already learned so much with this intern who is wise beyond her years. (I don't know how old she is so maybe she's appropriately wise, but, either way, she knows her stuff.) She's made me realize how much shame and lack of worthiness that William probably already feels. It's something common to former foster children. When your first 5 years involved not being your mother's top priority, it's easy to assume that you're not worthy of being a priority at all. He may feel like his mistakes are who he is and that he's not necessarily worthy of love.
So, why does he do these things when all we try to do is show him that he is and tell him that he is worthy? Why doesn't he believe us? Why does he reward us by lying? The answer is...I don't know. I just know that it stinks. Can the bucket with a hole in the bottom ever be closed by super Parker super glue? Will it ever be enough? Again, I don't know.
Is she right when she says that, due to his trauma, his threshold for how much love and reassurance he needs to feel secure might simply be higher than the average child? I think she is. I think he must need more than we have been giving because the amount that we are giving is clearly not enough. And, that's daunting. Because I feel like I'm giving a lot. I mean, I know that I fall short, sometimes. I see those moments. But, am I falling even shorter than I thought? How is that possible when I thought I was standing so tall? (Ok, now I'm getting carried away with the analogies!)
But, the most concerning thing of all is this. She told me that at the last session he reported that he felt like he couldn't do anything right. That's not surprising, he has said that before. It was the fact that he told her that we told him that. That's simply not true. That's a blatant lie. I have made plenty of mistakes in how I have interacted with him in our time together, but never anything so blatant. And, Brian, the one less likely to get overly-emotional when talking to him, hasn't either. And, of course, I told her so with a defensive tone, I'm sure. ;) But, then I realized something as I was assuring her that we didn't say that. (Even though, she pretty much already knew that.) He wasn't lying. His mind was twisting whatever we did say and internalizing it as that. He's famous for misconstruing things that are said to him. Which is why I often say things like "To be clear, I'm saying this...... I'm not saying this......" It's scary to think that even with our best efforts, a kid who believes he's a failure will be convinced that others do, as well.
I don't know what the answer is. But, I know what I need to do. Well, I kind of know what to do cause in a lot of ways, I don't have a clue. But, I know that I have to try a little harder, be a little more patient, be a little (or a lot) more careful about my word choices, just be a little better. Because, even though, it seems terribly unfair that I have to put so much mental energy into one kid who quite frankly has made our life so complicated when I have 3 others who need and deserve a bunch of mental energy, too....it is what it is. So, I have to figure it out. He's my son.
Last night, as my kids and husband got ready to eat their gourmet frozen pizza, I made them mute the tv for a minute.
I announced to my unimpressed children. "You're all good people and we love you!" I continued, "You might make mistakes, like everyone else, but that doesn't make you bad people. It has nothing to do with your souls, what's inside. You are good people!"
I think that I said a few more things but they probably had zoned out by then, anyway.
Except for William. He smiled and said, "Ok."
Baby steps. :)