Saturday, February 21, 2015

What's a parent to do?

Have you ever noticed that we leave certain people in society in impossible traps?

When parents are abusive, we say, "Why couldn't they have given that child to someone loving to raise him/her?"

But when parents give up their children we often say, "How could a parent walk away from their child like that?"

Some people realize the selflessness of giving a child up for adoption.  Others don't.  And when it's done in less than proper ways (like dropping a baby off at a safe haven), look out!  Cue all of the "how could a person do that?" from all sides.  But isn't it better than leaving baby in a dumpster?

Most people disagree with me on this, but I think the safe haven thing should be for any age.  If a parent genuinely can't take care of his/her child, why do we force them to continue trying?

Yes it's an awful thing for parents to walk away from a child.  Yes it's horribly painful to the child, and can cause them all sorts of emotional issues.  But ya know what?  So can living in a home where you're clearly not wanted by the people who are supposed to love you and care about you the most.

I've experienced both.  I spent 13 years living with parents who made it clear on a daily basis that they didn't want me.  My mom would call me "her little mistake" and say flat out that I was in the way and that she wished I wasn't there.  My dad went the more physical route in letting me know his feelings towards me, but he had some choice words for me as well.  Essentially, I was scum and needed to be beaten for all my wrongdoings, and the only thing I was good for was sex.

When I finally escaped that, my parents walked away from me.  I'd run away, and when authorities tried to take me back to them they refused to even acknowledge me.  They said I was too much trouble....that they wouldn't and couldn't take me back because I was too much to handle.

I was crushed.  As much as I hated my parents sometimes, I wanted nothing more than for them to love me.

So yes, abandonment hurts, no matter the quality of the parent(s) doing the abandoning.  But I can tell you it would hurt a lot less if there wasn't the 13 years of abuse tacked on with it.  Even if any one of those years could've been taken off it would've been better.  It still would've hurt to lose my parents, but I would've had the gift of less trauma, less pain, fewer flashbacks, etc.

This was brought to mind for me because of the woman who gave her baby because he has down syndrome.  I made the mistake of reading the comment section on one of the articles about her.  All I can say is I hope she never reads them!  Yes she made a sad choice, and maybe she went about it wrong.  But she left the child in the loving arms of HIS FATHER!  For one thing, men do that on a regular basis and it doesn't make headlines.  That doesn't make it ok, but in the grand scheme of things she didn't do anything that bad.  She recognized her limits and made a decision for the welfare of her child.  Maybe it was based on her own selfish desires.  Or maybe it was a selfless decision for the child.  None of us reading bits and pieces on the internet can know.  The point is, she didn't hurt or kill her child.  She didn't force him to spend years living in a home where he was resented by his own mother.  She didn't make him wait to get to the loving family part.  She knew she wasn't it, so she didn't pretend.

I wish we could stop shaming parents who make these decisions.  I don't hold it against my own parents.  Painful as it was, it gave me a chance to experience some foster families and see what a family is supposed to be like.  One of my kids at work is going through something similar.  He'd left with a foster family but now he's back because the family couldn't handle him.  Of course he's upset and angry, but even at 10 years old he's a big kid with some big issues.  When he came back he was scary violent when he'd get mad.  We've been able to help him with that in a way the foster family couldn't.  I can only imagine if the foster family kept him to avoid shame or failure, how the situation might have changed.  Yes this boy is hurting right now from another loss in his life, but he's also not scary angry (which I know scares him too).  Had he stayed at that home, he could've done some serious damage as his outbursts continued to get worse.  That's not a healthy place for him.

I guess, like everything else, it comes down to not judging without knowing the story.  And you can't know the story unless you're in a person's shoes, so really we need to just lay off the judging as a whole.  Leaving your child with someone who can take care of them > abusing/neglecting/resenting them.  Always.  As an adult I've met birth parents who said that the only reason they kept their kid for so long when they knew they couldn't handle them is because they worried what their family and others around them would say.  That means your judgment may be actively keeping a child and a family from getting help.  Maybe if we support those who say, "I can't do it" or "I don't know how", more people would step forward and admit these things.  Maybe we'd have more families getting help and fewer children getting hurt.

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