Somehow, I managed to talk BioMom into meeting with Jonathan, myself, and Luke’s therapist. TheTherapist asked Luke a series of questions and rated them against a scale composed of other children’s answers. Luke is in the 90th percentile of childhood depression. Less than 10% of kids report feeling more depressed than Luke.
During Luke’s private meeting with TheTherapist, he indicated his mother BioMom and younger brother Oliver as the primary reasons he feels worthless. Oliver calls him names, teases him, steals his things, and destroys his room. In reality, it’s been months since Oliver and Luke shared a room and Oliver is no longer allowed in Luke’s room to steal or destroy Luke’s things. Each time I catch either child calling the other a name, I reprimand the child who is name calling.
Luke’s problems with BioMom are harder to nail down. Luke reports that she makes him feel worthless, like he can’t do anything right, like he’s stupid, and like he’s a bad child with no redeeming qualities. I’m not around when Luke is alone with BioMom and I really don’t know what’s going on. Several months ago, however, Luke reported that BioMom slapped him, screamed at him, and pulled him by the hair regularly. Of course BioMom denied all of this and Luke ran into the woods instead of getting in the car to go to BioMom’s house on her scheduled custody day.
We have assigned reading…The Optimistic Child. I downloaded the e-book version immediately, but I’m not so sure BioMom will follow through partly because she’s unpredictable, partly because she sees Luke as the problem, and partly because the book is written with college level vocabulary and BioMom typically refuses to read books altogether.
After reading much of The Optimistic Child, very little about my interactions with the kids has changed. I never said things like, “You’re dramatic.” or “What is wrong with you?” in the first place. I’d say, “Your behavior choices are really stinking right now. You need to make better choices and stop doing _____.” or “Why are you choosing to act this way right now? Are you feeling ____?”
Yes, I have read a number of child psychology books. The most clear communication book I’ve read is How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk. I also clearly remember the things my mother said to me and how her statements made my life a living hell growing up and into adulthood.
“You’re so stupid. Why can’t you study like your sister?”
“You’re such an ungrateful little bitch. If I knew having kids was going to be like this…mm. mm. mm.”
“I can’t do anything without you fucking it up. You’re the reason I’ll never be a writer.”
“You have to stop eating so much! You’re eating the family out of house and home!”
“I’m so glad you’ve finally started dieting.”
“God you’re lazy. You’ll never hold down a job because you can’t even get out of bed on time.”
“No one touched you, you lying little bitch.”
“I don’t see how you’ll ever get married. I can’t even stand to be around you. Your personality what polite society calls an ‘acquired taste’.”
I spent my childhood feeling worthless and miserable. From the age of 7 on, I wanted to die or kill myself so my mother could be happy as she vocally blamed her live circumstances, misery, and the disintegration of her marriage on me. She blamed any problems my younger siblings experienced on my behavior and encouraged them to participate in her abusive tirades. My brother and sister were allowed to take my belongings, and verbally or physically assault me without consequence.
Growing up this way was horrible. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone my very own Luke. Therapy continues. Techniques to help Luke continue. Jonathan sullenly asked what on Earth we will do to help Luke and my answer is: the best we can. We will make changes and if those don’t work we will make new changes. We will talk and make changes and read books and keep going to the best of our abilities because that is all we CAN do.