I was sitting in the psychiatrist’s office with Sweetie 4 for an appointment last year. I traveled from home and she was brought by the juvenile detention center. The transport officer was a very nice lady who was very well meaning. She spoke about how she is the “jail mama” and all the kids call her that.
She mentioned it several times and I was cringing inside. Even though I know kids make up families where ever they go, it is natural, for the officer to say it, and speak openly about it to me, was hard. It wasn’t because I was jealous, it was because Sweetie 4 has had enough confusion over family and what it means. She has already had 4 mamas. She doesn’t need another one.
But I didn’t mention it and let it go, because it was what it was.
However, on the 3rd appointment with this same officer, she continued to push the subject and also intervened in the middle of a “private” appointment with me, my daughter and the psychiatrist. It was starting to drive me a little crazy.
The psychiatrist was not very appreciative of her interruptions, but she had to be there because Sweetie was shackled hands and feet.
And that is when she said it.
“These kids are all fine. They just need love.”
Oh how those words stung. REALLY? “They just need love?”
Gee I wonder what we have been doing for the last FIVE years?
And NO. They are not all “fine”.
It seems to help keep folks in order when you have trained officers and locked cells.
It was at that point that I requested through the counselor that we get a different officer. I explained what was going on and they were so accommodating! The next officer sat quietly and was friendly, but did not interrupt, nor did she call herself “mama”.
She didn’t try to rub sweetie’s back like the other officer did.
She respected that that was MY job; her mama.
Ever since that happened a year ago, those words have danced around in my head. What exactly IS LOVE?
What is it that our kids need? What did this officer see as “Love”?
She spoke enough to let me get an idea. Giving the kids special treats, joking with them, telling them she was their mama, not being harsh with them. For her, that was loving them. But she went home at the end of the day, and her commitment to them is between 3 and 12 months.
Scripture in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 says Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
LOVE NEVER ENDS!!!!!!
So yes, it is a true statement that our kids need Love, it is not correct to assume that if they are in trouble or have troubles, that they have not been loved! And it is NOT correct to assume that special favors or joking with them and calling yourself mama is LOVE.
I would like to add that LOVE is doing what is BEST for the other person, no matter how hard it is on your family, whether it is embarrassing, whether it makes you feel weak, whether it makes you feel vulnerable… LOVE seeks a way. And it is different for each and every child!
Each of our girls came at separate times and had VERY DIFFERENT special needs. Each needed to be “LOVED” differently, but the same. Differently in methodology, but the same in purpose.
That is true for ALL kids, because kids don’t come with instructions or return labels.
Loving a traumatized child tho wholeness is probably one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs ever.
Being rejected and hated over and over and over and over again, having them throw birthday presents away after you carefully helped them pick out their favorite thing, just to make sure they would like it, watching the heartbreaking self sabotage over and over, and having them threaten to run away, accuse, scream, break, verbally abuse, is traumatizing in itself. Love MUST rise above it. It does NOT mean it doesn’t hurt. It does.
When I went to pick up Sweetie from school, as I did EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. at the same time, and she was missing, so everybody was looking for her, and she was found, she came angrily to the office screaming a the top of her lungs, “I’m not going home with the Mother F…ing SOB… I’m going to smash her face in!”
The principal offered to call the police because he was worried for my safety.
We waited 10 minutes and she collapsed in a pile of tears. I was safe for a few minutes to get her home.
I have come to know many families who live this kind of existence every day. Some are too afraid to get help, some are resigned that it is what it is and nothing will ever help. Some give up, and that is the saddest. I get it. I really do. How much can a family take? When we had to have a family safety plan that took our peaceful, happy home and turned it into a bunker for safety, I was devastated. When we had to put cameras up everywhere to protect ourselves and use recoding devices to protect ourselves it was devastating.
How can a loving family’s good intentions not be received? How can LOVE be rejected?
IT CAN. TRUST ME. IT CAN. TRAUMA REJECTS LOVE. TRAUMA LIES. TRAUMA IS DEVASTATING TO FAMILIES.
But most especially TRAUMA ROBS our children of their childhoods, and their future.
DO NOT BE AFRAID to address it, even if that means you need extra help from the legal system.
We realized we had a limited amount of time before Sweetie would be an adult. As an adult, if she committed a crime, that would be it. It would go on her record. As a juvenile, because none of the things we were trying were working, including counseling, art therapy etc. we decided the best thing was to teach her that her actions have responsibility and accountability in society in general. Some things are just not allowed as a civilized society! And, if it went on her record, it could be erased because she was still a juvenile. This is a really good thing in our society.
We explained it to her, but she wasn’t listening. And that is when the call was made. That entered us into a world we never knew existed with both wonderfully committed people to see us through to the other side, and people we wish would have picked another profession!
It is a crying shame that programs like what Sweetie has been in do not exist outside of the legal system. She NEEDED a year! A YEAR to turn herself around and change her faulty thinking.
I do not know of another program that anybody outside of an independently wealthy person could participate in, with the same intensity and structure as well as genuine caring, that this program has given her and us.
And that is really sad. Because there are a LOT of kids who need something as structured.
It was not punitive, except for the jail part. They were dealing with some very dangerous kids, so they have to have that part in place. But they also have the nurturing part in place too. The part that says, “You are valuable, you can make it!”
And now, in just 2 more weeks, Sweetie 4 is going to come home. She has responded well to the program and we are going to continue with Alanon. I mentioned it before, and had I known about it before I would have had her in it a long time ago!
She has requested that she apologize to her old therapist for all the lies she told. Folks, this is good stuff! She is holding herself accountable!
I know I’m rambling abit in this post… I know many people who are hurt by well meaning statements like “They just need love”. We don’t have enough words in the English language to define what Love truly is. If a person means, “Strong commitment to see somebody through to the other side and doing what is absolutely best for the other person?” Then yes.
But it doesn’t guarantee an outcome. Not every ending is a happy one.
But at least you will live without regrets like “I could have, I should have, I wish I had…..”