From Carol-Beth’s journal, when Joshua was 10…
A couple of weeks ago we spent a few days with some dear friends of ours. We love to spend time with them and their kids and our kids get along so well that we won’t hear from any of them for hours.
The very first night we were with them, however, Joshua confronted their son. He had all the right reasons for what he said, but when his powers of persuasion fell flat, he just didn’t know what to do. Joshua and this boy both have gentle spirits and no love of violence, so what could have turned into a spirited and physical fight instead became a stand-off with both boys miserable and unsure what to do about it.
At the end of it, I guided Joshua in what to say and how to say it so that he could repair and heal the damage he had wrought in the relationship. Everything should have been fine. There was a reason that it wasn’t, though. The other boy played the I-won’t-be-your-friend-anymore card and that was the first time anyone has ever said that to him. I know, at 10 years old you would think he had heard it more often, but there just hasn’t been that many opportunities for him to wear out his welcome and he’s a fun kid to have around, so there you go. It was a shock to his system and he went into overdrive making sure that didn’t happen again. He began to pretend to be more like his friend, frantically searching for clues as to what this boy and his sister would like him to be. The thing is, they do love him for what he is, but all he could hear was “I won’t be your friend anymore” and he began to perform instead of be present.
I watched this happen over the next few days, hoping that he would realize on his own that it was destroying his good time instead of making him feel more secure. It didn’t end until the third day, when we escaped into a bathroom and he broke down. We did talk about it and he did see how it was only hurting himself, but he said he felt scared now and he didn’t know how to make it okay again.
After our talk he was himself and he was able to enjoy things so much more. He stopped verbally abusing his brother and sister the minute we were alone and he felt the relief of being himself coupled with the agony of pretending all the time. But he was left with a gnawing insecurity.
If you had known Joshua before he was assaulted you would know, young as he was, that he wouldn’t have been like this. He was Mr. Personality, like a little congressman, shaking hands and making friends wherever he would go. Then, after the assault, he was angry at the world and at God, but especially at me. After that, he retreated into himself and has emerged one little step at a time. It takes such a small thing to make him retreat now and I hate it. It’s an odd place to be. On the one hand, I so adore Joshua just the way he is that I can’t imagine wanting him to be any other way. But, on the other hand, I hate the effects this still has on Joshua. He bites his nails – he started that while he was keeping it inside and it stayed with him. He will stand in the midst of kid chaos and just start pondering something…..and I saw him do that the first time on the soccer field when he was 5 and holding it in. I would turn to my husband or my mother and say, “What’s going on with Joshua?” I never dreamed it would turn out to be the thing of nightmares. And, he questions himself and his relationships with others in ways that I know would not have existed if it weren’t for what happened.
That sweet little boy was just doing what boys do and it was still more than Joshua knew how to deal with. Some days I revel in how whole he is and other days I ache with loss. This is something we’re still figuring out how to deal with. For now, we’re limiting the time we spend with other children to a couple of hours at a time. This seems to help him maintain his integrity of self and then he can retreat to the sanctuary of trust. It’s tough because people lose his trust so easily and it’s tough to understand why or how to deal with it.
This journey is fraught with pitfalls and there is no guidebook to help you through it. I sincerely hope our lessons of life will help others not have to question every little move and decision because they can say, “The Scotts did this and their kids are doing great.”
But only time will tell for sure. For now, the kids are doing better than anyone could have expected, and that will have to be enough.