It's a little after 10 on this chilly, sunny spring morning. It's my day off, a day I usually look forward to with great relish: what to do? Clean the house (we just had a week off for spring break, and the house is TRASHED)...go to the gym (ha), walk the dog, write a blog post...
How about spend an hour online trying to figure out what to do about a broken kid?
The fourth (and final) quarter of the school year started yesterday. It's also the final quarter of Charlie's senior year. This is supposed to be the last quarter of high school for him, ever.
Right now, he's sleeping downstairs.
I got a call from the school yesterday, telling me that he had missed the first block (that's the first class of the day).
I'm pretty sure I've regaled you guys with tales of how hard it is to wake him up in the morning. For sure, I know I've shared with you the stories of how hard it is to have a kid who suffers from depression. I've told you what it was like when he tried to kill himself at the ripe old age of 13.
There have been police calls, hospitalizations, meetings with doctors and principals and counselors and teachers. Ambulance rides and emergency rooms and therapy and pharmaceuticals. Behavior modification techniques, bribery, tearing down and then building back up. More tears shed than can possibly be counted. I've said things to him that haunt me to this day, things said in the white hot heat of a moment, things that can never be unsaid no matter how hard I try.
My kid is broken.
I go downstairs now, quietly. I hear his breathing and see the outline of his body under his covers. He is 6'2" now, a lean and muscular 180 pounds. Stubble on his chin, his manly chin. His voice is deep when he's awake but looking at him now, watching his chest go up and down and listening to the air escape his body and then be pulled back in, all I can see is this:
All I can smell is his hair after a bath, that soft baby smell of Johnson and Johnson. All I can feel is his warm smooth skin, so white it was almost glowing even in broad daylight. All I can focus on are those beautiful green/hazel eyes, those eyes that bespoke of a huge intelligence even back then.
I think of the hours I spent rocking him, nursing him, taking him on walks and playing with Hot Wheels and reading dinosaur books and truck books and Richard Scarry books. Laughing with him, pushing him on swings and delighting in each new discovery, each milestone he reached.
But my kid is broken now. How did he break? Was it my fault? Did I do something to cause this, or...maybe even worse...was it something I didn't do?
I think about how he was the first of four kids. How his siblings arrived after him, the first one when he was only 15 months old, the other two in rapidfire progression soon after.
I think of how I thrust him out into the world, relieved to get a break when he was in preschool, delighted to be down to three kids for the day when he was in first grade. I think about homework I was too tired to help with, classroom parties I tried to attend but had to leave due to a crying baby/hungry baby/sick baby. The times I shushed him in order to allow one of his siblings more nap time.
Of course, I think about the divorce. Did that break him? Or was there already a fissure somewhere on that sweet porcelain surface, a hairline crack that couldn't stand the weight of a world collapsing on top of it?
What if it had never happened, the divorce? Would Charlie be at school right now, getting ready to graduate? Would he be the captain of a team or the valedictorian or the "most likely to" anything? Would I be busy making plans for a graduation party and gushing to people about how he had narrowed down his college choices to two out of state schools and the University of Minnesota?
Or would he have been broken, still?
I won't ever know the answer to that. I can beat myself up from now until I take my last breath and I won't ever know what, exactly, caused my kid to break. I watch myself now, overcompensating with the other three, hovering over them and clucking over them like the world's most possessive helicopter parent of all time. How I watch them for even the tiniest sign of breakage.
I'm ashamed at myself for telling him, just this morning:
"I give up."
I cry as I try to imagine what it must feel like to hear your own mother say those words to you. I pray that he understands I don't mean it. I don't give up.
I won't give up.
I may need a break now and then, a moment or two or three to gather my thoughts, to stop shaking, to let things settle. But I won't give up.
I keep looking at that picture. It's tucked into the frame of the huge mirror in my bedroom. I have pictures of all the kids tucked into that frame...one of Molly at age 3, pigtails in her hair and her eyes squinted from the force of a giant smile. Henry eating an ice cream cone, a single drop of melted cream and sugar splotched on the front of his shirt. Toddler William, barefoot and happy. And Charlie, baby Charlie sitting in that old Graco stroller, remnants of a picnic lunch on his chin, his strawberry blond curls like a halo around his head.
That's my baby. My boy. My broken boy. And I won't give up on him.