Help! My Son is Missing!

As school starts, a mother realizes her son has changed into someone she doesn't recognize.

Sonia Billadeau April 15, 2014
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dr. jekyll mr. hydeNot physically. The five-foot-eight lanky kid with the hazel eyes is still here. In fact, he’s sitting across the table from me right now making it perfectly clear how much he resents my expectation that he actually complete his homework. The one that’s missing is the nice young man who re-emerges every summer once the pressure of school is off of him. But this is week one of school and the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde transformation is nearly complete. Mr. Hyde will now share our home for the next nine months, with perhaps a brief vacation or two during Christmas or Spring breaks. Unless of course my son has amassed the months of missing assignments he usually blows off and must complete over those breaks. Then Mr. Hyde takes on a Medusa quality as well, and none of us are safe from his poisonous moods. My son is a junior and I tell myself over and over, “Only two more years. You’ve survived eight years, only two left.”

I could go either way here. I could dig deep and emulate Christ-like qualities of forbearance, longsuffering and charity. Or I could just indulge my deep frustration, helplessness, and even panic that I am stuck with this detestable situation for the foreseeable future. Like a bad odor I can’t get out of my nose, my son’s bad humor permeates the house, the dinner table, and his relationships with all of us.

“Once a parent, always a parent” a wise friend once told me. It conveys the absolute and often unforgiving commitment required of parents. How do we do it? Especially those of us that have particularly troubled kids (mine are all RAD). I know some parents use respite, but we haven’t had much luck with that. We have no family that can help us, so we would have to find a friend or pay a professional. The one time we sent my nine-year-old son to a friend’s for respite, he had so much fun there, it was like a trip to Disneyland for him. He was understandably even less motivated to follow our rules when he got home.

In a perfect world, respite would be this wonderful magic wand we could wave to just give us a break from our very unpleasant Mr. Hyde. But in the real word, receiving respite requires a contribution from us, either in the form of money or reciprocity with a friend’s kids, or just the feeling of guilt or discomfort that we’re imposing on a friend for help. Maybe I’m not thinking rationally, but it seems like if respite requires a pound of my flesh, I might as well stay in the situation with my son rather than have to give something else I don’t have to give.

The one wan ray of hope I have is that we have never had a RAD therapist before when my son was in school. I am guardedly hoping that between our awesome therapist and the horse therapy that my son can find a ledge to hang out on this year rather than free-falling for nine straight months.

I guess that’s how we do it. We find some hope and just keep swimming.

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Sonia Billadeau

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