Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder brings about a myriad of struggles for those who suffer from it, and heartache for parents raising children with it. But one competition is changing the face of FASD…
I am the mother of 5 children who were exposed to alcohol before birth. My children run the full spectrum of affectedness. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong condition. Throughout their entire lives they will struggle with a range of difficulties…
You feel a mixture of anger and compassion. You want to scream at the child who is bullying yours, but also scoop your hurting child into your arms. In these sensitive moments, how do you respond when your child is the victim of bullying?
Even though it happened more than 4 years ago, I can see that day clearly in my mind. It was a warm May afternoon in our hometown. My oldest son was playing baseball and I was one of the coaches. Because our family is always busy, that day being no different, my 4 year old son was also with me. I arranged a seat for him in the dugout, on the far right side by the water cooler, while I was on the field coaching.
Parenting children with special needs brings about many challenges. In fact, there are days when it’s nearly paralyzing. But that is exponentially greater when you overhear others criticizing your child for something that is out of their control.
I’m sitting in the bathroom stall sobbing. I’m pleading with myself to just get it together.
It all started an hour earlier at Meet The Teacher night. In the upper middle class suburban school district this is a crucial time. It’s critical to dress nicely, smile and for the love of all that’s holy, put on a little make-up! It’s all about first impressions and signing up for the PTA. You must remember all of your children’s supplies, labeled with their first name and last initial. Don’t forget the last initial! As luck would have it, 1/3 of the parents in the first grade were inspired to name their sons Jake.
It’s not easy to parent a child with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). Ask any one of us who are in this trench…keeping our cool when we’re pushed to the edge daily, is an uphill climb. How can we successfully parent our children when every day is a fierce battle?
The power of calm:
I’m standing at the kitchen sink scrubbing potatoes and enjoying the happy sounds of my sons’ giggles drifting through the open window. That’s when I hear the low growl of unhappiness. Undetectable to most, it is my first warning sign that something is wrong. I turn to see our 7-year-old standing on the driveway, just beneath the window. His arms and legs are ridged at his sides. His fists are clenched tight and his gaze is sternly fixed on something non-existent. I can almost reach his soft blonde hair from my perch but I know I must not reach out yet. I grab a dishtowel as I exit the backdoor.
Ten years ago our oldest son was diagnosed with Alcohol-Related-Nuerodevelopmental-Disorder (ARND), very similar to Fetal-Alcohol-Spectrum-Disorder (FASD), and our lives have been a rollercoaster ride ever since. Recently, however, we’ve begun learning new lessons about him, ourselves, and what we need to do differently.
Defeating. That’s the word that comes to mind when I recount the past decade of parenting our son. He is on the fetal-alcohol spectrum. His brain suffered irreversible damage when he was in his birth mother’s womb. The result has been violence, aggression, impulsion, even run-ins with police, the older he becomes.
On the journey of adoption, foster care and special needs parenting, in particular, we’ve experienced numerous difficult and heartbreaking moments. The only way we were able to make it through these trying times was the encouragement and unconditional love we received from our support community.
We walked in feeling alone and defeated. We walked out feeling empowered and supported. There was nothing magical about the meeting we were attending. It was simply 8 families, all going through what we were going through, all having adopted from the foster care system, sitting around a large conference room table, sharing their pain and agony with openness and honesty.
It’s one of the hardest journeys that human beings embark on: parenting. With all of the ups and downs, trials and defeats, challenges and often uphill climbs, how do you find hope? Where does the strength come from to face one more day? One word…confession!
Our son has a mental illness. His brain was damaged by alcohol before he was born. After his birth he suffered trauma. That exposure to trauma changed the way his brain functions. My son currently is unable to live at home. Not every parent’s experience will be the same as mine. It is my hope that through sharing my story, other parents who are feeling this pain will feel less alone.