Strong, athletic, slender, bounced back from baby belly in months. I pushed one cart and pulled the other with two of my babies in it while the older two helped select groceries from the shelf at the store. No problem! Cooked enough for a small army, everything from scratch. No convenience foods for us. The kids and I were all clean, well dressed and perfectly coiffed each day. By the time my babies entered kindergarten they were reading, writing, and doing basic math. Neighborhood kids all played on my small patch of grass and would gather ’round for stories and snacks. Everyone was so impressed with my patience and good nature.
Me with my firstborn
Then stuff happened. So much. I’ll tell you sometime. But that’s another story. Today I’m just going to say that our lives got torn apart. My kids were in and out of trouble, juvenile detention, prison…some drank and used drugs and got into fights. Mental illness came into play. Babies were born to them way too soon and in the middle of chaos. I ended up with two of these babies, so far. Two more will be living with me soon. The fruit of my decisions way back when I was only a teenaged girl is poisoning my grand children’s lives, you see? But even if I had done everything right, chances are the mental illness would still be present.
My four babies
I tried to hang with God, but was wild at heart and sorta just kept him around for emergencies. I had a lot of those.
In my 30s I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s before all the loss I experienced. My anxiety level went through the roof and depression took hold, especially after the loss of my granddaughter, Justyce, in 2005. I fought all of this sickness: went to counseling, read the bible and other helpful books, talked to friends, kept a journal…but I just couldn’t rise above it. Not for long, anyhow.
In the middle of all that, my three year old grandson, Xavier, came to live with me. When he first got there, he couldn’t speak in complete sentences, he wasn’t potty trained, and he was so hyper he just ran around my house all day. He tossed and turned and fell out of bed every single night. Bad dreams were common.
He would pull a little chair up by the window come evening and watch the sun go down. I wondered why he made such a habit of that for a long while. One night as he sat there at sunset, his little eyes filled with tears and he said, “She’s not coming again today.” His mommy. We hadn’t made any formal arrangement for him to stay with me; she just kinda left him in my care and never returned. (except on holidays to visit). His dad, my son, was in prison and missed the first four years of Xavier’s life. By the time he got out, he just didn’t feel a bond with Xavier. I thought, by then, that it was better for X to stay in my home anyway; the only stable place he had ever known.
Although he was growing and flourishing, he never really caught up with his age group. By the time he went to kindergarten, I knew something was wrong. A few trips to Children’s Hospital and we got a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. His IQ falls within the normal range, but FASD is no less serious than full blown Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It is brain damage, and it affects every part of his life.
He is extremely kindhearted, affectionate, naive, and trusting. He gets bullied a lot because he thinks everyone is his buddy and even very young children tend to use that vulnerability against him. There are moments of deep sadness and high hilarity in this journey with Xavier. More on that at another time.
Me with Xavier
When Xavier was six, Kynnadi Rose was born to my mentally ill daughter (mostly a very severe form of anxiety and something as yet undiagnosed). Wow. I could write a whole book about that. But let’s steer this ship back on course. I’ve been raising Kynnadi since the day she was born. Recently we FINALLY realized that she has sleep apnea, which explains why she wakes up every 15 minutes to an hour at night. When she does, she requires a drink of water. So we are up and down all night long.
Xavier and Kynnadi
Me with Kynnadi
In May of 2012 we moved into a house that needs a lot of TLC. The WHOLE thing has to be redone. And mostly it’s ME doing the work. Me. Little ole me.
All-in-all, we are one exhausted family. Sometimes I take a shower every OTHER day because there is just no energy to get it done. I now hate going to the grocery store, and, when I do, I buy a lot of frozen food and stuff from the Deli. We eat out whenever we can. If we go swimming, you had a bath, baby. That’s it. Get dressed. The floors get swept and the bathroom thoroughly cleaned about once or twice a month. The laundry gets done, but if it makes it into the dresser drawers more than every 30 days or so, I’d be surprised. Oh, sorry, I can’t make the mashed potatoes I promised to make. I’m making Mac-n-Cheese and here’s a dollar to cover my guilt. Realizing just now that I have leftover Mac-n-Cheese in the fridge is cause for great rejoicing! Don’t have to figure out what to make or how to make it with a two year old wreaking havoc in the other room.
I know I said I’d play a game with you, but can we just watch Phineas and Ferb together and try to get to that game when I am more awake? And exactly when is that gonna be, I wonder, since I’ll be taking on a three year old in October and another infant in January? ha.
I’ve learned not to judge people I used to think were lazy. That’s for sure. Everybody has a story. At least I’m going forward.
I did go running back to God after I lost Justyce. I recommitted my life to Him. I actually thought that if I followed him, things would necessarily have to be good in my life. Well, good and feel good are two different things. Besides, once you make a big mess of things, it takes a while to heal it. Long, tough road ahead.
Me with Justyce
So, for now I cope by praying a lot and sort of letting myself fall apart in the shower. When I get one.
Me with Kynnadi
For more on FASD: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/index.html