Friday, October 26, 2007

No (well not many) regrets

If someone came to me who could send a message back to me when I was deciding whether to take Frankie this is what I would write:

"It isn't going to work out, but take him. You will have him barely more than two months and it will break your heart, but take him.

Frankie is a kid who has problems that stem from his abuse and neglect, but also from something else. It may be fetal alcohol effect, it may be a mental illness that we already know is heavily genetic, but whatever it is, Frankie's way of processing information and of experiencing his world are fundamentally different. That will make him delightful, annoying, endearing and, eventually, unsafe. In just over 10 weeks you are going to realize that he needs something more than you can give, that he isn't safe in your home, and you are going to ask for him to be moved.

But in those 10 weeks you will give him something that is potentially valuable.

He will come out to you. He will tell you that he wants to be a girl and he will learn what "transgendered" means. You will introduce him to Jane and buy him girls' clothes and for the first time in his life he will have brought this desire, this thought, out into the world and been accepted. He will learn that there is no shame in it. When he leaves, you will not be certain that he is "really" trans or if wanting to be a girl was the way his disordered brain came up to deal with severe physical abuse which he suffered and his sisters apparently did not. Whichever it is, when he leaves you, and you are helping him pack his things, Hubby will say, 'What do you want to do with your girls' clothes?' He will laugh and say, 'Put some in everything! I'll tell anyone who helps me unpack that I am transgendered!'

And you will know that you helped that sense of shame go away, at least some, and he will be better able to look at that desire and figure out for himself where it comes from.

And though he won't be able to cope with the stress of living outside a controlled environment, neither he nor the powers that be will believe that until he tries. His thinking is so disordered that he might not come away really understanding that he needs more, but he certainly won't if he doesn't try.

There is just one part that is unacceptable that you need to be prepared for. When you realize he needs help, you will go through three days of not being able to get that help and being anxious about how long it will take. You and Hubby and the kids will feel emotionally wrung out. But it is just three days. You will make it."

And if my time traveling messenger said, "Whoa. Gotta make it short woman!" I would say, "Take him. Time from red flag to adequate response is three days."

I'm not saying that I will ever take a kid like him again. It is pretty clear to me that if I want to keep either my career or my family, I can't. We will never again take a kid who has no experience being successful in a family, but maybe we also needed to learn where our limits are, and maybe we can only do that by trying.

So I couldn't do it twice, but if I could only do it once, I am glad that it was with Frankie.


  1. How bittersweet, and how true. You summed up a range of emotions so well.

    I've heard parents who lost kids to cancer say similar things- they hated the struggle, hated the grief, but wouldn't trade the brief experience of having that child for anything anyone could ever offer.

    You, Yondalla, are a true parent. One that isn't dependent on biology, or convenience, or logic. You simply love.

    And for that, every child that is blessed to know you will benefit.

    Whether they live with you or not, you'll always be in their hearts.

  2. Thank you so much for doing what most of us could never do.

  3. I sure wish our future selves could send messages to our present selves. It would make life so much easier.


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