When I was young, maybe 7 or 8, my younger brother and I were bored one rainy day. We announced that we were "running away from home." We got the boy next door involved. We packed little suitcases and put on rain coats, and then we went out and walked around the block by ourselves with our luggage in tow. After a block or so, my brother got fretful and melancholy, but I insisted that we keep going. We made it all the way around the block before going home. I look back and admire my mom and the mom next door for treating this all with good humor, and letting us live out the "all on my own" fantasy for the duration of one very long, wet suburban block.
Sometimes lately, I feel like T is "running away from home" in a similar way. He calls now and then. He's picked up clean underpants a few times. Today, he called to ask us to retrieve his resume from our computer, add a line, and email it to him. He has always excelled at little sonar messages designed to check for sustained connection, and now is no different, really.
Of all the places he could land right now, I don't much mind where he is. He's with an older half brother whom he only met a few years ago. The brother had a very different upbringing than T, having been adopted as an infant. To be sure, he's had his struggles and as T's parent I'm not 100% comfortable with the young man's judgement. But he's a father himself, doing his best to raise his son with the boy's mother, and he takes being a father very seriously. I admire him, knowing a bit about how hard he's worked to get where he is and what it means for him to raise his son, having been abandoned by his own mother.
Most of all, my gut tells me it is necessary and instructive for T to have this time with birth relatives. I think every child who spends time in foster care longs for blood ties, for the sense of place that comes from shared ancestry. I also think that denied that opportunity to forge connections with relatives, kids like T romanticize such relationships to excess.
What's more, given his addiction, T needs to learn that blood ties are not enough to justify exploitation. In other words, even his brother will grow tired of being used and expect him to clean up and contribute to the household. As a young child, T witnessed adults using one another in the name of "family" and he suffers some confusion about how far familial obligation extends. I think right about now, his brother is probably beginning to ask what the heck he's going to do with T in his house, not working, not going to school, and not contributing to household expenses. If T had a grip on his drug use, I'd give the brother living expenses to help offset the cost of having T in the house, but I can't right now. And it's good for T to see that no matter who you're with, no loyalty overrides daily necessity.
In a way, our present state is not unlike having a child away at college, except that T has chosen to school himself in a different way: a difficult, potentially dangerous way. But the way he's chosen, and perhaps the one he needs right now.
Today Is A Gift
4 days ago