T got in the car tonight when I picked him up from his treatment program and said, "My group says I should express myself more." Oh boy!
Turns out, he felt we'd left something unresolved yesterday: upon finding him lying on the sofa watching a movie and glaring at me around midday on a weekday, I suggested he find something to do, and perhaps get out of the house. I may have phrased this in a way that was less gentle that it sounds now that I'm writing about it. :)
He did do what I asked, actually. He left without saying good bye and went for a walk over the hill, to the park, where he took a nap. He came back a couple hours later, apologized for being moody, explained where he'd been, and said he was doing his best to learn to fill his time constructively.
I explained that his behavior - bored, sullen, restless - had, basically, frightened me and made me tense. I dislike admitting fear, but his mood caused me to remember in an instinctive way countless days when he would hang around the house, increasingly listless, until he finally bolted to get high, often with some ensuing chaos.
"Okay, now we're getting to something," he said. He explained that he needs time while he's in treatment to adjust and build up to his reentry into the world. I explained that I was tolerant of that, yet vigilant, because I felt that his long-term reliance on drugs had left him a bit confused about how one might otherwise fill one's time.
From there, we moved on to another topic. I don't remember how it came up, but we turned to the subject of our relationship to him. He said his recovery group had asked if he calls me "mom" and he had replied that he calls me by my first name, which made them wonder why. I said that this had never really mattered to me - that I considered myself part mom, part friend. "That's crazy," he said. "I said the exact same thing!" I explained that "mom" seemed to me a loaded word, and that since he had a "mom" when he met me, I had always been fine with being referred to by name. I said that I figured I was one of his moms - the others are his biological mom, and the cousin he lived with for several years when he was young, who is now part of our daily life. "Mom can be sort of a possessive word," I said. "Don't I know it!" he said. "I respect your mom, because she made you," I said. "That's the only thing I respect about her," he said. "That's understandable," I said.
We also talked about his cousin who parented him when he was young. Recently, I asked him to reach out to her for some paperwork we need for his brother. "I would prefer that you guys handle it," he explained tonight. "We will - I needed you to do this one favor, because sometimes she feels badly about what happened when you guys were taken from her, and I thought she'd have an easier time listening if you asked her," I explained. "She should feel bad," he said, quietly. That's a first - until now, he's been protective of her and reluctant (if not entirely averse) to admit that he was badly hurt and disappointed when she let him go back into the foster care system instead of fighting to keep him with her.
Having him in treatment is interesting. We retread old ground, and ease into some new territory as well. He's brutally honest, both by nature, and as he is encouraged to be by his program. As he gets better, he becomes more like an adult housemate and a little less like a child. He speaks frankly now about things I've often interpreted on his behalf. I don't need to read his behavior to know what he's thinking anymore; he tells me. It's an adjustment, and a wonder.