There was a Boy

The boy was an only child. He had divorced parents – twice from each other and many times from others. He recalls just wanting to grow up and find a wife and create his own family and never hear the word divorce again. He was thirty when he married – a woman divorced who had a little girl already. He took the little girl on and loved her – with her he learned to be a parent. They sized each other up, both being only children, they had a bit of rivalry for the attention of the lady of the house and it did not escaper her notice nor her amusement. There was much laughter in the house over the years along with struggles and heartaches unlike any other family learning to live and love together…

The all-grown up boy still longed for a biological child. I’ll just say it as it was – he wanted a son. He wanted a son to love, and he wanted to somehow right the wrongs of his own growing up years – not an uncommon desire by adults who had a hard time of it as a kid. Nine years into marriage, he got his wish. He learned a baby boy was on the way. The three, Mom, Dad & Sister, agreed to name the boy a name they could all agree on. They named him Noah before he was ever born. His name was chosen as the three were on a drive in the car on a sunny day, and all were pleased and quiet after agreement – anticipating the life to come…

The boy was born on his original due date, May 11. He was small and wiry and noisy, and oh, so adored. He had blond hair and blue eyes like his sister – the biggest blue eyes that gave you the sense he already had questions to ask – a thinker, I was sure of it.

The first year of life was tough – the bat getting in the house and spending the night there which led to all of us, including the newborn, having to have rabies shots. He was the only child on record anywhere near that young to receive these vaccines. He was dreadfully ill and we were terrified for him. Then at 5 months he had a bad case of RSV requiring breathing treatments, steroids, antibiotics, etc. High fevers from eight weeks on, and we always wondered, still do, how much of his struggles could be attributed to the rabies vaccines. Asthma came on the heels of RSV and the attacks were always worse in the night. He would wake unable to get a good breath. The sounds he made were frightening and he would be reaching and grabbing for me, holding tightly as he struggled for breath. We would open the freezer for the cold air to give relief or take him out into the night air (as instructed by doctors). Breathing treatments would quickly be readied and we would put the mask on while we held him close and promised it would soon be better. And we wonder where the anxiety started…

Sister left home when he was still a toddler. She was 17 when he was born and he adored her, calling her Sidder and trailing around after her every chance he got. Mama didn’t do well with Sidder leaving the nest. The circumstances could have been better, but anytime and any circumstance can be hard for a mother when a child leaves the nest – especially when that mother was just a girl when she became a mother. It’s a different experience – a different bond…

The little boy was full of life and love of nature. He was as inquisitive as any ever has been or ever will be. For everything he encountered that he did not understand, he asked for explanation. I did not squelch that because I understood it. I had been much the same way as a kid, and I well remembered my daddy becoming so exasperated with me that he finally said, on what must have been a particularly challenging day, “if you ask me why one more time, I’m going to whip you.” And without pause and in my own exasperation, I exclaimed, “but why?!” Nothing could have been more unfair in my estimation than being whipped for needing to know, for needing to understand, for wanting to learn…I’m still there.

We didn’t know for the longest that most of the boys in Noah’s grade were about a year older than him. Many parents had chosen to hold their boys back a year in the very beginning. Had I only known the wisdom of this practice and that it was common, I believe we could have saved Noah and ourselves much grief. We did not know, and we were not spared the grief. It was never suggested to us to hold him back by any of his teachers over the years, and so we didn’t. I believe the cost has been significant.

Noah had gross motor delay, especially the left side. We tried swimming lessons at 4 and he could not do it. So…at the end of lessons, he didn’t get a treat from the swim teacher. She never mentioned the left-sided issue. Four years later, we found a different swim teacher. She said in her fifteen years of teaching swim lessons she had not seen what she was seeing in Noah – his left side significantly lacked coordination and strength of the right. She was AMAZING with Noah. She kept at it, patiently, until the boy could swim. And swim he did! She told me to watch as he began making progress. She pointed out how he was compensating for the left-sided weakness in creative ways. We celebrated his success.The next year he mastered riding a bike. Soon after, he decided he would develop enough skill in basketball to compete without humiliation. The two years he homeschooled he spent countless hours outside with the basketball working that left side, battling through the frustration until he had some control. And then he just kept on working.

When you are a boy who has physical deficits (maybe more so when they are not obvious and profound), PE and recess can be brutal. When you have ADHD and your name is called more than anyone else’s because you are simply doing what you are wired to do, it has an impact. In his words, “when I was still a little kid, I was made to feel like I was bad, and then I became bad.” I know he has been no more “bad” than I have been nor that I am , but in his experience, it was deeply hurtful to be made to feel that you are, and his self-concept was shaped by peers and others who conveyed negative opinions of him – many based on things that were beyond his control. He fought back, and the fighting back only made matters worse…

Do not read this as blame from me toward anyone. Kids are kids and are limited in experience and understanding. Adults working with large numbers of kids are imperfect beings with lots of challenges and most are well-intentioned. I do, however, hope that my words are a reminder of the profound impact our handling of kids has on their lives beyond the classroom or whatever/wherever we act in a role of authority over them. They are astute at spotting favoritism, rejection, and hypocrisy and it shapes their worldview, and that is a very big deal…

So, we did some private schooling and some homeschooling and some public schooling. In the midst of all the rest, our family suffered a terrible trauma from an in-law who brought (in the words of the law) domestic violence and cruelty to a child for us to deal with. Noah was 4 when he came along and 8 by the time The Good Lord removed him, but he wasn’t removed before instilling in Noah a horrible distrust that also ignited more panic attacks. The asthma had abated, but the tyrant made it hard for any of us to breathe…

By eighth grade, Noah was ready to get back to “normal schooling” so we enrolled him at a new place. He had some great teachers, but he struggled with peers and with culture shock – for real. Within 6 months of starting to the new school we were faced with the request to take in another boy who needed immediate and ongoing care. We said yes. Was it an opportune time for us to make such a commitment? No. Was it the “right thing to do?” Yes. Apart from belief in and faith in God, my answer would be different. In fact, we would not have even considered it apart from belief in God’s purpose and plan that we do what we could, the best we could, despite the cost and despite the timing.

We learned more in the following year and a half than we could have learned in any PhD program studying race relations, culture, Christian studies, social psychology, and blended families. We learned about ourselves and others things that we could never have known had we not walked that hard and uncommon road. We are still learning.

New Brother was soon moved, upon his request, to a new school due to perpetual harassment for moving in with a “white family.’ Noah wanted to stay where he had started given he had just started to get the hang of the new curriculum and he loved his teachers. But by the next year, we noticed changes in Noah that were worrisome. He later told us, after he was assaulted by a group of boys at school, what he had been up against. We wept for him, with him, and then started the process of trying to help him heal. The assault opened all the old wounds and the boy was tired of trying again. I had noted when he was six and had been told at school on a regular basis that he “sucked” because he wasn’t good at sports, how he would regularly cry himself to sleep at night but then would rise with his little sideways smile and say, “it’ll be alright. I’ll try again.” He would also tell me of the kids who mistreated him, “but I love them, Mama.” And he did. For a very long time, he did.

We did all the things. The evaluations, doctors appointments, counseling, medication trials, everything suggested to us, and Noah continued to suffer and unravel. What had been his characteristic way of being in the world was no more. He was, at many times, unreachable. I thought after we went through all that we went through with the former in-law and resulting harm to my kids that I could never cry that much again. Well…I was wrong. I had thousands more teardrops to shed, and I’m still working on letting them go…

We consulted with specialists for PTSD – that is what Noah was diagnosed with after extensive, objective tests (brain scans included). It was explained to me as “the perfect storm.” Having endured many hard things early on and persevering with impressive amounts of hope and resilience, to then find himself at the age of 14 – puberty – being made sport of by a group of peers while trying to accommodate for all the pressures of high school and a new family structure was a breaking point that would have broke anyone. What to do??? A young specialist and a well-seasoned, older specialist gave the same recommendation. A rebuilding of self-esteem through structured, disciplined environment away from the cultural influences that are so destructive to all young people – particularly those who are already hurting.

Noah is in a teen challenge program in a Christian Boarding School for boys where he is completing school work, caring for his own clothing and chores, contributing to the maintenance of the school along with all of his peers, participating in rigorous exercise, and being taught leadership skills. There are no “name brands” there. All the guys have crew cuts. Everyone learns that he has necessary skills for self and other care. They have movie night once per week for everyone who has accomplished their weekly tasks and goals. They have game nights and lots of recreation. The boys are given opportunity to learn from Christian men how to be his brother’s keeper; how to encourage one another to be the best he can be, and how to prepare to be a man of honor that is not dependent on other people for his self-worth. We have no guarantees what the outcome will be for any of the boys, but we have great confidence that God is able to use this time and these people to help shape and mold and make disciples of the young men in their charge. For this we pray daily and in great hope of God’s answer to our prayers…

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Mama hoeerPri

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2 Responses to There was a Boy

  1. David Walker says:

    Praying for Noah’s Healing and Growth as our LORD provides him with quality Relationship and Discipleship from caring Godly Men. Just as Paul provided Godly training to Timothy so that he would be equipped to teach other faithful men who would be able to teach others also. Following the multiplication principle that Jesus modeled with HIS disciples.

    2 Timothy 2:2, KJV: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

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