I was hesitant to join a support group. It seemed there was no need, nor any time in my life for such indulgence. The mother of a schoolmate of my son invited me to join her to a workshop in Changing the Script: Relationship is the Key on Monday evenings as we were commiserating about the challenges of our kids. This newly formed group was being held at the Adoption Council of Ontario in mid-town Toronto.
The premise of this group is that adopted children, who have undergone trauma and loss at an early age, may present behaviours that baffle the adoptive parents, fuel more grief for the adoptive parents, drain their energy, and affect loving, permanent parent-child connections. In this safe place, we learned to examine the script (as in a screenplay) that we were acting out with our children. We looked with painstaking detail at our children’s behaviours, to learn their own scripts, which they absorbed through the drama of their short little lives. And with the help of specific workshop tools, we rehearsed new scripts for our new screenplays. What an eye opener.
We also spent most of one session each describing our lives leading up to adoption, and then our lives as adoptive parents with our children. These were testimonies that were poignant to gut-wrenching for both the speakers and the listeners. Our stories intimately exposed our journeys. And baring ourselves to such a degree as adoptive parents brought us closer to each other than at times to our own extended families. At the end of each of our life histories we addressed speakers’ issues and checked in with one another.
In the beginning, on the way to group, I would think out what issue of my week I might discuss at group. But then it came easily. The group learned many of my discoveries occurred on Mondays just before group. I would arrive dazed and very out-of-it.
The principal of my son’s high school contacted me on a Monday that my son was again skipping classes and could be expelled.
I contacted one of his schoolteachers about how he was doing in class. It was more than two weeks after the term began. The teacher called me back on a Monday and I asked how he was doing. The teacher replied that she couldn’t tell me how he was doing because she had not met him yet.
I was sometimes so exhausted for Monday group after not sleeping on the weekend because of worrying about my son who would go out with friends and return home at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. in the morning.
I had been able to get my son a summer job as a bus boy at a restaurant very close to our house. I was excited and I heard the excitement in his voice as he showed off to his friends he got a summer job. Every day our four dogs and I would wave good-bye to him on the front veranda as he happily and proudly left for work. One Monday on the way to group I stopped off at the restaurant to see how he was doing at the job after working there for few weeks. I went in and they told me he does not work there, that he was let go after only a few days. He had called in a couple of times that “he was sick”, just before his shift started.
No wonder I staggered in to some of the Monday night group meetings. But I was greeted with affection, no judgment, understanding, confidentiality, and even at times a shared humour of the ridiculous by the facilitator and members of this very special group. Our facilitator was able to see through moments of confusion, simplify the situation, analyze the good and the bad and oftentimes, along with group members, offer a possible solution or solutions.
Oh, my Mondays at the ACO ...
Author: Jackson, Adoptive Parent