My life raising kiddos has been full of excitement, as well as challenges. Steven has been my most difficult child to raise. The 7th child born to a woman who was mentally ill and addicted to crack cocaine and heroin, we took Steven home from the neonatal unit as soon as he was able to be released. He was unbelievably “messed up”. (Don’t you just love my knowledge of medical terms?) He cried constantly, his whole body twitching. Once I learned to swaddle him tightly in a baby blanket, keep the room dark, and talk in a whisper, he could tolerate my presence. To touch him lightly would make him scream in pain, but cuddling him strongly, the deep pressure somehow calmed him.
Whether due to the drug exposure, or just because his birth mom was mentally ill, Steven exhibited extreme symptoms of ADHD, autism, bi-polar disorder, sensory integration deficit, obsessive compulsive disorder,severe anxiety disorder and learning disabilities. (The whole concept of “diagnosis” is fraught with contradictions in my mind, as the “diagnosis” with which he was labeled were arbitrary, useless except for the benefit of getting special education services. We were fortunate to find a psychiatrist with vast knowledge of children born addicted to drugs, and he became our mentor. Like myself, he does not not believe in labels, but in treating the symptoms.)
Steven has led an interesting life. With his Asperger’s-like super knowledge of reptiles, and an uncanny natural love for children, he has shined in these areas. He would be fascinated with the foster babies in our house, and his most favorite activity was sitting in the rocking chair by my side and rocking a little one. He is, however, unable to understand the concept of money, wear shirts with tags in them, eat textured foods or adapt to an unexpected change in his schedule. A strict, structured environment and predictable schedule has been the key to helping him manage every day life.
As any parent, I have thought a lot about his future and how he could possibly survive as an adult…
Then, a miracle happened…he found the perfect girlfriend to love him! Wonder of wonders! Joy of joys! I never thought is was possible, but the adage “there is someone for everyone” is true in his case!
Wonderfully patient Alexandra loves to keep everything controlled. Where other young men would go running in the other direction at the sight of a young woman in strict control, for Steven, it was just what he needed! She manages their time, his money, and their life together with strict precision. JUST WHAT HE NEEDED! They also have similar interests in reptiles, with Steven using his vast knowledge to ensure the safe upbringing of their many “pets”; three turtles in a tank, (recently caught in the lake behind our house, during one of their day long fishing adventures,) a small snake, a Chameleon and two lizards. They are affectionate with each other, with Steven smiling brightly as she gives him deep bear hugs. The icing on the cake, as far as both of them are concerned, is her young daughter. Again, where other young men would go running for cover, Steven goes running towards her sweet three year old daughter! He adores her! This very large, 6 foot talk, husky, bi-racial, often scary looking young man who has an aversion to shaving, is like a loving angel with her daughter! He gently holds her hand to guide her when they are walking. He plays Shutes and Ladders and Go Fish with her. He helps her pick out her clothes, (shirts without tags, of course!) Most amazingly, he has become her hair stylist, putting her hair up in braids and pony tails. She loves showing off her new hair styles, proudly telling everyone that STEVEN did it, as they both stand there and beam happily! She needed a dad to love, and Steven needed a family of his own. He adores Alexandra and she has a huge calming affect on him. And he has such a natural caring for children, and for Emily in particular, that it melts my heart every time I see the three of them together. He LOVES them…an emotion I once thought he would never feel…as a boyfriend, (husband?), and father. Yes, he has found comfort in his own family…and has a content, structured, “normal” life. Isn’t that amazing????? Miracle of miracles!!
Is there no greater joy as a parent than seeing your child happy as an adult? Especially when you thought that may never happen…
To read about Steven’s early childhood, here is a link to my book:
The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
Also, for just the cost of transportation, I am available to do presentations for your groups. I can be funny on serious subjects…