Changed by God

Some of my readers have adopted drug babies and are struggling with certain issues.
So, I write again.

In the early years, before I realized the severity of the drug damage, I disciplined my youngest like all the others. In fact, I rode him harder.
He seemed to have no conscience that would remind him of what was right.
Research showed that drugs, especially prior to birth, inhibit the development in their brains for the center for consequences.
No amount of “help” would develop it now.
That is why when teaching him the letter sounds that though he tried harder than any of my other sons, he could not remember that the letter “s” said, “ssss.” 
We persevered through learning the letter sounds for two years before he could sound out c-a-t. But today he reads. And enjoys it.

So applying that consequence-deprivation to obedience, I would discipline for the same offense over and over and over (did I say Over?) again.
Sometimes I wondered if he could get it.

When he was five, his four o’clock chore of cleaning and preparing the table for dinner was such a chore—for him and me.
While everyone else was doing their chores, he would be telling them how to do their chores better. Instead of doing his own.
I would remind him of the consequence of not doing it—he would not eat when dad returned from work at 6.
He would tell me he wasn’t hungry.
I asked the boys how many times they went without a meal before they realized that doing the table was worth it. 
They replied, “Once.”
Know how many times this youngest went without a meal?
At least twenty.
I lost count.
I wondered if he could learn.
Was I beating a dead horse?

I persevered with what worked for the other boys.
Because that was what the Bible said to do.
But I didn’t see it.

I reminded myself that he was three years behind in development.
His social cues were non-existent.
His personal space was in everyone’s face.
He corrected one son who's an expert at anything with guns about what gun he should not use.
He reprimanded another son about how to train his horse, though that son is called “the horse whisperer” by the ranchman who hired him.
One son, after returning from school, said, “This is why I don’t like being home.”
One of the boys’ friends laughed at my major micro-management, “You just can’t give him anything!”
Instruction and guidance fell on deaf ears.

When he entered his pre-teens, it was not just his “forgetfulness” to do jobs, but his total ignoring of what I said that finally made me say, “I’ve had enough.”
I won’t be ignored. 
I would start to say something, then stop. Why bother?
When the other boys had reached their pre-teens, I consulted with them on projects. Asking what they thought would be best.
With him, I had been fighting to maintain my authority for his entire life. It was a battle for who was in charge.
He questioned everything—Not to learn, but to prove me wrong.
There is a difference.
One is to learn.
The other is to subvert authority.

When he wanted ducks, I told him that was a Dad’s decision.
I did not need another battle.
Could I allow the ducks to be mistreated or forgotten because he did not feel like feeding them today?
I would have to. (See the article: Do You See Projects or People? for my struggle with building the pens with him."

Rules that we started when he was a toddler were still enforced.
He was restricted to certain rooms.
He would explain, “I was just….”
I would interrupt, “When you learn to obey the rulesthen I can decide when you can break them.”

We learned of a doctor who treated children who had been drug babies without added drugs. 
I was desperate for anything.
When we sat in his office, our son was sullen and unresponsive.
After a blood panel of more than twenty tests, the doctor put him on a regiment of twenty vitamin supplements for both morning and night.
The doctor explained each vitamin and supplement and their purpose.
Here was another battle. “Did you take your vitamins?”
He gulped down all twenty with one swallow. How could anyone do that? 
For that, I was grateful.

When I found them in the trash, I was furious.
When asked, he couldn’t imagine how they got there.
Dad had to watch him swallow them.
I was done.

I had fought a long time to make him know truth, yet he lied without guilt.
How could he know God and speak lies?

On a daily grind, I was done being ignored.
I was done being corrected.
So I withdrew from my motherly micromanagement.
I did not care.

You have to care to be consistent.
Because it is hard. It takes energy. It demands perseverance.

I understood better how some women can be mistreated in a hurtful relationship for years, then finally reach a corner where there was no going back. 
My corner was turned.

Instead of correcting him, I would allow him to do something wrong.
Instead of telling him how I wanted it, he did it his way.
By letting go, I allowed him to suffer.
I imagined prison was coming soon.
Would he come back to beat me as some sons I've heard tell?
I didn’t remind him to bring water and snacks on any trip to town.
I didn’t tell him he needed a haircut.
I no longer required his chores to be done. He’d ignore me anyway.
I did them.
When he saw me doing them, he’d volunteer to help. 

There was no more “reasoning” with him. He did not listen.
I didn’t need to remind him why certain privileges were no longer available. 
He didn’t listen anyway.

After over a year of taking the supplements, and evaluating the cost, I didn’t think it was worth it. I saw no change.
Other than maybe during school, he could sit a little longer and work through his lessons.
And maybe that was because he was maturing (finally).

It wasn’t a physical issue, it was disobedience.
I told the doctor that the supplements just weren’t working.
He hurried to give a free sample of a vitamin that we had only tried for a month.
He suggested that we could pursue drugs to help.
When his receptionist asked for another appointment, I told her my husband would have to bring him next time.
There hasn’t been a next time.

Have you ever tried so hard to make someone do right, but they don’t.
Maybe it’s your husband, who is never satisfied.
You know, you can’t make him happy?
We, as women, want to, but we can’t.
We can’t control another’s choices. Or their feelings.
I can’t even choose right myself most of the time.

I prayed more for his salvation. Was he even saved?

But also during this time, even as I pulled back my instruction, I noticed a change in him.
Maybe he was maturing. Maybe he was finally getting it.
Maybe…I just don’t know.

He wanted to read on my i-pad.
The conditions were drawn between dad and he.
I wanted no part in enforcing anything. 
He had to return the pad every evening.
He could choose a book (allowed by us), then he had to read a book that dad required.
After each book, a written book report was required.

He has returned that pad without fail every night.
How could he remember? After all those years of constant reminding…
Even when he had to wait for dad’s book choice, he did not read one of his own. Why was he being honest now?
Was maturity just kicking in?
I had no answer.
But I was grateful.

Recently someone asked to be baptized at our church. When our other boys were baptized, we held our youngest back. I didn’t think he understood what it meant.
Maybe now he was ready.
And he was willing.
When explaining the meaning of baptism, and how it doesn’t save you, but is an act of obedience and a testimony to what God has worked inside you, “death to sin and making alive in Christ,” each baptismal candidate was asked to give their testimony of how they came to know Christ.
The candidates were honest and real.

When our son’s turn came, he told how when he was eleven he was afraid of the dark. 
(I knew that, he would close all the curtains, have several flashlights and night lights on.
In the morning, if he forgot to turn off all the lights, I would not allow him to use them again. 
I struggled with that correction, because I knew he was genuinely afraid. 
But I wanted something to motivate him to obey and remember at least in one area.)

He shared with the small group how there were several nights of nightmares and fear because he was in the dark that brought him to realize God could always be with him.
He asked Him to.

When he shared, I cried.
You want, as a parent, to be instrumental in leading your children to know God.
But you don’t want to cause the suffering that makes it happen.

All those years of trying to make him “do good,” to be his conscience, to make him obey are empty—if all he gets by it, is the ability to be a “responsible” person.
A “responsible” person will never be good enough for God.

I had forgotten that only Christ can change the heart.
Only Christ can make a sinner choose to do good.

And though he still corrects his brothers about things that he knows nothing about, and though he tries to correct me, I see change.

Change that is wrought, not by my correction and discipline, but by the inner working of God’s Spirit in the life of a boy who is becoming conformed to God’s image —in God’s time, not mine.

Displaying 1 comment

As you know, this article really hits close to home. It continually breaks our families' hearts as we watch my two grandsons struggle because of drugs. I don't know if your article though is encouraging or discouraging. I know that what you wrote here is not the end of the story either for another year has passed and with these kids, nothing is a constant. Thanks for sharing, it means a lot to read such honest thoughts.

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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