July 9, 2012

Jason - The Story (Part 2)

Before Jason's mom left to go back home, she told us she would give us Jason's portion of the child support she receives from his dad. I told her that it wasn't about the money, but if she did that we would make sure that Jason got it and used it wisely. To this day...no money was received.

After realizing that Jason didn't have hardly anything to get him started in school, we took him shopping. I will never forget this face. His eyes full of excitement as he had never had brand new supplies before....at least in full packages. He had never had a backpack, new shoes, or new clothes.

When I grew up, that was our time to shop. Back to School shopping was a big deal. New supplies, new clothes, etc. I then made that a tradition for my kids. It was always a big deal to go school shopping, so I couldn't imagine how a child could do without. 

$500 later, Jason was ready for school. He was loaded with supplies, clothes, and love. The good thing for us is that the boys could share a lot of the same clothes, because they were similar in size for awhile. 

As the days and months went on, Jason was adapting well to our family, and our family to him. We hadn't told a lot of the extended family, because we weren't sure how long we would actually have him. When Christmas time rolled around, we took a family photo as we did every year, and sent it home to all of our loved ones. Of course, with most of them not knowing what was going on, we got questions and our parents got questions, but nobody thought anything of it. He was welcomed into our family with open arms, by everyone. 

Contact with Jason's family was pretty steady for the first little bit. They would ask to come get him for the weekend and they would bring him back as they said they would. As time went on, the visits happened less and less. Communication between us and the mom was infrequent. We wouldn't hear from her in months, only to find out later she had been in New Mexico, or in another town in Oklahoma. 

They didn't call on his birthday. They would take him for Christmas, but never did anything with him. It was sad.

Jason just molded into our family. We got stares for awhile and then we got used to it and everyone else did too. He became one of us, a Cunningham, and we grew to love him more and more each day. 

Of course we had our ups and downs, as all families do. We had our fights. We had our moments of him screaming "I don't want to live here anymore." We had our run ins with grades and homework...the whole thing. It is tough. As a parent, you try and do the best thing for your kids. Then you become new parents to a child who is 9 and have to adjust your lifestyle. Mistakes were bound to be made, and we made them. 

Jason soon became a needy kid. Not needy, as in needy like he was when he moved in with us, but needy as in he wanted the best of the best and we were expected to give it to him. And typically we did. We have always been very giving to our kids, and felt like Jason shouldn't be treated any differently. He was essentially our child too. Unfortunately, we kind of created a monster when this happened. We were constantly shelling out money for this, that, and the other. If Jason's friends had it, he wanted it. I'm all for buying nice things, but I expect respect in return. I expect decent grades, a good attitude, and effort. We were getting none of that in return.

Both of our kids are very easy going, as far as clothing, styles, etc. Tyler, our son, is the happiest kid in a pair of sweatpants. Jason - not so much. He has to be decked out in head to toe brand name, with the best of the best. We think it's because he didn't want his friends to know he came from a poor background and by covering up in brand name goodness, nobody will ever know. I get that, but we tried telling Jason that they aren't your real friends if they only like you for what you are wearing and not who you are. Jason doesn't understand that.....Jason wants to be accepted and brand names will get you accepted. 

Jason went from being an okay athlete to being a star soccer player. He is amazing on the soccer field. He is not amazing at school. It was a constant battle. He would simply tell us, "I didn't feel like doing it (his homework)." It was a constant battle. Day after day we would fight about his schoolwork and would even have to get his coaches involved for a little nudge. Jason is the type of kid that if he doesn't want to do something, he's not going to do it....even if he knows he has to do it. He doesn't care. It got to be so frustrating and tiring. We grounded him from video games, cell phones, soccer, Facebook, etc. It didn't matter. He wasn't going to do his homework on a consistent basis. We never understood how someone could have so much determination when it came to sports, but lacked all of that determination when it came to school. 

Here we are 5 years into this arrangement with Jason. He went with his family (for the first time ever) for the entire summer. We were a little worrisome at first as this has never happened before, but I think we were all ready for a break. He needed a break from us and we needed a break from him. Adding one child to your life, no matter at what age they appear, it changes the dynamics. Considerably. Jason was the one getting most of the attention at first, because he was going through a lot of emotional issues. 

Since Jason has been gone, we have felt more at peace. More relaxed and....happy. I love Jason, I really do. He is a 14 1/2 year old boy, who is currently free of adult supervision, and any rules that we would have had at our house. Do you know how hard that will be for us all to adjust to, should he come back in August? It will be like starting all over again. Going through the same emotional roller coaster we did 5 years ago, except now he is older, and he has learned how to manipulate the system.

We visited Jason a week or so after he went with his mom for the summer. We told him that if being with his family makes him happy, then he needs to stay. Jason needs to do what will make him happy, but right now after seeing all of the crazy activity on Facebook, I don't want it to be his choice. How do you tell a child who is wanted only when it's convenient for his parents, that his "other" family doesn't want him either. We do want him, though. We don't want the drama, the emotional roller coaster, the games, and the disrespect. And unfortunately, I don't know that I am ready to bring all that back into our family again. Our lives. Our house. 

If Jason's family would turn him over to us and give us all of the rights to him, I would take him in a heartbeat. The problem is, is when she does that, she will lose out on any child support his daddy is still paying to her. His daddy knows he has been with us, but he's been in and out of jail so much, that he hasn't attempted to contact Jason when he is with us. 

We would pursue adopting him on our own, but he's part Native American and we have heard that with us not being a single bit Indian, we won't have a chance in H$LL to win. We were hoping Jason would have just said "Hey I want to live with my mom right now" and that would have been great with us. I don't want to have to tell this kid basically that we don't want him. He's been told that his whole life. However, it is going to take a long time. A long time to undo everything they have done to him this summer. He has been running the streets, chatting with girls on Facebook/text, taking inappropriate pictures of himself and putting them on Facebook, etc. etc. We don't allow any of that. That is not how we let our children act, but how do you discipline a child who doesn't belong to you (technically)? 

We hope that one day, no matter what happens in the next few weeks, that Jason will look back on these 5 years and realize he had a good thing once upon a time. We showered him with everything we could possibly give him.  We hope that he knows right from wrong and will take something from our time with him and make his life better. I hope he doesn't end up in jail like his brother currently is, in and out of jail like his father has been, and running from warrants like his mother did. I want him to be happy, healthy, and give the world that same dimply, toothy smile we fell in love with.



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