Sunday, November 23, 2008

All these wonders by the Master's hand

The following excerpt from a Los Angeles Times story made me almost cry on Friday, and has been haunting me since then. It's not that I have an illusion that I could ever "save" a child in a situation as bad as this one, but thinking about it reminds me how much I would love to actually raise and nurture a child. Maybe it's a ridiculous concept -- having that wish to nurture a child in ways in which one was not nurtured oneself (I don't think that kind of motive is exactly a successful one for raising a child, since it projects too much of the caregiver's unmet needs onto him or her).

However, that fantasy is still there: the fantasy of being a stay-at-home parent with a co-parent like W. or someone similar. It makes my heart ache because I know it's unlikely that I will ever be living in that type of situation. I supposed it's probably better to cultivate fantasies that have a greater likelihood of being actualized....
Cowburn and her husband had tried unsuccessfully to get their insurance company to pay for mental health treatment for the boy. The difficulty she had keeping him under control had already helped drive her to attempt suicide last year. Now she felt she had only one option: She flew with her child to Nebraska last week and tearfully left him there.
About four years ago, a crack addict in a North Carolina Wal-Mart handed her 16-month-old son to Melyssa Cowburn and promised to return after buying diapers. When the woman didn't come back, Cowburn -- herself adopted -- became the boy's guardian.

"I was 24," said Cowburn, who asked that the boy not be named in this article. "I just thought, 'I'm going to love this little guy, and it's just going to make everything better.' "

That wasn't the case. The child screamed for hours on end and kicked at her. As he grew, he learned how to rip molding off doorways in their rented houses and stab Cowburn's cat. He was routinely expelled from day-care programs for violence.

Cowburn said she took him to a hospital after one violent episode, and doctors diagnosed him with reactive attachment disorder, a rare condition that warps a child's personal relationships and stems from early abandonment. She later learned that the boy's birth mother was schizophrenic.

Cowburn's husband, Adam, an ex-Marine, rejoined the military to pay for the child's medications. He was deployed to Afghanistan last year. Melyssa Cowburn returned to Omaha, where her mother lives. At wit's end, she swallowed prescription pills one night and was rushed to the hospital. Her 79-year-old mother was unable to care for the boy while Cowburn recovered. The child was placed into Nebraska foster care for several months.

The state said the child seemed to improve, but Cowburn said he simply returned with a new roster of curse words. Cowburn's husband was deployed to Washington state, where the couple struggled to get insurance to cover medications. Social workers there said they could not take the child unless the parents were abusing him.

In despair after the assault on a friend's infant, the fire and the flood, Cowburn took her boy back to Omaha and drove him to Immanuel Medical Center the night of Nov. 13. She told him she was taking him to the hospital so he could get better.

"Maybe," the child said, according to Cowburn, "you can find a little boy who's better."

"I don't want anyone better," Cowburn said. "I want you."

She cried the entire drive back to her mother's home.

     ~ from “Parents' despair is left at Nebraska's doorstep” by Nicholas Riccardi
     Los Angeles Times; November 21, 2008


The Angry Young Man said...

That sucks, but better to dump the little monster now before he kills their entire family and roasts their cat. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, you know.

joe said...

You are a freak, mang! You need to be isolated from the population!

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BigAssBelle said...

what a fucking tragedy. all the way around, from the unwanted child handed off to a stranger, to the damaged child making life intolerable for caring parents. one of the heartbreaks of my life in child welfare was seeing those kids who are too damaged, too wounded, to ever recover. it makes me so angry i can hardly bear it.

joe, i think you'd be a wonderful, loving father and i expect that any child in your care would benefit. you're right, that it's not a good reason to have a child, the wish to parent as we were not parented. that doesn't mean that you wouldn't be a good father. anyone with your compassion, acceptance, understanding, warmth and love has a leg up on most of humanity.

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