What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Christina.

“Do you need to go potty? Then GO to the bathroom RIGHT NOW! Don’t just stand there holding yourself. Run as fast as you can. RUN!!! Get on the potty before it comes out. Go!!!!”

“I am frustrated with you. Can you see on Mommy’s face that I am frustrated? I love you all the time, but I am frustrated right now. I don’t think you are trying your best and that’s what makes me upset. Because I am tired of cleaning up your dirty pants. Do you think Mommy likes to clean up pee-pee and poo-poo? You are a big boy and in charge of your own body and you are NOT trying your best. You are five years old and this is ridiculous. Your brother goes in the potty and he is only three. I am tired of this.”

Ugh, I cringed as I typed out the above quotes- words that I blasted at my son this afternoon. It doesn’t even matter if I said them in a sugary sweet tone (which I didn’t) or if I really emphasized the one line of “I love you all the time” (which I tried to). Nothing in that rant feels like “I love you” to the one who is being lectured. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely all true. I am TIRED of it. Tired of still dealing with potty training stuff that he should have mastered years ago. I am tired of the smell, the clean up, the laundry, the nonchalant facial expressions he has about it all, the way he can play for hours in soiled pants and it not bother him, the continual rash he has from irritated wet skin. I am tiiiiiiirrrrrrreeeeeeed of it.

And I am frustrated.

But really, I think I am just scared.

I am scared that he’s never going to feel at home and safe in our family and that his lack of potty training is just evidence of that. I’m scared that he will never feel like this is where he really belongs- that he will never feel just the same as all the other brothers. How many times has he cried while I explained AGAIN- you are not getting left out, you just have to wait your turn- or it is not your night to stay up late, it’s not Thursday yet- or you will get presents too, it’s not your birthday today. I’m scared that he will never attach. I’m scared that it’s too late for him. And I don’t know if you have read the sagas of adopted children who never attach, but it is heart wrenching…and scary.

He interprets everything as personal rejection.

But why wouldn’t he? Not so long ago he was abused by the woman who definitely loved him, but didn’t protect him from her anger. And then he got to be a pawn in a system where a judge made the rules, and most-times those rules protect but sometimes they cause more insecurity and give you more reasons not to trust. And the latter was definitely true for him. I like to think that eventually he got his happy ending out of it all by joining our family. I like to think he is right where he wants to be. I still remember the night I went to pick him up for good and he came running out of his mom’s apartment screaming “Mommy, I get to live with you forever.”

But I also know the reality. I know that when he came to live with us the first time, he was one of six boys under the age of seven. All we did that year as a family was survive. He was three years old with a one year old and newborn brother on his heels, and we were not in the position to baby three year olds. Looking back I know that’s what he needed and probably still needs- someone to coddle him, to take care of him, to show him he can trust others. Seems pretty straight forward right? Just give him what he needs.

Except that I’m scared. When he was three, I was scared that if I baby-ed him all the time he wouldn’t do anything for himself. Most kids his age where throwing tantrums and screaming “I do it!!” Not him. He would give a half-effort to putting on his own shoes and then cry because he couldn’t do it. That didn’t go over well in our house. I had too many other little ones that “legitimately” needed my help and he was perfectly capable. Now here we are two years later and the cycle continues. He wears pull-ups to Kindergarten and comes home with them soiled everyday. His victim mentality persists, I see hints of it in so many of his interactions. I fear that he is going to be someone who blames everyone else for his problems. I’m scared that he is going to resent us when he is older because he interprets reality through a tainted lens and feels like we don’t love him the same as our bio boys or our other adopted boys (his bio brothers). I’m scared of the lifestyle he may turn to because of the baggage he will carry. And I’m scared of the chaos it will bring to our family.

And I can’t control any of it…but I try to. I try to behavior manage and reward and punish and manipulate and re-direct and ignore. And apparently after reading my rant back from this afternoon, I even try to bully. I read once, “Show me a person who is controlling, and I will show you a person who is afraid.” I am afraid. And I am parenting out of fear when I need to parent out of love.