Recently, I wrote a page for my blog called Stuff About Dj. Unlike my girls’ pages, Dj’s wasn’t all jokes and rainbows. It was harder to write because my son has some pretty big problems to overcome, and I have been really unable to help him much. As a mother, that just sucks big ones. He has struggled with learning disabilities, self-esteem problems, Type 1 diabetes complicated by other diseases, and lived in a family of Type A personalities that over-powered his Type B one. Here is a brief explanation of the personality types I found on Wikipedia:
The theory describes a Type A individual as ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status conscious, sensitive, truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point,proactive, and obsessed with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving “workaholics” who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.
The theory describes Type B individuals as a contrast to those with Type A personalities. People with Type B personality by definition generally live at a lower stress level and typically work steadily, enjoying achievement but not becoming stressed when they do not achieve. When faced with competition, they do not mind losing and either enjoy the game or back down. They may be creative and enjoy exploring ideas and concepts. They are often reflective, thinking about the outer and inner worlds.
Now, I don’t subscribe to the idea that any personality type can fall in just one of two categories, nor do I believe that there is a truly effective measurement that can explain everyone’s motivating characteristics. But these categories do explain what we’ve had going on in my little family fairly accurately, so I will use them to paint you guys a picture. My ex-husband, both of my daughters, and I are stubborn, highly driven, and goal-oriented. My eldest daughter is a genius, and my younger daughter is probably close to being one herself. We just never had her tested. My ex was charismatic and a born leader. And then, born smack into the middle of all of these people who were one way comes someone who was passive, sensitive, and easy-going. From the second he was born until this very evening, I have never truly understood how he thinks. He’s got the hardest life I’ve ever seen.
A few days ago, Dj and I had a heart-to-heart about his life. He’s 23, unemployed, living with his mother. In my world, this is just unacceptable. In the past, thinking that I was doing the right thing, I’ve made him leave. Once, he actually did get a job, maintain it, and have his own apartment for almost a year. Then, a girl came along with her 3-year-old son, moved in with him, and helped him really wreck his life. As quickly as she had swooped in, she was gone. But not before getting pregnant, telling Dj it was his child, then putting the baby up for adoption after the kid was over a year old.I tell you all of this because I want you to understand the back-story of why a passive, gentle young man would become a felon. Dj and Sally (not her real name) getting together did not make me happy. Sally obviously liked to use drugs, and Dj had stayed clean for a considerable length of time before she showed up. For awhile, he seemed to be a good influence on her, and they both seemed to be enjoying “playing house”. She had a son from a previous marriage, and Dj was just crazy about him. But only a few months into the relationship, Sally started disappearing for days at a time, leaving her son with Dj. This caused Dj to slip and start taking Vicodin. One morning, after yet another disappearance by Sally, the three-year old little boy took a wrench and shattered a glass top table. Dj, in a panic to keep the boy from cutting himself on all that glass, swooped him up and moved him to a different room. The boy, being a normal, mischievous toddler, refused to stay away from all the glass, and Dj smacked his little bottom too hard.
Please don’t take this as me suggesting my son was innocent, or that I condone disciplining any child in this manner. I believe in spanking, but only rarely, and never, ever when you are angry. Which would explain why Dj didn’t trust me enough to tell me what had happened. Instead, I found out that Dj’s girlfriend’s mother, who had tried getting custody of the little boy numerous times before, found a small bruise on his bottom, and reported Dj to the police. They questioned my son, and he confessed that he had lost his temper and spanked the little boy too hard. He was arrested, and the attorney that represented him scared him into taking a plea agreement by informing him that should he be found guilty, he would be spending the next 35 years in prison. Dj navigated most of these waters alone, thinking that I would be so disappointed and angry at him, I wouldn’t love him. I cry that any child of mine could think that.
I guess I find this whole situation troubling on so many levels. First, I’m guilty of this same thing. I have been a little too harsh with my kids before, especially when all three of them were toddlers at the same time. While I never left any kind of mark on them, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t disciplining them correctly because of my anger. Parents get tired and frustrated, and most of us are guilty of blowing it in some way. My kids were risk-takers, stubborn, and intelligent. That’s fantastic now that they are all adults, but keeping them alive for 18 years was nothing short of a miracle.
Second, I picked the crappy lawyer that Dj hired, and I paid him. I did absolutely no research on him whatsoever. I’d never had any brushes with the law myself, and I assumed that he knew what he was doing just because he advertised that he did. Had I done the barest of checking on him, I would have found that he always makes his clients plead guilty, seemly has never represented an innocent person, and has only been involved in one actual trial, and that poor man, who was easily provably innocent, was found guilty. I couldn’t have found a worse lawyer if I’d actively tried.
Third, I didn’t know how to advise my son. On the one hand, he did spank a little boy too hard. On the other hand, though, he absolutely did not deserve to go to prison for 35 years. I’d spent his entire life trying to break this habit of lying that he seemed born with, but when it came to facing a judge, I wanted him to lie, or at the very least, not say anything. It was like Christian Hell. In the end, Dj would lie to me all day long, but he wouldn’t lie to the judge, and he was given a deal that put him on probation for 7 years and pay a very large fine. At the end of the time, if he’d stayed out of trouble, this record would be expunged. We were satisfied with the judgement. We had no idea just how badly things were about to go for Dj.
Dj, who has dyslexia, has problems with reading comprehension. His brain has to twist itself in knots just for him to get the words right, and by then, his brain isn’t registering them. He’s read three books, and they all took him over a year to read. A desk job was never in the picture for him. He’d worked as a welder’s assistant and a laborer on a street repair crew before his Type 1 diabetes became complicated by a gastric disease that puts him into the hospital almost every month. And now, the had these huge fines to pay, was a papered felon, and can’t physically work a labor intensive position. He’d apply for jobs, and even the employers who will consider hiring a felon weren’t interested because Injury to a Child is just repulsive. If I didn’t know the kid, and was witness to what was going on with the girlfriend and her mother, I’d be the same way. But from my viewpoint, Dj’s mistake was used as a way for the grandmother to wrestle custody from her own daughter.
Dj has been either homeless or living with me ever since. Each rejection by a potential employer has torn down what little self-esteem he had over the last seven years. This year his record was supposed to expunged, but he has been unable to pay the fines, and we found out that he has a warrant out for failure to pay. I’m so frustrated.
I went on-line looking for something that would help Dj. Surely there is a program that helps people like this. I found tons of them…..in other states. Oklahoma, as usual, is lagging behind everyone else. I’m from Texas, the state that has it’s shit together. Living in Oklahoma, I am constantly amazed at how they seem to be able to just ignore problems until those problems start costing some real money. I’ve never seen roads so bad, and twice, a pothole has ruined my tires. The homeless here have very few options, and the ones that do exist are churches, not city government. Because of Chef, I met several homeless people. Guess what! They were either a felon who couldn’t get a job or a drug addict who can’t afford any of our lovely, but expensive, rehab centers. What the hell, people??
I’m all for justice, but having our city flooded with felons who have already served their time and yet will go on being punished for the rest of their lives, isn’t going to be good for any of us in the long run. A city’s true character is only revealed in how it treats it’s poorest citizens. Frankly, Tulsa should just be ashamed of itself.
I can’t find a support group, a free adult literacy class, or an attorney willing to take payments to keep this boy out of jail and put him back on track. It’s depressing. I’m thinking that I will try to at least get some kind of support group going around here, and I’m motivated to start making a lot of noise until I get someone’s attention. I can’t let Dj’s entire life be dictated by this one mistake, and I’m sad that there isn’t more compassion for those people who messed up.
Please say a prayer for my son, and if you have any ideas that would help me get my city government’s attention, I’m all ears.