Despite what I have posted on this and my pregnancy blog, my family is not perfect. We are not the perfect parents. My children are not perfect. Well, let me rephrase that: they are perfectly imperfect.
This past week, on some random day, Evan was outside playing as I was getting ready for yet another seemingly endless shift at work. Evan has sort of befriended our neighbors on the one side. They have a dog he loves to play with, and they are a young, late-twenties, childless couple. Incidentally, they think Evan is the coolest kid ever. Evan, being as gifted as he is (not bragging, just sayin'!), gravitates more toward adults than children his own age. We have long-since given up on playdates because he would abandon his playmate to hang out with the parents. So I really found nothing extraordinary about the amount of time he spent in their adjacent backyard. And while I was on bedrest, he would spend time in my line of sight from my bedroom window helping them in their yard, or "dogsitting". No big deal.
So back to this week...
I am getting ready for work when Ev comes in and shows me what he has. "Mommy, look what they gave me!" And he has a wad of cash. I can tell there are several bills there, but the ones on the outside are ones, so I estimate about $10-$15. Then I look again. Turns out the ones are hiding some bigger bills, and there is $75 there! My first thought is that Evan stole it. I take the money from him and hand it to John, telling him to go and make sure while I finish up getting ready. He does and comes back and tells me that the guy who gave Evan the money was not outside but there were about 15 adults there who all insisted he really did give Ev the cash. But my question was why did he give Evan so much? What the hell was going on? And I was more than a little creeped out. So I threw on shoes and went over there myself.
The guy started telling how cool and helpful "E" was--that's what he called him, E. It was a friend of our neighbors'. I tried to give the money back,but he kept insisting. Apparently Evan had told him he needed a new wheel for his scooter, and so the guy gave him money for a new scooter altogether. He tried to be nice, but told Evan he had to spend it in a way his parents approved of. I had to go to work, so I left the money in John's posession, still weirded out by it. I got to work and talked to coworkers about it. In other words, people more experienced than me at this parenting-an-older-kid stuff. My coworkers flipped out and were even doing an internet search of sex offenders in my area. They thought what I was thinking, but was too polite to say: was this hush money? or something to lure Evan? What were the intentions of giving a kid so much cash? So I called John and told him not to do anything with the money, that we were going to make Evan give it back.
In the meantime, while I was at work, Evan was playing outside. John went out there and told him he had 30 minutes left, that it was a school night and he would need to get his shower and head to bed. This is when Evan asked John if he could go to the movies with the neighbors and their friends. John told him no, that it was a school night, that the neighbors had since been drinking, that there was no way a group of twenty-somethings would be watching a film appropriate for Evan, etc. Evan threw a bit of a tantrum, but John let him finish up his 30 more minutes of playtime. When John went back outside, he said the adults next door were all giving him dirty looks and whispering to each other when the guy who gave Evan the cash came up to John and asked for his money back. Of course John gave it to him, telling the guy that we were going to anyway when I got home in the morning. He brought Evan inside, and the nightly bedtime ritual went by without a hitch. It would be the next morning that would start all of the trouble.
Evan wanted a Mountain Dew for breakfast. Of course John told him no. We aren't perfect parents, but even we can see the counterproductiveness of allowing Evan to down his ADHD meds with Mountain Dew. Evan threw another fit and told his dad that it was okay because he had gotten even for the movies the night before. This is when he 'fessed up to John that he had told that guy that his dad had beaten him until he gave his dad the money. That is why the guy had asked for it back. And so John told me this as soon as I got out of work.
Evan has done stuff before. He has tried to punish his dad for enforcing rules by trying to convince me that his dad was abusing him. And he is so bright and can be so convincing that even knowing John, I still questioned it until Evan admitted to what he had done. And I was concerned. One year he had John's mother convinced he wouldn't be getting Christmas presents at home, making her spend tons of money on him beyond what she had already spent and causing her to get very upset with us until she discovered the truth. (That was the year Evan learned a valuable lesson to appreciate what he gets and unwrapped $1000 worth of toys only to help me donate all of them to charity.) One time, while visiting John's dad for a week, he had told his grandpa that we didn't allow him to eat breakfast at home in an effort to get John's dad to take him to McDnald's for breakfast every morning out of pity for the poor kid who isn't allowed to eat at home. He can be a manipulative little snake. But he had never taken it outside of our family. Until now.
So what did I do? Well, first of all I cried. What if the neighbors believed him? I immediately had visions of a social worker coming to take my children away until our names were cleared. And I thought of little Zach. And of my career in healthcare, where a false allegation like that could wreck my livelihood. And so instead of just dropping Evan off at school like normal, I went in and told the whole story to his principal. And got a referral for Evan to meet a school counselor weekly. And then made the call no parent wants to make: I made an appointment for him to meet with a psychologist.
No parent wants to admit their child is flawed in any way. And we take it as a statement of our fitness as parents when somethng like this goes on. What did I do wrong? How have I failed him? I am hoping some good will come from all of this: that Evan will learn that he cannot use any tactic necessary to get what he wants, that such actions could have grave consequences. But mostly I want to find out what it is that is going on in his small, though extremely gifted, little brain. And how we can fix it, how we can get him help.
I love my oldest child with a fierceness that is unparalleled. I had the same trouble bringing him into this world as I had with baby Zach. And I have since done anything and everything to protect him. When I was in school to be a therapist, we were dirt poor and a $3 Happy Meal was a big deal to us, but I made sure Evan never knew it. When I wasn't earning as much, I would go without such things as medications I needed or glasses and more just to be able to get him the latest toy he wanted. And when I finished my degree and my earnings quadrupled, Evan was the first one to benefit from it. I would literally do anything for him. I just hope the rest of th world sees that before he does something to ruin us all.