He was a cute little toddler with big brown eyes and deep dimples in each cheek. He looked like a cherub but behaved like the devil. Around my husband he was all roses toward me, but when he was not in the presence of his Dad, Evan’s weeds sprouted. My first time being alone with Ethan and Evan was seven years ago. My husband had to attend a funeral and I was the designated babysitter. I was looking forward to spending time with the kids. I felt confident that I could win them over by baking cookies and playing board games with them. However, Evan had a different agenda. He was determined to prove me wrong or scare me away. At the end of the night I had been spat at and hit with a shoe—compliments of yours truly.
When we married, Eliza decided to halt all visitations. She was clearly in contempt of court but it did not deter her in any way. Shortly after the wedding she quickly moved out of town for a year with the kids. We found this out one day when we went to visit the kids and saw that her apartment was vacant. The maintenance man told us that she had moved out of town. During the year they lived out of town, she only called once around Christmas. She informed my husband that he could drop their gifts off at her Mom’s house and she would pick them up. It was almost if he had no children at all. The only connection that he had with Ethan and Evan was via the weekly child support payments that he made faithfully.
He tried taking her to court several times for contempt but Eliza always managed to escape with an admonishment and nothing more. Knowing that the ball was in her court, she would allow us to interact with the boys’ at her whim. Any attempt from my husband to contact them was interpreted as harassment. Subsequently a police report would follow. He even tried having lunch with Ethan at school (Evan was not school age yet) which only raised Eliza’s ire. After every lunch date, Ethan would be transferred to a new school if she was not successful in turning the school against him. Therefore we would only get to see them once or twice a year. When Ethan turned nine, we were invited to the birthday party only so she could flaunt her latest fiancé.
We had known all along that Evan had behavior problems. When he was in nursery school he was often sent home because of this. So we were not surprised to learn that he had been in serious trouble since entering elementary school. When he was in kindergarten we went to visit his classroom, crossing our fingers that she would not make them change schools because of it. His teacher, Mrs. Freeman, was extremely understanding and kindhearted. Once made aware of our situation she kept us informed about his progress until the kids were transferred. This was when we learned about his lengthy suspension record and serious, violent, even deviant behavior problems.
When my stepsons were molested by their stepbrother, we were the last to know. Eliza never called to tell my husband. We found out by happenstance when we ran into a former acquaintance of hers. After verifying the information with CPS, and going through an extensive screening process, we were granted temporary placement until Eliza completed all court ordered requirements. August 2, 2006 she was deemed fit enough to have her children back. We did not see them again until after her incarceration for the murder that both Evan and Ethan witnessed. At the time Evan was seven and Ethan, eleven. Since that night Evan has suffered from nightmares and flashbacks. He is obsessed with replaying the whole ordeal. There are three things that the body can do in a moment of crisis—fight, flight, or freeze. Evan is still frozen. It is painful seeing him obvious turmoil.
Evan is currently receiving residential treatment. It was a tough decision for my husband and I to make but we knew he needed help. We had exhausted all parental interventions including an alternative school that catered to children with severe behavior problems, home and school based therapy, redirection, numerous prescription changes, and hospitalization to name a few. After the recommendation of several mental health professionals (two being psychologists) for residential treatment, we really had no choice. Eliza was not very happy that we placed him there. I even dreaded telling her because I knew she would falsely assume that we were not taking proper care of him. In fact she wrote Is Evan seeing a regular psychologist and psychiatrist? Is he being evaluated regularly by a psychologist to determine whether or not he is still on the right medication that will work best for him? There are many options before resorting to residential treatment…Evan would still have behaviors while medicated. But not as often when he is administered his prescribed prescriptions adequately…Caring for Evan does take dedication and team work…There are other medications that Evan can try to help manage his disability other than Abilify, check with his psychologist.
He had also witnessed other violent acts while in Eliza’s care. Ethan also suffers from bipolar disorder, ADHD, ODD, and PTSD. In denial about hi mental illness, she never thought to seek help for him. She refers to it as a “behavior disability.” Evan has struggled in class academically and emotionally since kindergarten. Not so much academically, but more so due to his behavior disability.
He has been in treatment for four months now. While he has showed slight improvement, he is still struggling with some difficult issues. I am sure that he will overcome in due time, hence the title of this post. Evan is mighty in both spirit and heart. He is such a wonderful, creative, affectionate child. He really does make me smile. And he loves me to the last galaxy and back again. Ditto.