Love the Kid You’ve Got

By: Val, Ethan’s Mom in California

5.0 1 review

“When there is love, scars are as pretty as dimples.” (See “Fairy Tale” by Stephen King)

Adopted at 9 weeks with diagnosis of neonatal abstinence abuse), we named him Ethan (“strong” in Hebrew), and loved the loving, intrepid, athletic and outgoing boy we raised.

Diagnosed at 4 with ADHD because he responded to Ritalin. school was a nightmare as he grew, with high school becoming increasingly restrictive. His “boyish pranks” led to incarceration and probation, but no help. Eventually, when Ethan was 16, a forensic psychologist suggested FAS.

For the first time in his life.

The online data terrified and grieved us. And fit Ethan’s behavior better than anything else.

Because we were close, we found and met with Ken Jones, MD, who agreed with the suggestion but without clearer signs or validation of prenatal alcohol exposure, wouldn’t diagnose Ethan.

Feverish networking with regional parents who educated us and gave emotional support led, finally, to referral to researchers at UCLA, who diagnosed Ethan with FAS at age 17.

And nothing changed except our approach.

The school district, area health care, state vocational rehabilitation, juvenile justice, relatives, etc., had nothing to offer.

By 18, Ethan was a heroin user, like the birth mother who relinquished him. Residential treatment did no lasting good. And bankrupted us.

When Ethan was 19, my husband died suddenly. The stress of parenting Ethan, combined with other chronic health issues, triggered a fatal heart attack. Which Ethan witnessed.

At 21, Ethan became homeless because I, who needed to work to live, knew that if I couldn’t provide 24-hour line-of-sight supervision to him, I too would fall ill and die.

I couldn’t let that happen.

At 24, Ethan met and fell in love with a local woman. Also an addict, they were homeless together.

Kristalyn loved Ethan. The only person, other than me, who “got” Ethan.

She died from an overdose at 30, when Ethan was 27.

Now clean (except to tobacco), Ethan lives in a house with several other “misfits” 60 miles from me. He receives Social Security as my husband’s Adult Disabled Child. I manage his funds. He ekes by.

We speak and text often, and I see him regularly.

Ethan is still intrepid, outgoing, athletic, and loving. He still repeats mistakes. He is an easy victim to others because he trusts anyone who smiles at him. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.

He also has PTSD from what he has witnessed and experienced since has was 11 or 12. Most of which he won’t tell me about. He has nightmares. He is terrified that I will die before him. He says if that happens, he will kill himself.

I’m scared about that too. Ethan hasn’t qualified for services other than SSI. No one in my family or my husband’s will step to my side to advocate for him. Including his sister.

But I’ll never give up. Ethan is my son.

Loving, my son. So loving.

He never gives up, though.

Neither will I.