Chance decided that living in a farmhouse automatically makes us farmers. He is horrible at keeping a garden though; last year we made a pact and decided it was a better use of our resources to shop at the farmers market and stop harvesting gardens full of weeds. Since produce isn’t his thing, my darling husband has turned to livestock.
For this reason, if you came to my house to eat dinner this week, you would be dining next to a box containing fifteen baby chickens.
That’s right. Fifteen chicks are living it up next to the fine crystal my great-grandmother used to serve cookies on.
She lived in this farmhouse once. I’m sure she’d be so proud.
So, last week, two days after placing Nasko in his group home, Chance needed a few supplies for his future barbecued wings. Normally, a trip to Farm & Home would have required much planning and strategizing. Nasko can only handle so much stimulation before becoming overwhelmed. What’s the schedule tomorrow? Who is coming over today? Should we try to eat while we are in town? Should we eat in the car, or can he handle eating out? Should I just stay home with all the kids? These were all questions we would have needed to consider.
Last week though, we just gathered Louis and Edward and drove thirty minutes to the store.
Chance, who has never raised poultry before, wasn’t certain on some of the products he needed to buy. Shopping in Farm & Home took almost thirty minutes as he had to make multiple phone calls and google searches.
If Nasko had been with us, it would have been a nightmare. He would have attempted to run off multiple times to harass other patrons (especially if they were overweight, had a baby, or were in a wheelchair). He might have tried to open packages. He certainly would have asked 35,000 questions about the rest of our evening plans. All the while, his brothers would have needed their own supervision.
Last week though, Edward, Louis, and I went to the toy aisle. I explained we were not to open any of the packages, but the boys could gently touch the toys and look at them. They obeyed.
They talked about the farm animals and the toy tractors. They asked me to show them toys from the top shelves. Not once did they attempt to leave the aisle we were in. They asked to bring a few things home, but adjusted quickly when the answer was no.
As I watched my boys playing contently, I caught a glimpse of Farmer Chance rounding the corner with his full cart. It was time to go. The boys happily followed him to the checkout lane (at break-neck speeds – no one said they were angels). We checked out and bounded out to the car. Everyone was happy. Everyone was peaceful. Everyone was calm.
It was so easy.
Then it hit me.
I was happy and my oldest son wasn’t there. Honestly, the worst part of it was, I knew I was happy BECAUSE my oldest son wasn’t there.
That made me feel rotten.
Later I texted my best friend; I told her about my guilty feelings.
Unfortunately, she understood all too well. This best friend was forced to bury her adopted daughter last year. Her daughter was just two years old, but for much of her life, this sweet girl had experienced trauma. She, similar to my Nasko, lived in fear. Taking her in public was difficult. Kayla recalled the first time she took her other children somewhere after the funeral. It was so much easier. She was happy. She had a great time.
And then she felt guilty.
I suppose my feelings were similar to Kayla’s survivor’s guilt.
On the night of our chicken-feed run, my mom and my best friend both reminded me I do not need to feel guilty. Yes, life is easier. Yes, I wish life with Nasko could have been easy as well, but it wasn’t. Since it was not, we have provided Nasko with a place that provides stability, structure, routine, and safety he needs.
We have done everything in our power to help Nasko feel safe and happy. It is ok for me to feel safe and happy in the results of that decision.
I don’t need to live with survivor's guilt.