I’ve spent the last few days outlining an open letter to the person who hurt Jax. A real doozy of a piece, cleverly called “Dear Person Who Hurt My Child.” I was going to write and publish it this morning, throw it all out there and let the internet lovelies react to an adult who intentionally hurt a kid with autism and cognitive delays and who spent his first three years of life in an orphanage.
It would have been shared and liked and tweeted. What do I need the burden of our criminal system for when I have this? I can hone my words to razor-sharp ninja tools, and with my access to the mom-blogs and to HuffPost and to the disability communities, unleash them on behalf of my broken child. I planned to hit publish with a victorious “you better believe I will claim the last word for my kid.”
I needed justice. And I was claiming it today.
Last night, as we do every evening now, Jax and I talked about the person who hurt him. I’m going to call the person Evid because “the person who hurt my child” is a tad long.
Jax starts with, “Will Evid hurt me again?”
“No, baby. Never.”
“I don’t ever want to see Evid again. Will I?”
“No. I will make sure of it.”
“I was hurt a lot. Why did Evid hurt me on purpose?”
“I don’t know, Jax. I’m just so sorry.”
“I don’t think Evid was very nice to me. I don’t think Evid understood my brain. I was so scared.”
“Jax, I love you. You are safe. You are strong. You are the bravest kid I know.”
We repeat a variation of this new ritual many, many times between dinner and bed time. I hate that this person’s name enters my home.
Last night, I said, “Hey, Jax, how about we don’t say the name Evid anymore. Like in Harry Potter, Voldemort is ‘he who shall not be named,’ we can use something else, ok?” Next level genius, I thought, and I was already tweaking the pièce de résistance that I was penning to paper in the morning.
I expected Jax to eagerly jump on board and come up with some names we could use. You know, his least favorite airplane or something. Our evil pseudonym would be “Airbus A320.”
Instead, he said, “Mom, I think we need to pray for Evid.”
Insert a really, really big pause into this conversation Jax and I were having.
Before you think this all leads up to a big, proselytizing push for Team God and the power of prayer, you should know that I am no holy roller. I am not, and have never been, a girl that gathers people together to pray. I have developed a sort of “you do you” life philosophy and Jax’s frequent chats with God fall neatly under this umbrella.
You do you, Jax. But I get to do me. And I didn’t want to pray for Evid / Airbus A320. I already had a plan. My plan involved dagger words and righteous anger and the power of social media. What it very much did not involve was singing kum-ba-ya with my child and his abuser. I felt that my high road was high enough because I wasn’t using a real name. My high road did not need to be adjacent to Heaven.
While I mentally took this issue to the mat and wrestled with my notions of right and wrong, Jax grabbed the step stool, got the butane lighter from the hiding place he apparently knows about, and turned off the lights. He stood there in the dark kitchen waiting for me.
Jax, I thought, I love you. But are you kidding me right now? You are back in therapy, your emotional stability has regressed by years, you sit outside my bedroom when I shower, you stand at the back door with face pressed to the glass as I pull into the garage, you yell in your sleep, you sneak into my bed at 2am, you cry every single night.
Kiddo, I am just not evolved enough to send out love and light and whatever you want to call it to the person who broke you.
I was about to remind Jax of this when a piece of Sunday school from my church-going childhood unlodged itself from the annals of “stuff I don’t know I carry with me” and shoved its way into my brain.
And a child shall lead them.
God Almighty. Am I blaspheming here or calling on you? I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that the mental wrestling match was called in Jax’s favor. I got up and silently joined him. I let him, my child, lead me. Jax lit the evergreen mint candle that is currently on the kitchen island, took my hand, and prayed for the person who hurt him. He did not sugar coat. It was sincere and wholehearted and child-like. Just like Jax.
Dear Person Who Hurt My Child, I do not forgive you. I did not come out of Jax’s prayer sesh reborn. But I realized that you set Jax back, yes, but you did not break him. You could never break him. His body is fragile, but his heart is strong and fierce and shines like a candle in a dark temple.
I thought I needed justice. I do not. I only needed a child to lead me.
Rebecca Masterson is a writer, speaker, and an advocate for children. For more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram. Or sign up for her newsletter.