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A child’s self-love

Jonessa Hawk

How are you feeling

I’m fine

How are you fine?


How are you fine? You’re not at home, that must be a little scary. Your mom is mad at you, that must hurt. Your cousins won’t play with you, that must be boring.

Oh. I don’t know.

What do you want?

I don’t know.

Do you want better?

I don’t know.

What would be better? Better than this?

To be playing my Switch. Or playing with my cousin. but he’s mad.

Why is he mad?

I don’t know

Do you want to know?

Not really?

Well I would. I don’t like when someone is mad at me. Why don’t you want to know?

Because I knew he would get mad at me. Everyone gets mad at me; mom, brother. I always make someone mad.

How does that make you feel?

I don’t like it but they’re gonna get mad anyway.

Sounds like you feel defeated. Hopeless. Numb. Giving up. Sounds like you don’t care about how you feel.

Did you know that you can care about how you feel? Simply because god wants to experience life through you so what you want matters. How you feel matters to me and needs to matter to you.

This was a most heartbreaking conversation I was having with a 12-year-old child. I recognized it as the most pivotal point in his life[i]. The start of his self-love. I wondered if he would become a sociopathic killer that had the one soft spot for me. An assassin with the favorite “aunt”. That would actually suck. I found myself wondering if I were getting played. He showed the textbook signs of a sociopath. He also showed the textbook signs of a mama’s boy that wanted to be loved on. Psychologists kept telling his mom to not label him “sociopath” and that it was too soon to tell. He was raised in a textbook environment conducive for creating one, so the math added up. But the heart. The power of love was what I decided to believe would change him. And until he showed any hint of being a danger to my family’s psyche, sanity, emotional health, or physical health I would love him. How? How do you show someone love if it goes in one ear and out the other? Love has to be retained. Love has to be effective. Wasted love, or loving in vain is draining and depleting. This is A direct violation of the self-love commandments according to the self-love nation[ii]. So how do I fill this child’s empty heart if I can’t even reach it? By teaching him what love is. How do I get someone to want something they need if they don’t value their needs?

I had to convince him that as long as he was living, his feelings mattered. But as soon as I started coming up with a game plan on what I would teach him and how I would teach him, the what ifs would arise. What if he really doesn’t care? What if he is plotting his next play while I’m talking? What if I am wasting my time? What if 10 years from now when he has the gun to my head, he tells me its for all the times I tried to love him? What if I don’t listen to my heart? what do I want? I want to love him. I want to love and be loving. So that’s what I will do. I had to turn a blind eye to my logical questions. I had to sacrifice the security in logic and preparation for love. I had to hope for love.

There were moments I would get so frustrated and flustered that I would tell him “you know I am doing this because I love you. I am talking to you because you loving yourself is important to me.” Or “caring about my feelings makes me happy and I want to see you happy so I’m going to get you to care about yourself” and I would see just a glimmer of light twinkle in his eye. Then the doubt would kick in. then the numbness.

“it doesn’t matter anyway”

“nobody wants to talk to me, so I just play my games like always. I just want to play my games. No body had time for me anyway”

“there’s no point in talking because people don’t listen anyway”

“nobody cares”

“I don’t care”

What do you want?

“I don’t know”

What would make you happy?

“I don’t know, playing I guess but then that’s over and everything goes back. So, it doesn’t matter”

End of the first day

What would you like?

“whatever you want to give me its fine”

Do you like eggs? Toast? Sausage?

“I’ll eat whatever you want to give me”

It went on a few more rounds until he told me what he preferred. He had to learn how to tell me what he wants. He had been ignoring his desires for so long. It’s the beginning of the 7th grade year. School is in full effect. Each of the kids go to different schools with different setups. As I am learning his setup and learning style, he displays his crafts: Wordplay. The boy is a wordsmith. When I asked to verify his work, he put on this elaborately dramatic show of confidence and feigned confusion while giving the old parrot word switcharoo. He was confident. He turned away as if he wanted me to go ahead and marinate.

“ok so you didn’t answer my question”. He was stunned. I continued, “yeah I was listening. You didn’t answer my question.” He finally admitted his disregard for my instruction. Encouraging cooperation cue cards please. I walked away. When I returned, I was bellowing with laughter? “does that usually work on people?” he was stunned. I cracked up. He was not thrilled that I saw through his act and his lies. He continued to shut down after he had been caught. Throughout the day, he antagonized the other kids. He already knew how they felt about him. He didn’t ask why. He just didn’t want to ask why. Maybe he thought it wouldn’t change anything.

In order to see change, he had to want change. He had to want to care. He needed a reason to care. But the only thing he wanted at that time was to win at fooling me. He wanted to protect his true self for fear that no one will care if they know the true him. “I care about you and it is my goal to get you to think about caring for yourself” I reminded him throughout the day.

As the kids started sharing stories about family, he began sharing his stories. There was a lightness to his voice and demeanor. He is cheering up some. His mom texts. She had hit me earlier that day. I couldn’t reply. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been 24hrs and she was proposing a “more permanent” arrangement. Wtf? “let’s just make it to the weekend” I replied. I had planned to visit her that day, I could not even look at her. And now she was texting again. “how do you feel” I asked? I needed a hint that this was not planned. A plan that started from the morning that she called crying and my over eagerness to help a loved one. “bring him,” I said,” you need a break send him over here”. Did the plan start with the fact that she had threatened to kill him? She even claimed she called DFCS. Did she know the offices were closed? Why didn’t she call the police, if she felt she would hurt him? It didn’t matter. They were upset enough to need to be separated. So, I took him. Period. But not even 24 hrs. later? “all kinds of emotions” she replied. Hint taken. She was defensive and frantic. She was hopeful in the face of defeat. I wasn’t sending him back home to that. Encore tomorrow? Encore tomorrow.

What did I want? I had to stay in tuned with myself. I still wanted to love him. He was not draining that. I was tired from ripping and running, but my heart was strong and ready. What if he was the first? My test runs? what if there were more to come after this? What if he was who I had been praying for? I had been wanting to heal others. I had been wanting to help someone find self-love. a child. An abused child. An abused and damn near sociopathic child. This was my self-love test subject. If I could get him to even, consider loving himself I would be happy. Its on.

“give it another try tomorrow. You will feel better”

End of day 2

What is the problem!!!!

“He won’t let me into the bathroom and I gotta pee!”

One boy was blacking the bathroom because he was still upset from the day before. The child was still apprehensive about speaking to him. I think he may have been a little afraid of rejection. That was it! Time to show them how it needs to be done before they find themselves working together.

You guys better find a way to communicate or I will have you repeating me.

Is that what either of you want?

NO!!!  they chorused loudly with slight smiles on their faces. Eyeing each other with hope. But they did not communicate. They kept quiet and awkward. Later, I gathered us around for story time and they avoided eye contact and fidgeted and wiggled.

Ok time to talk! They froze. I started the sentences off and coached them along. I pointed out how it was working. I taught them how all they had to do was try. They saw how they were beginning to feel better. We worked on deciding what the next steps were. It was exhausting. “This means…” and “that means…” and “what does this mean” and “what does that mean?” and “do you know what he means…”. Active communication lessons. I ‘dropped the mic’ and walked away. Later I heard…

“hey, can I play”

“Hey, yeah”

{Toys ripping and crashing and bouncing}

He was beginning to see that better was possible. It seemed that He was beginning to believe that change was possible. His mother calls. I begin to tell her about his letting his guard down. How I was seeing glimmers here and there. But before I could even get into the evidence and examples, she begins to go off. She repeats the same 3 or 4 instances 3 or 4 times. She’s naming things from the last 5 years, adding a little more detail with each recollection. Now she’s up to 5 times on the same story with all kinds of new info, she screams

“HE’S A LIAR!!!”


As I began to update the mother on the things her sone was saying. The improvements I saw were not enough. She could not see her son as anything other than a liar. She blamed him for all her pain and trauma. She took everything, albeit childish,  he did as a personal attack. She had not forgiven him. She could not see her past, passed his very existence. She had not forgiven her past. Add fire, now, there was a damaged man in the picture. He was very skilled and very experienced in submitting to his damage. She could not see the damage and seeds of self-hatred that her boyfriend was feeding her soul with. The very opposite of love: holding faults, not forgiving him for being a child, not forgiving herself, placing blame, rejection of anything that she didn’t think of. She was done, not willing to hope for better or wait for change. I thought she was at wits end. She had a hateful man in her ear, and she was not willing to let him go. She had made up her mind that her son was the only problem and the only resolution was his exit.

This was heartbreaking. These were people in my community. I could argue and fight with her. I could try again the very steps that didn’t work. I could hope in her revelations happening in real time. I could get creative and find new ways of trying to get through to her.

End of day 3

The morning was quiet. The words and new information from the mother’s stories rang through my head. All I was thinking about was how to fix her problems. Until I realized she was only trying to fix the symptom. She was fine with the rest of the symptoms of her problem. She ignored the problem directly. And now, she was angry that I would not foster her child.

When I took him home, she sat with an absurd attempt at appearing apathetic with a cretinous look on her face.

“when you’re ready to love yourself give me a call. I have some information that can help you.”


I remembered my health. My psyche. My heart. My responsibilities. My peace of mind.

 She is not willing to listen more willing to hope for change. For 25 years she had been doing the same thing and having the same results. She didn’t want change. She was so emotional. She kept changing her story. Was it that she doesn’t even know what she wanted? It sounded like hurt and pain She is too focused on her pain to look up to see options of healing that pain. Or was I too focused on trying to do a job that wasn’t mine?

It was then that I realized I have to draw the line between love vs self love. At that line only one could win. She was not even willing to listen. What was I thinking, she didn’t even recognize that I had a life when she asked that I take her child in. she didn’t remember to ask my opinion? She only asked that I relieve her of her duties.

I blamed Hope. I had hoped I could changer her mind. I had hoped that she wanted to be happier. I had hoped that she was a mother like me; one that wants to be better for her child. I was insisting on my own way. She repeated she didn’t want him over the years. He was her third and youngest child. Her most defiant child. I had gotten myself into this mess thinking one way without listening, learning or giving myself time to consider if I wanted to be subject to the stress. It was 2days into the ordeal when I began to pay attention to myself. Two days in before I began to give myself time to think. I gave myself hell trying to come up with reasons to love myself first. A child’s living situation was in jeopardy. Adopting was not a sacrifice or commitment I was willing to take. On the 3rd day, I had to decline. Guilt and acceptance of my decision oscillated on the scales in my heart. She lashed out like a desperate demon succubus in imminent threat of losing her prey. But I got away, it took a while to get balance. I shared the thoughts that ran through my head with someone I knew loved me. The very person that showed me how to love myself, my husband.

That day I learned:

1 draw your love lines,

2: self-love has prerequisites

3: discipleship is opening yourself to ongoing self-love sponsoring.

4: refer to those that love you for refresher’s on loving yourself

End of day 4

The phone rings. Every word of encouragement from that week was being recited back to me. He feigned and forced an attempt at sobbing. I began to remind him of…he blurted out, “I can’t believe in myself” and proceeded to complain about not getting what he wanted. I encouraged him again. I was short and stern. I should not have taken the call. I was upset and was unable to even give love in that conversation. He hung up during my encouragement. I heard a dramatic sigh prior to the disconnect.

 At this point I’m bothered. Was that dismissal? Did his mother end the call? Or was he tired of pretending and wasting my time? It could’ve been all three.

This infuriated me for hours. I even burned the kids’ eggs. I went for another walk. I began deciding what I was willing to do. My love was damaged. I had failed at my first attempt to restore self-love in a damaged person. The 2nd attempt, I didn’t fight to restore the self-love in his mother. I was learning my limitations in real time. I forgave myself for being disappointed in myself. I recognized and accepted my limits on what I can healthily give. For I am an abused person in recovery. I am not trained or experienced in helping people start their recovery. This was what I was experiencing. I began to set my new boundaries. I have to protect my love. I restated my belief “I believe in the power of love and that when applied to the self can heal, and when practiced can lead to a happier existence”. This is something I should fight for, right? Yes, but that was not my fight. My fight is with my mind, not hers. My prepared response for people like my cousin and her kids are “police” “suicide hotline” and “professional help”.

I felt extremely defensive. I felt I had wasted my time, energy, and love. I was beginning to question and doubt everything we had ever gone through. The more I reflected the more it all looked like a failed manipulation attempt by sociopaths. I was hurt. Hurt people hurt people. I severed ties. I was sad and mad. I noted my demands going forward. I began to look at my trauma. I looked at everyone around me who were abused and not recovering. This is not where I wanted to be. It was everywhere and that was not ok with me. So, I began to write. I mean hey, my husband said I needed to work on something.

As for the hope that accompanied my decision to believe in the power of love, I used it to fuel my writings. I didn’t ignore it. I did not devalue it. I believed in the power of love. I hoped the entire family would one day decide to want love. And if they came to me, I would give fully and share all my notes.

End of day 5


Notes are available at www.whatthesoulsays.com

[i] Later review suggests that we were far beyond that point, or I was not the one to commence the change

[ii] Self-Love Nation decree the set of laws and commandments listed as part of the Nation’s mission

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