Resilient Human Heart

I warned you early on that I would disappoint you….sorry for the long silence.

Life is at once full and fantastic tragic and terrifying and there is so much I want to talk about but I’m focusing tonight on my thoughts over the past 24 hours. But first let me back up a week or so.

Busy at work sewing one afternoon last week, Big Sister brought me the phone to tell me someone from the paper was calling. I assumed it was a sales call and was a little annoyed that she answered it and interrupted my work. Turns out it was a reporter who had been following my blog and wanted to interview me.

My first reaction was negative. I like to be in control of how my words are presented–accepting an interview would mean surrendering control. That scared me. Not because I feared malice on the part of the reporter but because the truth spills out whether I like it or not when I open my mouth. Without the benefit of a self edit, I would be raw and exposed. I’m still not completely comfortable with that vulnerability.

Despite my fears and desire to cancel the interview every minute before it happened David and I took the interview yesterday with a lovely young reporter who I liked instantly–she was warm and tactful and reminded me of another young lady who I adore. I am sure she will be more gracious in her story than I deserve and I am glad for having done it. You know that bravery bit I keep harping about. But a couple of her questions have been haunting me ever since.

Don’t remember the precise words, but in essence she asked about our worst experience.

In an instant every repressed horror of the past 9 years bubbled to the surface. I believe I sat silently for a long time. Maybe it wasn’t so long. I was sorting through the traumas trying to pick the worst one. Not exactly the perspective I have ever chosen to take or care to linger with too long.

There was the 4-year-old who was horrifically violent and physically harmed my daughter many times. She could rage for hours in a way that looked like what I can only imagine demonic possession must look like. We lived on constant guard against her attacks that came unexpectedly without provocation.It was unbearable.

It was the worst aggression that I’ve ever seen.

There was the baby boy who I held all night, night after night as he writhed and screamed and seemed to sweat out his own body weight as he withdrew from the meth his mother used while nursing him. I wore him in a sling around the clock for months, smelling his hair, feeling his heartbeat next to mine, falling in love. We were assured he would be ours to adopt.  From nowhere came the call that he would be going to a fictive kin placement–a family not related to him, but named by his mother.

It was the worst loss that I’ve ever known.

Perhaps the worst part of it was that it went unrecognized. No one I knew spoke a single word of condolence. Our family’s grief seemed invalid and I felt so very alone.

It was the worst sadness that I’ve ever felt.

To this day, my body won’t allow me to speak about it closing off my throat with a stinging pain when I try.

There was the 9-year-old boy who was part of a sibling group of 3 placed with us. He worked hard to improve his behavior, had a kind and gentle heart, and wanted so badly to stay with us. When his brother began acting out sexually, he had to be removed because they would not separate them. I still see his face and hear his pained words when we told him the news.

It was the worst guilt that I’ve ever experienced.

There was the little boy who within days of arrival experienced a psychic break and spent hours physically attacking me as I placed my body between him and the other children to protect them from his blows. I needed the assistance of my 6-foot sons to keep him from striking us with gardening toolS and a fire poker, and throwing everything he could get his hands on at the windows. When I frantically called my worker for help, I was told, “Just let him go.”

I called repeatedly as the raging continued and received no assistance or guidance. I finally resolved to call 911 and informed my agency. I was then told to take him to the nearest psychiatric hospital where he was admitted. I was left bruised and cut. When we refused to accept him back into our home upon discharge, my agency of many years grew cold and I was told I was having a “knee-jerk reaction.”

It was the worst insult that I’ve ever received.

And then there’s Little Sister. We are facing the cold reality that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is likely a large part of the equation. It makes for a combination of diagnoses that has a bleak outlook. It calls for a change in expectations and acceptance of limitations. It strips away many of our hopes.

It is the worst disappointment I have ever experienced.

I’ll have to read the final story to find out how I answered this question because I had drifted off to ta dark place and was focused on climbing back into the light when I spoke– Climbing back to another answer to another question.

Why?

Why do you keep doing it? She asked. A legitimate question in the face of so much sorrow. Another question, I’m not sure whether I answered coherently or not because there is no easy answer.

But rather a half million really complicated ones–many of which I don’t know how to put into words. But because I really want to end on a positive note, I’ll try.

There is a call–an urge that doesn’t go away even when you will it to do so. Even when you run full speed in the opposite direction it catches you and assures you that it’s going to be okay. It pulls you back in in a way that makes perfect sense.

There are  small moments of connection. A quiet understanding that an impression has been made. A shift in direction. A change for good that you feel even if you never get to see.

There is faith that there is goodness in me and it needs to be shared. I believe it is an obligation to use our gifts for good, not a choice.

There is the belief that this is bigger than me, than my husband, than my family, than any of us in isolation and it only makes us better–even when we mess up royally.

There is the love of motherhood and smiling eyes, and belly laughs, and small hands, and first steps, and overcoming fears.

There is the desire to live fully, to try to be all that I might. To plow forward. To never surrender. To make my presence matter.

There is the resiliency of the human heart and its desire to know love.

Don’t Be Your Own Hail

A few nights ago I had a dream that’s been loitering in my mind and won’t go away–that’s how all my blogs start as words that keep repeating in my brain so here you go.

There was a time when I was pretty into dream interpretation, but these days I rarely remember my dreams so I hadn’t given it much thought in a while. This message was so vivid and perplexing that I went web surfing for answers. On the surface it would seem pretty obvious that “hail” is a symbol of doom–and that’s what all the dream interpretation sites confirm (that and failed ambitions, crushed dreams, and all that good stuff.) But living in a climate where any type of precipitation is celebrated and having lots of happy memories of kids catching Texas snowballs, hail is not so threatening to me. Perhaps just a gentle kindness offered by my dream brain–getting the idea across without terrifying me with a more horrific message.

The dream continued. I took my kids for a ride in an open vehicle–either a go cart or jeep. We were speeding downhill when I lost control and we went over a cliff. As we fell the kids were thrown far to one side of the vehicle and I far to the other. I watched them plunge into the water below and it was really important to me that I saw where they had gone in. This somehow made the whole disaster less ominous. As I hit the water I was sucked away from the kids by the vacuum  of the sinking vehicle.

Big Sister was terrified and screaming for me to help Little Guy who cannot swim  (in real life or the dream) and was flailing and shrieking “Mommy!” I screamed back for her to hold onto him. I knew if she could just keep hold of him, even if she could not keep him above water,  I would be able to get him to shore and resuscitate him.

As I overpowered the force pulling me down and swam toward my son, I looked for my younger daughter and found her not far from the other two kids grinning and splashing around playfully wearing an infant life preserver while holding onto a kick-board. Even in my dream this vision was painful. The rest of us were were fighting for our lives and she was safe at a pool party. I demanded to know where she got the kick- board, she replied “I don’t know” as she does to all requests for information. I turned my attention back to the other two kids and got them safely back to shore with Little Sister kicking her way happily behind us.

So dense with symbolism (as dreams always are) that I don’t know where to begin. A vehicle symbolizes your self. The fact that this vehicle was open was significant. I’ve been striving to be more open in my life. While my Facebook reads like a never-ending Disney vacation (and so much of my life is so very good) I am seeing more and more value in sharing my struggles and imperfections, as well. While that’s all cool,  it’s not so great that my self is cliff diving with my kids in tow and sinking to the bottom of the lake. Or maybe that was just letting go of the old self. The jeep sank, but I never went down–I was stronger.

Then there’s Little Sister protected in an inflatable shell, kicking and holding on to the past, happily oblivious to the crisis around her–but coming along.  Big sister more concerned for the welfare of others than her own. Little Guy screaming out for my help.  Pretty sure no interpretation is needed. And water itself is a biggie carrying themes of life, renewal, transitions, and a change in psychic state. Yeah, I got all that going on.

But here’s the message I want to hold onto. It was absolutely certain to me in the midst of the crisis was that I was going to save my kids. No doubt about it. I was stronger than any of the forces working against me and I was going to get them out of the water alive.

My waking self is not always so sure.

We’re in a good place right now, but doubts and fears are always lingering in the shadows. Experience tells us that good can go bad with no warning and it’s not easy to let your guard down.

Tentatively, we celebrate that we’ve survived the first few weeks of school with surprising successes.

Little Guy is thriving. I mean really truly thriving. He has not thrown a single punch. Only one bad behavior report in 21 days (and it wasn’t all that bad), and he loves school. He gets in the car aglow at pick-up and bubbles about his day all the way home. More and more I’m struck by how completely normal things have become for him much of the time. His transformation has been nothing short of amazing.

Little Sister is doing better at home. School has given her an outlet for he maladaptive behaviors and she’s happy to leave them there at the end of the day most of the time. Clearly not my most generous thoughts, but I’m glad to have someone share the load for awhile. I knew the behaviors would eventually emerge–I just thought it would take longer. Seems a seating relocation to right beside the teacher was in order within the first week, she has almost daily reports of disruptive behavior or refusal to do her work and she’s managed to convince the team that her abilities are far less than they actually are.

This was exactly what I feared while I wrestled with the decision of whether to put her back in public school, but for now, been a  blessing in disguise. The daily break has been good for us both. Not dealing with constant redirection and behavior management has revived my ability to pour in loving acts and seemingly her ability to accept them. For the first time ever, last week, I felt the spontaneous urge to hug her and she returned my embrace. I’ve been hugging all along, but it was scheduled because she needed it (no matter how much she resisted) not because I wanted to give it. However hard that is to hear–it is a cold hard fact of parenting a child with attachment disorder.  However fleeting, it was pure joy to at last feel a second of connection.

I’ve had more warm moments with her in the past few weeks than I have in the past year. And, hold onto your butt, last week she told me “You’re the best mom I’ve ever had.” (Damn straight I am.) Coming from a child with a basis for comparison and who for the past year has held and regularly voiced a very different opinion this is all the more meaningful.

So despite the themes of doom, my dream and waking lives are ultimately stories of survival. We are moving forward, evolving, and growing. We are fighting the good fight and winning (today, at least).

Back to School Blues

Mr. Elliot was wrong. August is the cruelest month. And this one’s been brutal. Dave’s mom died early in the month, we’ve had multiple incidents of dealing with the worst of human nature, and I’ve had to take a hard look at what the future may hold for my little guy whose angry outburst and oppositional behavior may possibly never go away. I’ve spent a long hot summer with two traumatized kids whose favorite activity is to annoy each other and me.  I’m suffering from compassion fatigue—that’s a fancy way of saying I’m burnt out.  And the thing that is going to give me relief also fills me with anxiety.

School is heavy on my mind right now. I know lots of parents count down the days until the kids go back to school. Not me. I hate it. I hate the preparation, I hate the paperwork, I hate the end of summer, I hate surrendering my children to the state, I hate watching them walk away.

My first kids were all home-schooled until at least 7th grade and Big Sister is my lone child who has never been to school and likely never will. If I were allowed one big do over, school would be it. I wouldn’t have let my boys go. All the reasons that made it make sense at the time are now outweighed by all the consequences of that decision.

This year I hate school starting for a whole new set of reasons. Boys one and two have graduated and not going back to school is a poignant reminder of a time that is gone and never coming back. In what we hoped would be a fantastic change, we moved number three son to a small charter high school with a focus on science and technology—areas in which he excels.  He started last week and the change is proving not so fantastic. School is school. All the things I hate about public education are alive and well in the charter system and I’m disappointed.

After wrestling with the idea all summer, I have decided to re-enroll  Little Sister. We withdrew her from school the day we finalized her adoption in hopes that being home would help with attachment and behavior modification. It was nothing short of disastrous. She spent five months with her heels dug firmly in the ground refusing to do anything remotely related to education, having daily screaming tantrums that could last hours, broke everything in her possession, and spit hatred at me and her sister at every opportunity.  I have no interest in going into that arena again even though I know putting her in school is going to at a minimum stall her progress and at worst set her back. This is about preserving my sanity.

She matter of factly informed her therapist last week that she won’t act like that at school it was just for Mom. Well, isn’t that lovely.

I have hopes that her teacher will read the long email that I will be writing as soon as I finish this blog, I hope she will click on the links explaining attachment disorder and developmental trauma and borrow some of my books, and I hope she will become an ally in the healing of my child. I’m hoping for the best, but expect it will go more like this:  

She will skim my email and upon meeting  my superficially charming child will decide that I am bat shit crazy, that she the teacher  is indeed a superior more compassionate human who understands my child better than I do, will ignore all my requests to employ therapeutic interventions, will buy into my child’s manipulations intensifying my child’s belief that all adults are untrustworthy idiots resulting in my child growing weary of putting on the charm and acting out in ways that disrupt class or are directly offensive to the teacher and the other kids at which point teacher will contact me asking if there is a problem at home because my little darling just hasn’t been herself lately.  Believe it, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Then there’s the little guy. It’s been a rough summer. He was kicked out of day camp and the gym childcare due to aggressive outbursts. He struggles with self regulation, sensory integration, slips into “looking for a fight” mode whenever things are not going his way, has poor boundaries, and talks incessantly. You see where this is going. At this point in the game, to school or not to school him is not my decision to make so at least I don’t have to wrestle with the guilt of the decision.

So here on the eve of my 46th birthday—you know the one that moves you closer to the 50 side of the 40-50 timeline—I am deeply anxious of what lies ahead.  I am consciously making a choice that I know may have grave consequences. I’m turning my traumatized child over to a system I don’t believe in and one that will likely undermine my efforts because I can’t do this alone anymore.  

This is the good stuff

Every older/hurt child adoption text I’ve ever read says that maintaining a sense of humor is the key to navigating this jungle.  Some say, it is the single deciding factor as to whether a family makes it.. It seems if you can laugh at feces purposely smeared on the wall, you can handle anything. I tend to agree.

This is why my Little Guy, maladaptive behaviors and all, is a gift to me. He’s hilarious. At least once a day and often more, he says something that makes me laugh out loud. Feeling like this blog of mine could use a little levity because I’m going to hit you with more heavy stuff I have brewing soon I’d like to share a few of my Little Guy jewels.

While being dragged through Target one evening, he randomly asked me, loudly enough for anyone in the women’s department to hear,

“Mom, are you Jesus?”

Already amused and eager to see where this was going to go, I replied as casually as possible,

“No, honey, I’m not.”

“Then how are you always there for me?” he asked completely straight.

If there had been an older sibling around, I would have accused him or her of coaching him, but this was all Little Guy and his confusion courtesy of vacation bible school, but that’s another post entirely.

A few nights ago, while we were sitting on the back porch eating watermelon when Little Guy suddenly smashed his piece over his head.

“What are you doing?!” I demanded.

He sat quietly for a moment seemingly seriously pondering the question then flatly replied,

“I don’t know.”

Not much you can say in the face of a 5-year-old’s version of a temporary insanity plea.

One night as I was leaving his room after having tucked him in he called to me to wait to tell me,

“Mom, do you know there are coconuts all over the house?”

“Did you just say there are coconuts all over the house?” I asked expecting him to launch an illustrious bedtime stalling attempt.

He simply replied,

“Yes, goodnight Mom.”

Pretty sure that clever little bugger was just messing with me.

Tonight he informed me,010

“I can’t go to bed because I don’t have any humans to sleep with me.”

Apparently Sponge Bob’s charm is fading.

A recent conversation with Big Sister went like this:

Little Guy: I found one cat food.

Big Sister (not really paying attention): Okay.

Little Guy: I’m going to eat it. (throws cat food in mouth)

Big Sister: Did you just eat it?

Little Guy : *crunch* *crunch*

Big Sister: Did you just eat it?!!

Little Guy: I’m not going to die. *swallow* See, I’m not going to die.

He was right.

And finally my current favorite. Number Three Son is a fan of the Daft Punk song “Get Lucky” and was singing along loudly when it came on the radio in the car. The refrain lyrics are “I’m up all night to get some. She’s up all night for good fun. I’m up all night to get lucky”

Later that day, I was treated to Little Guy’s rendition that goes like this:

“I’m up all night for fun. I’m up all night for fun. I’m up all night to get a monkey.”

You kind of adore him now too, don’t ya?

 

What about the first kids?

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riverday3“She doesn’t control how I feel,” explained my 13-year-old daughter when she caught me watching her choosing loving acts. I may have looked a little surprised or perplexed. It had been a very bad week. Old behaviors revived. Hurt feelings.  Anger. Resentment.  We were digging deep and recovering the only way we know how—by creating Joy.

We were spending the day at the river with nothing to do but enjoy each other. I watched my  precious child who at 13 is more emotionally mature than most adults behave in a way that was loving, compassionate, and forgiving toward a little sister who devotes a shocking amount of energy to trying to hurt her and push her away.  Big sister pushed little sister on the swings, she helped her down the hill, she helped her climb a tree, she was every mother’s dream come true.  I was so overwhelmed with pride, I could only touch her beautiful face and smile.

But I was also overwhelmed with guilt.

Shaped by a painful childhood, it was my vow to protect my children from trauma.

I sure fucked that up.

I didn’t just fail to protect them from trauma, I hunted it down, brought it home and invited it in.

Because of my choices my first four children have suffered.

They have experienced loss.

There was the baby who lived with us for a year who we could have adopted and didn’t because her special needs were more than we were willing to commit to. Parenting her would have cost the other children parental resources and limited our freedom to a life full of adventure. It was a price I wasn’t willing to pay.

Although it was amongst the most difficult decisions I have ever made, I believed it was in my other children’s best interest. Ironically if the decision had been theirs to make, I know they would have chosen to make the sacrifice. They loved her and losing her was painful. It was the kind of pain that creeps into your being and never goes away.

There was another baby who went to a kinship placement and more who went home. I suspect for my children, the losses are all heaped into a single ache that resides in their hearts always.

They have experienced fear.

There were the boys from a very rough place with only monsters for role models who behaved like miniature thugs. There was the deeply disturbed 4-year-old who was viciously aggressive. There was the deeply disturbed 11-year-old who threatened our lives.  One by one many have crossed an inflexible line in the sand that led to their removal from our home. We won’t live with predatory behavior. Period. Unfortunately, you don’t know it’s there until they show it to you.

I don’t want this to come off as self-loathing. It’s not. We’ve done a lot of things right. We are damn good parents. They know we cherish them. We speak it often and show it well. We live to support our kids in discovering their passions and polishing their gifts.  Each of them has arenas in which they shine. We did what had to be done to preserve normalcy and seize opportunity.

 If they wanted it and were willing to do the work, we made it happen no matter how many miles, how much juggling, or how difficult it was going to be—we even took turns sleeping in the car last summer when number three son booked a lead role in a feature film with multiple overnight  shoots . In short we have refused to be defined by the choice to add traumatized children to the family.

That said, if I had it to do over, I would do it differently.  I would have waited longer—my youngest was only five when we began this journey and I should have given her well, all of them, more time.  I would have said “no” more often—child placing agencies love to push you outside your limits and accepting the shove rarely ends well. I would have ended more placements more quickly—traumatized children are capable of frightening behavior and I should not have allowed so many second (and third) chances and I would have prepared better—I was pretty naive when we embarked and I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

But I’m sure what I should have done is no consolation to my children and they and  I have to live with what I did do. I have to make peace with the fact that this journey has affected my children.  It has hurt them.

 My choices have hurt my children.

They are not broken. My kids are all bright, funny, compassionate beings with a zest for life who fill me with pride every second of the day. They are fun to be around and liked by most. We did more right than wrong, but I am sure in each of them resides the wish that things had gone a different way and I hope they will forgive me.

What did you say?

I’ve been thinking a lot about words–The ones that hurt, the ones that help, and why. Time and time again the subject of older child adoption comes up and and I find myself starring dumbfounded at someone who has just spoken words that hurt, ignite, or simply surprise me.

A recurring theme is the need to label and define my kids. When people discover that I have adopted a child, they often need to determine whether my other children were adopted, as well. I think a lot about this need and I also think a lot about why it bothers me so. I mean it really freakin’ bothers me.  I think about it so much that I’ve devised lots of clever responses that I never use.

I’ve been asked if my children are “real” “biological” “your own” and a new one recently “natural”  That last one knocked me off balance the first time I heard it not long ago. Funny thing was after never having had someone use that particular term, it came at me twice in a matter of days.

Most of the time, I swallow my irritation and simply answer the question, but when I’m in a last straw kind of moment, I answer that whatever label has just been tossed my way applies to all my children regardless of how they joined the family. This response is never well received and absolutely never works as I intend it to let the interviewer know that I don’t want to take this walk with him or her.

In fact, it generally has quite the opposite effect of spurring the interviewer to delve deeper with a more personal line of questioning about my children’s past and the circumstances that led to them needing to be adopted.  So in all my thinking this is what I’ve concluded. These questions are not malicious. (give me a second while I say that ten times fast so I’ll remember) Some probably come from a very pure place of concern and perhaps even an interest in adoption.

However that genuine concern for kids from rough starts has blurred into a sense of entitlement to private information which leaves me standing face to face with a stranger demanding that I explain my family. I’ve often fantasized about handing out instructions to anyone I notice watching a little too long. It would go something like this:

  1. Don’t ask me anything about my child (yeah even the one that doesn’t look like me) that you wouldn’t want me to ask about your child. Unless you want to be drilled about your drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, don’t ask about my child’s prenatal experience.
  2. Resist the urge to label my kids. They are all mine, natural, biological, and real regardless of how they joined the family. If you simply cannot resist, at least do not question me in front of my children. It is hurtful to them–all of them.
  3. Respect that my child’s past is personal and private. Don’t ask. If I choose to trust you with details, please do not share them without my permission.
  4. Resist judgement. Raising kids with rough starts takes special parenting skills, firm boundaries, and a truckload of patience and persistence. If you think I am not treating all of my children the same way, you are probably right. I am giving each of my children what he or she needs. If you think you can do it better, please become a foster or adoptive parent–thousands of kids are waiting.
  5. Remember that they are MY children and not public property. Do not ever use the word “my” or “our” when you are referring to my kids. They are not yours and such references confuse them, and undermine my authority which they may already be struggling to accept.
  6. Do not give physical affection to my children unless you have that kind of relationship with my entire family and maybe not even then. Most kids from rough starts have poor boundaries and attachment issues. Getting and giving physical affection to strangers or casual acquaintances reinforces a dangerous behavior.
  7. Remember that I am human. I have undertaken a Herculean task for which their is little public understanding or support. Sometimes it wears me down and I’m not at the top of my game. I’ll do better next time.
  8. Trust me. If I share my struggles, believe me. Children with attachment issues can be master manipulators. You may never see the behavior that I describe in my publicly charming and docile child. Don’t make me show you the video.
  9. Don’t gush and fawn over my children. As much as we appreciate that you want to show approval and acceptance of our family, the over enthusiasm makes us uncomfortable (and it’s kinda weird.)
  10. And finally because it’s such a biggie, number 4 bears repeating. Resist judgement. Children from rough starts have some very difficult and even scary behavior. So don’t freak out if I need to vent or am not 100 percent in love with my child at the moment. This is hard work from which I get little reprieve. Obviously, we are committed to our kids and want the best for them, but sometimes they piss us off (don’t yours?)

Fever, rain, and tantrums oh my!

041I’ve been sick for a week. What started as a blah not so unbearable cold type thing progressed into horrible chest congestion, sore throat, and a fever. I plugged along for two days fighting fever with ibuprofen and getting everybody where they needed to go. On the third day, I couldn’t do it anymore and crashed on the couch.

Life being what it is, the rest of my family went about their regular lives, leaving me alone with a fever and two traumatized kids swimming in a big ole pool of terror. And it was raining.

With neither yet able to verbalize  their anxiety or its roots, they showed it to me and it was up to me to figure it out. I can only hypothesize, but here’s my take.

Theory #1: In the world of addiction, “sick” is likely code for other conditions that lead to kids being neglected and abused. Even at the peak of my illness, I continued to supervise, feed, and even read to my kids, but it didn’t matter. I was down and not getting up anytime soon and the trauma alerts began firing.

Theory #2: Perhaps they feared my illness was more serious than it was and they were worried about losing me. I am usually a very active person and NEVER lie around. The trauma alerts began firing.

Theory #3: A combination of Theories #1 and #2. The trauma alerts began firing.

Whatever the reason, they were freaking out and not afraid to show it.

My son expressed his anxiety by compulsively declaring his love for me every couple of minutes, needing constant physical contact, climbing on me, clinging to my appendages with a death grip and rubbing his face all over me.

My daughter took a different approach. She rolled around on the floor kicking the couch I was lying on while loudly complaining about being bored. She pushed the furniture around, she teased and tormented her brother and the animals, she whined, she pulled off my blanket,  she yelled, and then she complained some more.

After lunch, I asked them both to find a quiet activity so that I could rest for awhile so she began slamming books on the floor. When I sent her to her room, she began screaming and didn’t stop until my husband got home two hours later. She turned it off the second he pulled in the driveway. She’s good like that.

That was several days ago and all though I’m feeling much better physically, I haven’t recovered. I’ve gone over that day’s events in my mind over and over again. I know rationally that her behavior was not personal. I know that I am their rock and seeing me weak was scary. I know Mom lying around may have  stirred up lots of resting dark memories of other Moms whose behavior was very different than mine.

I know, I know. I know it all. It still hurt my feelings.

This leaking vessel of a child that I’ve been pouring love into despite her inability to return it kicked me when I was down.

My husband and I have had lengthy discussions with our daughter about her behavior for which she has yet to show any  remorse and probably never will, knowing full well that our words were for our own release and would have no impact on our daughter.

Having taken the following day off,  my husband asked her “Do you know why I stayed home from work yesterday?”

“To take care of me,” was her deadpan response.

She starred at him brow furrowed in disbelief when he explained,

“No, because Mom needed me.”

The concept of someone else’s needs coming ahead of hers is beyond her grasp. This is not new information, but this time it got me. And she knows it.

In the following days, she was smug and delighted, walking around singing and humming to herself as she always does when she knows she’s knocked someone off balance. It’s been a couple of months since she’s been successful and she’s feeling pretty proud of herself.

For me, this is the greatest challenge of parenting a child with Attachment Disorder–the twisted glee they experience when they know they’ve hurt someone.

Despite hundreds of hours of training, 8 years of on the job training, having read every book on the market regarding attachment disorder and developmental trauma, and the full conscious knowledge that her behavior has nothing to do with me, I was wounded.

So now I have to find the strength to get over myself, to get my feet back under me, take back control and carry on choosing loving acts despite it all. I will. I always do.

       

Welcome to my world!

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I’ve been wanting to do this for so long, but couldn’t figure out where to begin. So I’m just going to start where I am and figure out the way as I go. I once backpacked through Europe with this approach and that turned out okay.

The stirrings began about six months ago when we were in a pretty dark spot along this adoptive path, and I wanted to reach out to the universe for help because I wasn’t finding any comfort in my smaller part of the world.  Lots of ideas were taking shape in my mind, but I was afraid to give them voice for fear I would regret them later. That was a smart decision.

Fast forward a few months and things were better so I decided to start writing, but I still didn’t have the guts to put it out there. I’m feeling brave today so here goes.

Because I want to be brutally honest, because we (those of us in this world of older child adoption) have to be if any of us are going to get through this, if our kids are going to heal, if the rest of the world (or at least my small part of it) is ever  going to comprehend this struggle, I want to show how much the climate can change in a matter of weeks. So I’m going to set the stage with two separate posts written several weeks apart.

Begin Blog # 1.

I am a disappointing hero.  Praise and admiration make me uncomfortable. I swear. I drink. I speak the truth even when nobody wants to hear it. I don’t take no for an answer, I’m a bull by the horns type of gal,  and I won’t sugarcoat adoption from foster care.  I’ll be the first to admit that the undertaking is heroic—I’ve been called upon to muster a strength of spirit that I didn’t know I had—but  if you’re looking for a fairy tale, I’m going to let you down.

I’ve been compelled for some time to document this journey, but have struggled with the ethical balance between protecting my children’s privacy (and mine—it is not my nature to broadcast my struggles), and the hope that our story may be just the inspiration another needs to keep plugging.  A wise friend recently tipped the scales in favor of sharing with a single sentence that changed my life-but I’ll talk about that another time.

Feeling vulnerable, but following my own advice to my children to do that which scares me most, here we go. My husband of 20 years and I had four children born to us in the early years of our marriage. Let me say straight up that I despise the term “biological child”. All children are biological, except of course the plastic ones. Can’t say I love “born to us” either but at least it’s factual.  

Semantics aside, we decided we did not want to give birth to any more children and took permanent measures to ensure we wouldn’t.  Adoption at a later date was always the plan—at least it was mine.  The people who love me must often accompany me on my adventures as captives.

Eight years ago my hostages and I became a therapeutic foster family.  I’ll have to flesh this out later as I’m eager to get to today. The short story is that we fostered more than 20 kids and saw the best and worst of humanity.  The experience changed everything from my politics to my views on cosmetic enhancements, but ultimately made me better and stronger. 

Weary of the revolving door and its accompanying heartache we actively sought out an adoptive placement.  I have always been so crazy in love with my first four kids that more could only be better, right?

We are now just weeks away from the year anniversary of our daughter’s placement in our home and I am finally feeling hopeful. That’s a nice word, hopeful.  In her six short years, our daughter had experienced 10 out of home placements and was on a mission to get to number 11 as quickly as possible. She came armed with an arsenal of behavioral weapons that had already caused one adoptive family to surrender and had us afraid that life would never return to normal.

Seven months in, add a tow-headed 4-year-old foster son who I declined placement of twice, ultimately agreed to provide short term emergency respite for  as a desperate favor, who now calls me Mommy and is completely entwined in my heartstrings  to the mix and we had a heaping mess of little girl reeling.

For far too long, we—well I (Mom is the emotional thermostat of the home) allowed her to set the temperature a few degrees shy of Hell.  Then one day, my wise friend sat beside me, listened, no heard me and set me free from my own angry/guilty demons.  Now don’t imagine that it’s all butterflies and cupcakes—my daughter had a screaming tantrum this morning and informed me for the gazillionth time that I’m a terrible mother (she’s wrong—I rock at the Mom thing).

The difference is me. I’ve come to accept my feelings or lack of them in light of the situation and have taken back control of my home’s emotional climate effectively disarming my child and allowing us to begin the journey toward peace.