The Point of No Return

I vowed some time ago to be an honest voice in this sometimes dark world of foster care. I’m deflated and my focus is weak. Sometimes this journey hurts like hell. But these things need to be said and they need to be said now while they are real and raw.  Maybe I’ll delete them later.

Yesterday, a path came to end. Many lives forever traveling in a different direction. We’ve spent many years saying “yes” after many before us said “no.” We are not afraid of the tougher cases. The raging. The aggressive. The disconnected. The system savvy. The long time travelers. The children in which all others have lost faith. Until we are.

Just when it seemed we’d broken through, we got a horrifying glimpse of what lay on the other side. For safety’s sake we threw up the flag and turned away.

I am heartbroken. I am a bit more jaded. I will get back up again–I always do–but right now I’m just going to sit here for awhile.

At the point of no return just cross the line in the sand, I watch a lost child disappear into the dark, dark night. We were sunk before we sailed. Nobody really expected us to succeed–we were repeatedly given permission to fail. The wounds were too deep, the time too long, the wall too thick, the path too dangerous.

We spent seven months teetering between fear and hope, reassessing, digging deeper, employing new tools, searching beneath the fury for the hurting child…believing. Until the scales tipped on the side of danger and it was instantly clear that he was beyond our reach.
In this moment, the relief of restored safety is dulled by the weight of the grief. Grief for the knowledge of where his path now leads, grief for never having found the right tools, grief for giving up, grief that I live in a world where such a very small child can dwell in such a dark place. Grief that I couldn’t save him. Grief that my grief will not be understood or even recognized.
Tonight I’m going to collapse beneath it because tomorrow I have to throw it off and carry on. Before I’d even signed the final line, the call came with the next desperate plea.

Her Boobs; Her Business

Raising A Free Daughter in the Bible Belt

My teenage daughter has had an awakening. Her growing insight has been both marvelous and heartbreaking to witness and she grapples with the newfound knowledge that women are still treated as second class citizens in this country.

It doesn’t help that we are submerged in a christian homeschool community where she receives frequent messages that it is her responsibility to prevent violence against herself by dressing modestly and behaving in a godly manner.

I really don’t even know what that means.

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The shirt alone in this outfit has four dress code violations–it’s too tight, the straps are less than three fingers wide, it exposes cleavage, and does not cover bra straps. The shorts are also in violation–too short.

I do know that we’ve been presented with lists of dress code requirements that always include a supplement exclusively for girls.

She has been instructed about the precise acceptable length of her skirts and shorts, directives to wear appropriate undergarments, but said undergarments should never be visible. She has been forbidden to show any cleavage or wear tight fitting clothing of any type. Under no circumstances should she ever reveal that beneath her drapings is a feminine form.

I can only assume that this is viewed as a necessary measure to prevent the boys from slipping into their primal brains and savagely raping their classmates. Because showing cleavage clearly expresses a desire to have sex and boys are mindless beasts who cannot control their urges. This is absurd and insulting to both sexes. The entire notion of “modesty” is contrived to blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator. And if they can’t handle a hint of cleavage in the classroom, how on earth do they navigate the beach without having sex all over it?

When you’re done go here. Check out this brilliant slam poetry piece by Anna Binkovitz tackling the ill conceived notion that a woman’s clothing choices are  an indication of well, anything at all.

I can testify to the ridiculousness of the idea that your attire is an expression of your desires. I have traveled through Europe and visited topless and nude beaches, yet I have never witnessed a public orgy (nor a private one for that matter.) What I did see were families and friends (yes parents with their children) enjoying time together in the sun. End of story.

Enough is Enough

The double standard has become increasingly unbearable for my thinking child and she’s angry. When I pointed out that her chosen attire for today’s classes exposed her bra straps (more the result of petite frame with narrow shoulders than rebellion, but rebellion would have been okay too) and we had just received an email from the co-op principal that further dress code violations would result in being forced to wear a uniform of a polo shirt and khaki pants, she’d had it.

“I know that every boy in the room has a penis. Ms. X even talked about their testicles the other day and I didn’t immediately demand that they fertilize me,” she lamented, pretty sure that a boy catching a glimpse of her bra wasn’t going to leave her pregnant.

Up until puberty struck earlier this year she had lived in an insulated environment. We tend to run with crunchier crowds and we have always encouraged her (and all our children) to discover their own paths–to decide what makes sense to them in every aspect of their lives from fashion to spirituality. Our message has been “Be kind, do good, be free.” The End.

This is not to say we don’t offer our own insight and guidance–I don’t want to send them out there unarmed–but ultimately the decisions are theirs. They are her boobs and what she does with them is her business.

This year, we have ventured into a new arena, she is taking several classes in conservative Christian environments, and is spending far more time with adults who do not share our views. Physical changes, awakening awareness, and being thrust into an oppressive environment have caused a psychic collision. I’m not so sure how long we can endure the blasts.

Bye Felicia

We have committed to this year and I believe there is value in spending time amongst those whose beliefs are very different than your own, but I will probably suggest we keep the visit short. The messages are too destructive.

The bombardment of warnings that she should cover her body, not entice or mislead the opposite sex by showing too much flesh, and that her very shape is shameful and should be concealed are taking a toll. She feels judged and alienated. The experience has been hurtful. But there has also been an unintended positive result.

She doesn’t live in that universe and has her parents’ blessings to disagree. And disagree she does. Freedom and the Internet have opened the world of feminist dialogue to her and she’s listening. She has discovered slam poetry and has started writing her own. She seeks out messages of self love and empowerment and she is coming into her own as a strong independent woman.

This is in direct alignment with my hopes for her. I wish for my daughter to know her own mind and act with integrity. I want her to have a healthy body image and sexuality. I want her to venture into the world with the expectation that she will be treated with respect and equality and reject any equations that produce a different yield. I want her to expect this not because she is dressed in some arbitrary standard of decency, but because she is a human being and it is her right. I want her to fight for what she believes in and never compromise her values. And in a final thought that is difficult to speak, in the event that she becomes a victim, as 25 percent of us will, I want her to know that it is not her fault.

Letting Go…again.

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Two months ago, I said good-bye to my second born son. He would board a plane in the morning and begin a life in which most of his plans moving forward would not include me. I was no longer entitled to answers and even if I were, he didn’t have them to give me. I was told to expect a 30-second scripted call to let me know he made it safely to the Naval Recruit Training Center and nothing else.

I’d had nine months to prepare. (The irony of that time period is not lost on me.) I wasn’t ready. I would have given my eyes to make him stay. I would have given my eyes to help him fly away. It was bigger than me, than him, than anything within my control. This need to soar. I got it. Always the most independent of my children, I suppose on some level I expected it. I certainly understood it. I still hated it.

The call came at midnight. Not much more than I’m here. I’ll call in a few weeks. I love you. Goodbye. Then silence. Two and a half weeks of complete silence. I felt like I had been ripped open and had a hard time understanding how people could just go on talking to me without noticing my guts spilling out. I could only imagine the horror my precious son was enduring and for the first time in his life I felt powerless to protect him.

Raised in the electronic era, there had never been a moment when I couldn’t reach him. For the duration of his training, only a horrible tragedy would have granted me access to my own child. I was angry and afraid.

I longed to collapse into a puddle of grief, but the eight other people who depend on me couldn’t bear the sight of me liquifying. I mustered all my strength and carried on. I took the kids to the pool and hid my tears behind my sunglasses. I put one foot in front of the other. I did the laundry. I cried in the bathroom. I avoided his room. I buried myself in service. I beat myself up over the grief I was feeling when my loss was relatively small. I knew he was safe and I would see him in 8 weeks. Others had suffered so much more. At times I felt completely foolish about my inability to control my emotions. I cursed the recruiter and the orchestrated plan to lure our sons away at the peak of their bravado and cravings for independence. I questioned my sanity and I cried some more.

At last the phone rang. He sounded completely fine. He was upbeat and confident. He told me repeatedly that it was easy and he was doing great. “You don’t need to worry about me, Mom,” my man child assured me. My chest relaxed for the first time in weeks. It didn’t get easy, but it got better. Until the final week. The anticipation of seeing him coupled with the realization that despite boot camp’s completion, he was not coming home, caused me to decompose again.

Before boot camp, I’d never been separated from him for more than a few days–now I was facing the reality that he would likely never live under my roof again.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do with that.

But after a bittersweet weekend together, one thing is clear; He does not need my shelter. My worst fear when he left was that his spirit would be crushed–that my funny, charming, witty boy would grow cold and bitter. I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize him. That didn’t happen. He is very much his good humored self only more settled, standing taller. He literally grew an inch while in bootcamp. He is confident, ambitious, determined, and driven. He knows where he wants to go and how to get there. He has come into his own. He is absolutely aglow. He has made me so very proud.

image Ultimate parenting goal achieved–So what the hell is my problem?

The truth is that this is not the path I would have chosen for him. But I was never so foolish to think it was my choice to make. My motivation is completely selfish and has everything to do with fear and my own loss trauma. I would have stopped the clock years ago if I could have. I miss him. I miss him with a pain I don’t know how to express. It’s total bullshit that we are expected to pour our hearts and souls into our children for nearly 20 years then pretend to be happy watching them walk away. That model will never make sense to me. I want him here with me. Always. I want them all here with me. Always.

But alas, I know that one by one they will tear out a piece of my heart and head for the door. Clinging to the past, weeping like a fool is not serving me or him well. I really don’t want to diminish his joy or alienate him with my sorrow. His eyes are focused forward. As they should be. His light is contagious. The world awaits him. He’s gotta go.

So I’m going to try to put this all here and leave it behind. I’m going to embrace the next chapter and relish the fact that my son has arrived fine and upstanding at adulthood’s door and take credit where it’s due that my powerful love helped get him there. This is me stepping back to find our new balance. This is me letting go.

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.

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.

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.