Resentment and Negativity

Resentment and Negativity 

Our First Year of Adoption – Final Part

“Resentment is poison.” I’ve heard that saying and I repeated it daily to myself for over a year. Whenever I thought about the foster home and where she lived for over three years, I felt bitter, angry, acerbic feelings towards them. We adopted a kid that had experienced trauma; we also got a kid with so many bad habits that needed to be reshaped or eliminated. I felt overwhelmed by how much we could address in therapy and at home. After months of living with her, I felt genuine concern over how much we were offsetting the balance of the household.

post adoption resentment and negativity

Spring – a time for renewal

The summer she moved in with us started out with a bang. She literally moved into our home the weekend after school let out. Everyone was happy and eager to go to the pool and to sleep in and to play outside. The boys loved going to a field two blocks from our home — they were in and out of the house all day long. They returned for bathroom breaks, water bottle refills, and food. They got tan, they always looked sweaty, they had fun. Even before she moved in with us, I had romanticized the idea of joining them with our third child. Next to the field is a playground. Every day I took her. And every day after walking past our house, she burst into tears and cried out that she was too tired to walk there. The same when returning to the house. The child who had been a couch potato in her foster home had very little energy living with us. Once we got to the playground she did manage to climb the play structure and slide down a few times. She seemed to love doing chalk drawings on the blacktop. She eagerly approached strangers – young and old – to engage in conversation.

Continue reading

Stealing and Lying Behaviors

Stealing and Lying Behaviors

Reflection – Tuesday 

Parenting — the good, the bad, and the ugly behaviors.  I am sitting here with a pilsner and listening to The Essential Johnny Cash cd. I think back on what happened earlier today.

I was waiting my turn.  I stood behind a few other parents — we have the difficult ones, the children who have rough days. Other parents wait across the blacktop or are in deep conversations, quickly glancing up and nodding to Mrs. M that they are present for dismissal.  I moved up the line.  Mrs. M informed me of how my child hurt another classmate’s hand. She goes on to briefly describe other parts of the day.  I asked her where on the spectrum in her class of twenty does my child’s behaviors fall; how typical are her behaviors? Mrs. M quickly responded: far from typical. Mrs. M bent down and said gently to her, “I really hope that you have a better day tomorrow.”

stealing and lying behaviors

Despite all the difficulties, we assure her she is well loved.

Why do I feel defeated, why do I personalize my children’s difficulties?  A few times a week I am hearing from her kindergarten teacher an entire day of disruptive and/or aggressive behaviors. The time has come.  When we returned home, I took a deep breath and composed an email:  Can we return to see you again? She is not doing well.  I need help too.  

I have been reluctant to write to Beth, to ask if we can return to therapy. I thought I could figure this out, try another reward system, give it time and let her mature on her own. I fluctuate between acceptance of having a special needs child and wanting to defend her actions, to rationalize her personality traits. My youngest has a different energy than her older brothers. She loves to be silly, she wants people to laugh at her, she’ll do anything to get attention. She does not care for rules — she decides when she wants to follow them.  She is chatty, she is loud. Well actually so are the boys — at times. They know when and where to be comical, when and where to rebel, and how to make friends. Does everything challenging need to be directly related to her adoption from foster care?! Is she going to have special needs for the next 12 grades?

I was perusing the hundreds of informational websites on adoption. I came across an interesting post from creatingafamily.org. There was a list of questions that potential adopting parents should consider. One was: if she were to not get any better than the way she is now, could you handle her behaviors?

I know we have made tremendous progress in our home over the past three years. Yet, this past weekend was a doozy.  She snuck food, she took items from family members,  and she lied. She fed the dog an entire box of frozen appetizers from Trader Joe’s. That is what she answered when I found the empty box. Or did she lie and consume all 15 pastry pups herself? We waited nervously for 12 hours monitoring our dog’s digestion. She took items from her brother’s room. I confronted her, inquiring about the items. With a quizzical face she answered, “I don’t remember doing that…”  I observed to her that the dog was circling her, did she have food with her? She answered, “Not in my hands.” I searched the entire playroom, then found sesame seeds in a lego container. Not my jumbo bagels, I had three left! I had just re-arranged our kitchen by placing all the yummies on higher shelves in the pantry cupboard. I didn’t know how else to protect the contents of the larder.  My husband said to her:  do we really need to put cabinet locks everywhere? even here (pointing to the base cabinet), where the condiments are? would you eat this?  She informed him she would not be interested in the sealed glass jar of thai curry sauce as the glass jar would make a noise when she opened it.

* OMG *

The food obsession, stealing items from others, and lying. I don’t understand how and when she had become wily; she’s become a master of deceit. Will I be able to handle these behaviors lasting a lifetime? Maybe being able to tolerate is a better way to phrase that question. Maybe it’s a question I don’t want to give much thought.  I think about her negative behaviors.  All of them involve an outburst of some kind — emotional or physical, and a lack of judgement.  She has no impulse control.  She doesn’t have that skill, that ability to pause; she just reacts. Is this anxiety? a heightened sense of arousal due to her early trauma? is this a form of ADD/ADHD?

I know sage advice is to not take things personally. For me, it’s difficult to heed that saying when parenting is involved.  I’ve invested time and emotions into raising my kids. I’ve entwined myself with their difficulties.  And yet, something is off, something feels different.  Her hypersensitivity and impulsivity are looming large — lengthy words and heavy conditions. We don’t have a grip on either or both. It’s been three years and she is now 6 ½. I took a deep breath, I tell myself:

We are parents to a special needs child. She is floundering at her school and at home. It’s time to return for professional help.  We need strategies and we may need medication.

Beth, please email me soon.

Open Adoption – Biological Parents

Open Adoption – Biological Parents

Our First Year of Adoption – Part 6

The truth is, I really did not want an open adoption. Initially, I was eager to explore international adoption.  I think part of that fantasy was whisking away a child from tragic conditions and letting her start a new life with us in the U.S.  I imagined meeting with the staff of an orphanage and receiving her case file. I would have information on her biological parents. Later we would decide if we wanted contact and how to go about doing so.open adoption - biological parents

In reality, we adopted a child from the state foster care system.  While she lived in a foster home, she had sporadic visits with her biological parents — who were no longer a couple. Over time, they were deemed no longer fit and the judge changed her plan to adoption. Over time their interest in keeping contact diminished.  Both failed to keep their appointments with the court mandated mediator. Months after she moved in with us, we were told there was not a mutual agreement in place; we would not be able to maintain contact with the biological parents. Sorry. Actually “wooo-hoooo!” was my response. Yes!

Who knows what things may be like when she is an adolescent; when she re-examines her values, ponders her life’s path and questions her identity. She may want to re-establish contact. We don’t know what forms of social media will be in fashion and what efforts are needed to find her biological relatives.

For that first year, I wondered about them. Not in a strange, inappropriate way. More along the lines of wondering about the grocery store clerk who helps you each week. Or the custodian at school who makes eye contact and gives a little nod in passing. Or the owner of the black lab that you see often on walks– she comes from the opposite direction, is bundled up with a scarf and walks briskly. I just wonder about people sometimes.  Maybe I did think about her birth parents more deeply. Did they agonize over the responsibilities of child caring? Were they relieved, maybe a little, when the judge changed the plan to adoption. Did they berate themselves? I wondered if they made efforts to change their ways and turn their lives around.

Continue reading

Developmental Delays

How Old are You?! (Trying to Understand Developmental Delays)

Our First Year of Adoption – Part 5

“I’m freakin’ out!” was something I heard too much. I asked her: what does that mean? She shrugged. I said: say words that you know. What are you trying to say? She whispered: I don’t know. My youngster pointed to her upper chest and asked me the name of the body part.  I answered, “That is your chest.” No! she shrieked and she pointed with both fingers. I replied, “Oh, those circles are called your nipples. Every kid has them. “ No, no! she yelled back. She then snapped at me that those are called her boobies. We picked up my son at his friend’s house. She yelled out the window, “Say goodbye butt. Bye butt! B-utt, b-utt!” My son was horrified. She was not even four at the time when these situations occurred. She had been with us a month.  

Our therapist noted that I would benefit from some additional support. Maybe a group for foster and adoptive parents. Maybe blogs? Maybe my own therapy. I kind of wondered where I could find others who would understand my state of mind. I was baffled over the stuff my four year old was doing. Was she a tyke or a teen?

We were told our child was probably raised by the four teenagers in the foster home. Our therapist noted based on her behaviors, she most likely received a lot of verbal attention and was given food to soothe her distress. Our job was to nurture in an emotional way, paving the way for attachment and adaptive functioning. Our job was to help her be a little kid.

Over several months, I enrolled her in ballet, then swim lessons, next tumbling, and climbing. During class, she often stood there watching and barely moving. There was a marked stubbornness to physical activity when we were at home. We would all try to engage her in games of jumping around, kicking a ball, raking leaves. The four of us just wanted to have fun with her. I said, “Try to move around a little, could you try?” She answered, “I will! Just sign me up for another class.”

The first two years in our home, I taught her how to play with toys. Every day, a few times per day, I sat on the floor with her watching and played out games. I acted out dramatic scenarios and funny sequences with playhouse dolls, horses, and Fisher Price little people. I dressed dolls and cooked them meals, using the play kitchen stuff. I took the dolls to the “doctor’s office” and used the medical kit items to give them exams. I gathered sticks, rocks and leaves from our backyard to make mud stews and fairy houses. She watched every move, with huge wide eyes.  I then moved onto reaching out to her, encouraging her to play and join in. Often I was met with resistance– no, she wanted to only watch. Or a shrug to indicate that she was clueless. Sometimes her tears let me know she felt on the spot.  After a year of doing this daily, I burned out.

Continue reading