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.”
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.