This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Treated like a teen

I never know whether or not to treat Bear like a teenage boy, since developmentally he’s sooo much younger. Treating Kitty like her developmental age works for her. She feels safer and loved with more structure and attention.

People wouldn’t tell a 6 year old, you have a right to watch a PG-13 movie or be able to wander the mall or park by yourself, but developmentally delayed teens get told, “You’re parents are sooo mean!” “You should run away.” “That’s not fair.”

People don’t give Kitty as much of a hard time about this. Maybe because it’s obvious she really can’t handle teenage life, or because she’s female, or because most of her friends also have mega issues so probably have similar restrictions, or maybe because she ignores it or lets it go because she knows she can't really handle it… I don’t know. Kitty seems no less content than any other kid her developmental age. I remember wanting to be a teenager at this age too. Just like other kids this age though, I didn't really expect to get it. I'd probably have been terrified.

I think one reason Bear acts the way he does is because he’s caught in between. He is scared… all… the… time. Because of his looks though he’s being treated like an adult (well at least an older teen) even by us, his family. He’s looked like an adult since he was chronologically 11 or 12 (he's only 12 in the picture at the top - he was already 5'9" and 200+lbs). He’s not given the luxury of acting like his developmental age. He’s constantly being put in situations he can’t handle.

Everyone wants to treat Bear as though he's about to walk out of the house and live as an adult. He never got a chance to be a kid. Biomom called him her "Little Man." Kids with traumatic histories usually don't learn by example or from role models. As Katharine Leslie put it, it's like we're dropping them into a play in which they're the star, but they don't know their lines or what's going on. With our neurotypical kids, they watch others and figure things out. With kids of trauma, they don't have that ability.

I keep hearing, he's going to be out of the house soon, he's got to know how to take care of himself. I keep replying, we've only got a couple of years left to let him act like a kid. He needs to crawl before he can run. I think he needs to be kept safe and protected, like we would a younger child. Forcing him to grow up faster is NOT WORKING ANYWAY! But instead I come across as an overprotective control freak.

I admit I'm overprotective. Unlike Hubby who grew up in the rural Midwest, I grew up in big cities. I worry about everything for my kids - drugs, alcohol, pedophiles, murderers.... My mom was over protective. We weren't allowed to say cr*p or d*rn or even g*h (substitute word for God). My parents didn't drink (Mom was a teetotaler, Dad was supposedly an alcoholic) so I was told that if I drank I might become an alcoholic too. I rebelled a little, and when I went off to college I cussed a lot. I didn't drink much, but only because I hated feeling out of control. During undergrad I got it out of my system and went back to the values I'd learned.

Yes, I'm overprotective with Bob too, and I know she'll rebel. I also know that she'll eventually find her moral compass. My adoped kids don't have a history of those moral values. Apparently I'm the only one who thinks that I should force the kids to comply with our morals and standards. We do that without thinking about it for younger kids. We tell little kids, where to go, what to do, and how to do it.

I hate this. It seems like Hubby and I have a variation on this argument all the time now. I feel like that Earth Girl's Are Easy quote (yes, I know it's really a "Rebel Without a Cause" quote, but I never saw that movie!).
"You're tearing me apart! You say one thing, he says another, and everybody
changes back."


Anonymous said...


marythemom said...

我同意。 谢谢。


Jeri said...

Wow, wish I could translate your comment to the first commenter. Or, even the first comment.

I agree, it's so hard on our kids that are nowhere near their chronological age as far as maturity goes. Alex can go back and forth from 18 months to acting like a smart-mouthed, teenage is surreal. Others don't know Bear like you guys do and the bottom line is, they're not the parents, you are.

marythemom said...

LOL, I put the comment and then my answer in a free translator. Not sure I understood it totally and it may have been random spam.

Bear does ACT mature, that's part of what keeps him out of trouble... and people thinking I'm overreacting. He just isn't mature. Sometimes I think his strong verbal skills and appearance of maturity are like Rainman, except no one assumes Rainman is anything but what he is, an idiot savant.

Truth is, if Hubby and I were a united front, actually if anyone directly involved in his life (his therapist for example) stood up with me, this wouldn't be a problem for me. Instead MY mom and therapist agree with me, but the people who directly effect his consequences don't.

Having Hubby and the therapist fighting me too is wearing me down. I question my decisions, even though I know in my heart I'm not wrong.


Jessi Hacker said...

You do in fact have to crawl before you walk, and thank heavens your "man" has you to show him. Most who know my daughter don't realize until it's too late that she is sick, by then the horse is far ahead of the cart.

Anonymous said...

OK. So focus.
If you and hubby are having a variation of the same argument over and over, you are having the wrong argument.
You aren't getting to the heart of the matter.
You two have to stop making this be about Bear and discipline and figure out what it is really about. Most likely, whatever it is is something that you aren't "supposed" to talk about.

I'm no pro. But I'm going to go not very far out on a limb and guess that your husband has lost something he never thought he'd lose, never put on the table to be lost, and he blames you, and now he's trying to take control in the only way left to him. But he feels he can't say that. Probably logically, he can't really "justify" the blame, but he feels it anyway.

So at least two things have to happen.
1. He tells the truth about what is bothering him, and
2. You hear it without judgement.

Standard rules are one-talks-other-can't-interrupt then vice-versa.

The Boob Nazi said...

In grad school, they told us we had to treat our clients like their real age, even if they acted much younger.
But when an adult with down syndrome likes Cheetah Girls and High School Musical, I think it's cruel to treat her like her age and deny her what she likes!

Anonymous said...

Your readers are awesome, Mary! I love what they all said... and I think Struggling to Stand is onto something. I might have to consider that advice in my own life.

Ursula said...

I hear you completely. I have two teen RADishes also. They've been with us for 6.5 years and it's been very difficult in many ways. However, they are growing in some respects from when they first arrived. They act like teens in some respects and still like 6 year olds in others. When they are acting like six year olds, I treat them that way. When they are acting mature, I treat them that way. It's tough to keep it up but I'm sure you're doing the best you can.

I have found such help from reading other RAD families blogs and reminding myself that I'm doing OK. Just keep on chugging.