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!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Down the path

So last week I had organized a lunch with other Mommies who run thier own companies. It was fun! I am a total extrovert so I get my energy from being around other people. I don't get a lot of that anymore (just the way my life is set up now), so this was a good time. I even got a chance to vent a little (without saying too much since some of these women are our clients). Afterward a sales rep for a local office supply store happened to come in. She seemed nice, and she was a working mother, and there was tons of dessert still on the table, so I offered her some snacks and tea and we stood around chatting.

It really is a small world. Turns our her 14 and 16 year old teenage daughters go to the same highschool as my son would go if he didn't attend the special school. She lives only a few blocks away from us. The best friend of one of her daughters attends the tiny private school that my girls go to. This is even weirder because we are currently in downtown Austin, and the small town we live in is North of Austin. The school the girls attend is in yet another small town. I was in a talkative mood and admittedly vented a little about Bear, and probably all the kids. It's not often I get to talk to another mother with teenagers, and this lady was very sympathetic.

The next day, the lady called me and said she didn't believe in coincidences and would I like to have lunch with her next week. I said sure! Sunday, my Mom and I were wandering around Costco (a big member's only bulk food warehouse) and run into the lady again! We chatted for awhile and I got to meet her husband.

So yesterday I had lunch with DeAnna. She bravely broached the subject of religion (she knew my girls attend a Christian school and we'd touched on it at our first meeting, but in my opinion this was still brave. At first I was a little nervous that she was going to preach at me and try to convert me to something though!).

She said that something I'd said about Bear (I think it was that he has a sign on his forehead that says if you have major problems then you must date me!), had bothered her, because it was so negative. I hope I can explain this like she did! Recently she had been reminded that while most of our prayers are asking God to help us or our children, that God had already stated that he will give us all the help we need. We don't need to ask for it because it is already ours! She has started thanking God for providing her and her children with protection and skills needed. -Taking what God promised. It is our right. She has seen the power of this kind of prayer have an immediate and positive impact on her family, and gave me an example involving her daughter.

This led us to a tangent about self-fulfilling prophecy -which wasn't what she was talking about, but tied with recent events seem to have illuminated a path that it feels like God is trying to lead me down. I'll try to show you the twists that got me on this path.

Recently I started reading a blog written by a parent with an adopted 11 year old son. This parent has been through a lot with this child and nothing seems to help. In his blog he states that he believes his child is a psychopath. Medically you cannot be diagnosed as a psychopath until you are 18. It is an adult illness. If you look hard enough though there is testing that will allow you to have a child as young as 12 be diagnosed with a youth version of this; however, his child is only 11 and noone will allow this diagnosis/label. This parent insists that his child meets all the criteria. In listening to his rationale, there are so many things that make me cringe.

One thing he mentions is that nothing gets through to the child. He says they would put the child in timeout for 10 minutes and it wouldn't have any effect. So they increased it to 30 minutes, an hour, several hours... days! When he asked the child what he thought about the grounding/time out time spent in his room. The child said, it was nice because he didn't have to do anything. It bothered me a lot that this man often took discipline methods that weren't working and then took it to such an extreme that it could be considered child abuse.

What bothers me most is that in one post he predicts the child's behavior for the next 5 years. 6th grade -sexually assault another student, steal a cellphone or gaming device... 7th grade - another sexual assault... 8th grade - his first rape, his first serious attempt on our lives. 10th grade - I honestly don't think we'll be involved in his life at this point. (You can read this for yourself ).

I've heard this described as self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, this child is severely damaged, and yes, this is not out of the realm of possibility, but by saying it you are almost making it happen. You are certainly not working to change it. There is no hope in this blog, no striving to make things better, and I think that is what bothers me the most about it. He is raising his son to be a psycopath - there are no other options. I know people who have raised psychopaths (legitimately diagnosed), but they do not give up on the child - they still strive to make his/her life a little better.

When Bob was less than 18 months I belonged to a playgroup. Bob was a "spirited" child (she started the "terrible twos" at 17 months and didn't really stop until age 4 1/2). While the babies played on the floor I used this time as a chance to vent to the other mommies. I didn't really think she was listening or understanding me, and maybe she wasn't. At one point though I realized I was complaining about her a lot. I decided to rethink how I talked about her, even when I knew she wasn't present to hear it. Instead of relaying the stories of all the trying things that she did, I praised her creativity and how smart she was. I tried to not only stop being negative in what I said to others, but in how I perceived her and how I treated her. I was amazed that it actually dramatically changed her behaviors!!

DeAnna also commented on the fact that my Mom made a comment about how she had planned to write a book about all the trouble I got into as a little girl. DeAnna worried that my childhood of being a "bad kid" might be influencing how I reacted to my children. She wanted to tell me that I should draw a line and say that is in the past, and keep it there. I quickly reassured her that my Mom has always told stories of the trouble I got into as a child, but it was always said in such a manner that I knew she actually thought I was creative, fun-loving, smart and didn't have a malicious bone in my body. I love hearing the tales of my childhood (well, except when she told them to my boyfriends, boss, employees, or my children - who take notes!).

It was a good reminder though that my mom's tales of Kitty do not have this same feeling of love and admiration. I'm sure it's not intentional (and I know she reads this blog so I'm apologizing now because I know this will probably hurt her feelings and I don't want to), but it is very negative and is having a detrimental effect on both Kitty and I. I know it is VERY hard to deal with a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Kitty's disrespect has bled over to all of the children causing frequent mutinies, but somehow Mom and I are going to have to work at changing not only what we say, but how we perceive her (and Bear's) behaviors.

Another book I've read recently is also helping me with this. Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control by Post. I don't agree with everything he says, but one point that is a big influence on my recent attitude regards his opinion on emotion. he says there are only 2 emotions - Love and Fear. Children's behaviors are caused by one of these 2 emotions and for children like Kitty and Bear it is usually Fear.

I had always been told, and felt, that both children were very manipulative and controlling (just like biomom). It was very annoying and frequently scary. I believe I've mentioned that I trust both children about as far as I can throw them (and Bear is 5'9" 200lbs!). I don't like being manipulated, controlled, or lied to (who does?!). Now I try to take a deep breath and remember that the child is behaving like this because they are afraid and trying to protect themselves - this helps me tolerate it.

While I am not discounting what DeAnna said at all (she had very valid points that I will most definitely try to incoporate into my life) - What I came away with was a very vived reminder that I am guilty of "self-fulfilling prophecy." I am focusing on the negatives and the difficult behaviors of my kids. While I have always avoided putting them down, complaining about them or showing my frustration to them, it still colors my interactions with them. By allowing others around me to criticize them I am also influencing how I feel about them.

I KNOW that Kitty especially is very sensitive to other's moods (truthfully I am too). If I am irritable, she has meltdowns and becomes defiant. If Bob is in a silly mood, Kitty becomes hyper. If Bear is in a bad mood she becomes subservient. Lately, I have been so frustrated with Kitty and Bear that I do not want to even be around them. Compounded by guilt, because I "should" want to be around them, and this makes me feel like a bad mom - which makes me more irritable! One reason I want to go on a mood stabilizer is to try to break this cycle.

So I'm embarking on a new path. I hope it will be easy to stay on it, and that at the end of the road I will have a happy, healthy, well-adjusted family.



quilted family said...

What a wonderful post. It serves us all well to step back and reflect on how we communicate about one another. This reminded me of a similar tidbit, if you water weeds, you get weeds, if you water flowers you get flowers, what we water (ie give attention to) is what we will get. So if we are focused on the negative we will get more of the same.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great plan, Mary. It's so easy to get sucked into the vortex of negative thinking, sometimes it takes an angel on earth (Deanna) to show us the light. I think that between positive talk and love languages you will see some changes at home.