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!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Am I a Vindictive Witch?

aka How did I get to this point?

Lately I've been feeling really down on myself and my parenting skills. I've been feeling uber controlling and like the Wicked "Witch" of the West. I know Bear needs lots of structure, but I don't like the person I've become in order to provide that. So when people doubt his need or my methods then I angst over whether or not I'm making the right choices.

My love language is Words of Affirmation and I know that makes me super sensitive to criticism. Plus, I'm not getting people saying I'm doing the right thing to balance out the people who say I'm doing the wrong thing, so I start to believe I'm doing the wrong thing.

"The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?"

Friday I was talking to my therapist about Bear's latest attempt to get to do an extracurricular activity - his school's mascot is the horse and there is a group of "horseman" that push a huge fiberglass horse around the field every time the team makes a touchdown. Without permission, Bear signed up to be on this team, but hasn't been able to get to a game because of our restrictions). Bear finally admitted a several weeks ago that he was on the team and demanded we let him go to the game. I believe I said no at that time, because, "For one thing you're failing 3 classes and not doing your chores." (There were many other reasons, but with Bear and Kitty you have to be concrete because they don't understand the abstract, and you have to keep it simple or you overwhelm them.)

The following week he did all of his chores and turned in all the assignments he had not bothered to turn in - bringing grades in the 20s and 40s to As and Bs! (Don't get me started on what he's learning about life being able to turn in stuff late and still getting full credit). Of course his attitude still stunk and he made absolutely no progress or efforts to earn our trust so nothing really changed about getting out of the "inner circle." ("Inner Circle" - basically Bear's current level of trust - he must be supervised at all times by those in the inner circle - caregivers who know him and supervise him thoroughly - me, Hubby, Grandma and Poppy). Hubby had said he'd take Bear to the game since he wasn't working, but I went to the RAD mom group so Hubby was "single parenting" and couldn't take Bear after all. This caused Bear to have a meltdown toward me.

This week Bear was down for the count for the first 3 days recovering from his heat exhaustion, and was a total bear (he even acknowledged in therapy that he was treating the whole family badly). Then on Thursday he did all his chores, and Friday he was ready to go to the football game. Hubby was teaching a tough scuba class this week and didn't know until the last minute if he was going to have to work Friday night (football game night). Normally on Friday, I go to therapy while Grandma watches the kids and then we all meet at a restaurant for a family dinner. Usually my sister and her family come too, so this is a family tradition. When Hubby teaches scuba he gets home after all the kids are in bed, most of the time he gets off Friday evening so this is the first time the kids would see him all week. Saturday and Sunday he leaves the house at 7am and doesn't get back until after lunch so we miss him a lot.

Thursday night after getting home from teaching, Hubby told me he wasn't working Friday, but didn't want to take Bear to the game. I was totally fine with that, but didn't want to be the one to tell Bear (after his meltdown last week). So Friday morning when Bear asked me if Hubby was working, I told Bear I wasn't sure. Hubby and I realized that Bear had never asked anyone if he could join the team or if we were willing to commit to taking him. I asked Bear when he'd asked Dad if he could go, to point out that he hadn't actually done so. Totally went over Bear's head. He did tell me that he'd signed up for the team last year (you know, when he was failing all his classes and skipping school almost daily).

Realizing Hubby might be working, Bear tried to arrange to get to go to the game with a family friend. Last weekend in therapy we'd talked about Bear being in the "inner circle" and if he wanted to go places with people in the "first ring" then he was going to have to do his chores, be attending and passing at school, be RRHAFTBALL, and most importantly start relationship building with Hubby and I. His homework assignment was to talk about his feelings with Hubby and I. He did this during this week. Once. I explained that this does not make him automatically eligible to move to first ring. Let's just say this did not make me popular with him.

He tried to call Hubby to see if Hubby would take him, but I wouldn't let him since his bus was already waiting in front of the house. I spoke to the family friend and she did say she was willing to take Bear to the football game. Once. None of her children go to his high school so she and her husband would be spending their date night (and paying $8/each) to watch Bear (and a friend of her family was on the football team).

One of my concerns was that if we let Bear be on the team then we were committing to getting him there for every game (I'm a firm believer in not letting down your team). Hubby works a lot right now and the family friend is only willing to do this once. Another concern is that Hubby is completely exhausted and didn't want to take Bear. So I feel I'm protecting him. Later in the day I found out Bear is failing a class.

So anyway, I was discussing some of this in therapy when Hubby called to say he was taking Bear to the game after all. This didn't thrill me and I expressed that in therapy. I realized if you didn't know the whole story it could look like I was being pretty vindictive toward Bear. I said as much to my therapist and she started laughing and said I do act vindictive and petty when it comes to Bear (maybe not her exact words). This hurt a lot. Especially after listening to Kitty say in therapy what a horrible person I am.

Do I? I admit I don't like Bear very much. It's hard to hold him in positive regard or even like him when he shows so much animosity toward me. He even admits in therapy now that he treats me badly. He triggers my PTSD just by talking to me because I know what he is capable of. He sucks the joy out of the room (literally - if anyone is laughing or being silly or having fun he fusses at them to stop because they are being "annoying."). How do I balance this? All of a sudden I feel like I sound like Kitty - vindictive and vengeful.



GB's Mom said...

Even if you are *vindictive and petty* when it comes to Bear, that does NOT mean that is how you are in general. Everybody has a limit and maybe, for right now, you have reached your limit of Bear. Maybe you have to back off and not care so much for a while. {{{Hugs}}}

Lisa said...

I'm at that place too with my 17 yo dd and it stinks doesn't it? Here we are, going to therapy, doing all of this exhaustive supervising and teaching (and reteaching ad nauseum) and then there are way too many days that I cannot even stand the sound of her voice anymore. I know exactly what my daughter is capable of and I know that when I give in the slightest bit she will immediately start being argumentative again (which makes me crazy) and I will feel like I have to start all over again, setting boundaries, setting limits. I mean, we are doing all of this for THEM, right? We want them to have a better life and we cannot even fathom admitting that it's time to throw in the towel and just supervise them until they turn 18 and then wave good bye as they run out the door to their new, better, funner life. Yet, every single time they want something and really make an effort towards getting it, it makes us mad because we want them to be nice and turn in their homework and do their chores for US. We want them to get better for US and want to please US and not just do nice things to get their way. It just makes me nuts thinking about it.

I think it would have hurt my feelings if the counselor would have said that to me too. I think we both are taking things way too personally, but I am at a loss as to how to stop doing that. Any ideas??

Integrity Singer said...

when I feel like I'm walking that tightrope line between being a therapeutic parent and being a wicked witch, I start charting my child's behavior. Three times a day: morning, homework hour and evening. I write down things like how many prompts they need to do routines, their attitudes, their emotional status, if they are compliant, etc. Then I have an objective POV of their behaviors and I can gauge my response to those behaviors accordingly. I never use that chart to discipline - only as a gauge. The child I'm charting never sees the chart. Period. and some times I've taken the chart to the pdoc and used it as proof of a need for more med.

I also highly recommend moodchart dot org. It is useful for charting the bipolar swings in our kids with the point of determining a cycle. For Sissy, it showed her 15 day rage cycle and got her the BPI diagnosis

Anonymous said...

I have to ask a question. I raised 3 "normal" boys so I have no concept of what you're going through (except from reading your blog) and my boys were allowed to play sports, etc. Yes, they got into trouble from time to time, but I recognize that they are not Bear.

So with that in mind, I have to ask: What does Bear have to live for? What joy does he have in his life? You've told him he won't be allowed to go for his chosen future (armed forces). You've elimited his extra-curricular activities. You've restricted his friends and girlfriends. You've grounded him to having to hang out with his parents and grandparents (every teen's dream.) You've alluded that if he improves his grades and does his chores you'll allow him to go to a school-sponsored and chaperoned event, then taken it away from him at the last minute. If I were him, I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. I would resent the hell out of you and make your life an emotional hell.

So tell me I don't know what I'm talking about, because from the outside looking in.... well, I'm confused. Are you trying to make him hate you so he'll move out as soon as he's legally able?

Please don't hate me after this.

happyhands4jesus said...

I tried to leave a comment very similar to Denise's earlier, but just couldn't seem to word it right. It seems to me that Bear has been reduced to a miserable existence, with little reason to think things can improve. What a sad, discouraging life that must be for a young person.

marythemom said...

"reduced to a miserable existence, with little reason to think things can improve. What a sad, discouraging life that must be for a young person."

Yes and no. He has not been "reduced" to a miserable existence. He's always had a miserable existence with us trying to show him how to get out of it. He has had a horribly tough life and came to us damaged and angry. I don't know if he really "chooses" this existence or not, but he can't seem to get away from it. This miserable existence is his life and I don't know how to help him. I'm not sure he wants me to. It's a miserable place, but he's familiar with it and it feels safe.

I struggle with how he makes me feel for trying to pull him out of this existence and yes, he does have the capability of poking me and getting me to react the way he expects me to. Love and trust scare the "heck" out of him and I'm the scariest of them all, therefore he pushes me away the hardest. He's almost succeeded in pushing me away hard enough, but I keep finding strength from you guys to keep coming back.


cshellz said...

When you're burned out it is easier to slip off the tightrope once in a while. Forgive yourself. You are walking thru a minefield every single day and doing the best you can. You already know that when you allow him to go to the game he'll screw up. That's what he does. I'm not saying HE'S a screwup, I'm saying he makes bad choices and what he's learned so far is all he has to do is suck up for a day or two just to get what he wants and then treat you like shit again. There's is no real affection and change in him and you're holding on and doing what you can. As a parent you know he should have easy attainable goals to be successful. As his parent you know that he will screw his successful moment up most of the time. I love the idea of charting all day. That way you can gauge whether you've slipped over to the dark side or being consistent. Sometimes they feel the same don't they? No advice because I don't live you're life, but I learn a lot from you <3