Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Loss

Have you been watching the new episodes of "The Little Couple" on TLC the past two weeks?  I really like the show, and as an adoptive parent who knows a lot about trauma and loss, it has also been heart-wrenching to watch. 

So many times I've heard people say, "But kids who were adopted before the age of 2 or 3 can't remember what happened to them so why does it affect them later in life?"  I understand that paradigm, but it's completely misguided. 

Watch last week's episode where they meet Zoey (2 yrs. old) in India for the first time and take her with them to the hotel in the same day.  The poor thing screams, sobs, and tries to bite as she is taken on a bus with complete strangers.  She is inconsolable.  At times when she is not crying at the hotel later, she is staring wide-eyed - terrified of the unfamiliar surroundings, people, sights, sounds, and smells.  They try to lay her down thinking she might be tired.  She screams in pain - emotional pain.  I found myself yelling at the TV - no, no don't let her cry it out.  Pick her up.  She needs help.  She is not okay.  And they did, they picked her up and tried to soothe her - not that it worked.

This episode consisted of clips from one day in this little girl's life that filled an hour-long TV show, but it's a day that changed her forever.  FOREVER.  Will she remember the orphanage or the ladies who cared for?  No.  Will she remember the day her family picked her up with such anticipation, such joy?  No.  Will she remember her grief while they smiled in excitement?  No, but that doesn't mean it didn't happened.  It happened.  And her body remembers.  Her body will always remember.

I'm not saying adoption is bad or that no one should adopt.  I'm not saying that at all.  Adoption is beautiful - at least it can be, but its beauty does not negate the pain.  The tremendous loss that precedes it.  No matter the circumstance, no matter how you wrap up the adoption story in shiny paper and a great big bow by saying "You're lucky, we chose you!," it's LOSS.

And for those like my girl, you throw in a whole gob of trauma too.  Yes, it affects them.  Your first 2-3 years of life have affected you.  They have affected me.  They affect everyone - adopted kiddos included.

For those of you who are parents, can you think back to having an infant, a 1-year old, a 2-year old - do you think they would have been affected if you would have walked out of their life suddenly one day?  Would it affect them for a lifetime?  You betcha!

As painful as it is for me to watch a toddler in such a fearful, dys-regulated state, I also know that her future looks brighter because she is struggling.  Adopted kiddos who come home with ease and "adjust quickly" with no problems are the ones who are in trouble.  It likely means they weren't attached so moving from person to person is no big deal.  Those who struggle are struggling because they feel the loss of the attachment they had, and if they attached once, they have the capacity to attach again.  The fact that little Zoey fights them, tries to bite, cries inconsolably, and shies away in fear are good signs!

And so that's what I'm preparing for with my girl tonight.  Little Turtle has had the best two weeks (at least) than she's had in a very long time.  No restraints.  Therapy is going well.  She has been trusting staff to help her when she's upset on the unit.  Tomorrow, however, she will learn that her newest therapist is leaving and her last day will be the 19th.  I'm prepping myself for the worst.  I talked to the therapist on the phone, and she said, "We don't know that Little Turtle will go backwards because of this."  I said, "I know she will."  And she damn well better because if she doesn't, if this loss doesn't phase her, doesn't affect her, then we have an even BIGGER problem.  It means she hasn't connected, hasn't trusted, and isn't experiencing a loss.  I know better.  She did establish trust with this person, and this will be yet another loss on top of loss on top of loss in her life.

It's gonna be ugly folks.  Promise...

#bracingforimpact

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Wingate

I haven't posted in a while - obviously.  There really hasn't been much to say and saying the same things over and over again seems unhelpful for everyone's sake.  Little Turtle continues to be in treatment and continues to not do well.  I think there are hints of progress, but she continues to be quite aggressive.  Today I feel inspired to write though.  It all started when someone posted a picture of their kiddos at a hotel pool on Facebook yesterday, and it hit me in a way I didn't see coming. 

It's fascinating how under the scabbed over pain and anger is a longing feeling - of missing things - of missing being a mom.  I know I'm still a mom, but the truth is that I don't feel like it anymore.  That's what hit me today.  I don't feel like a mom anymore.

It's mysterious really how I wasn't a mom and then, suddenly, I had a 6 year-old calling me Mom.  I'll never forget being at a Memorial Day backyard BBQ two months after Little Turtle moved in.  The hostess said, "Jen, that is your daughter calling for you."  MOM?!?!  I'm a mom?!?!  Oh my goodness, my child is calling for me, and I didn't realize she was talking to me.  

There is a reason that babies don't speak for many months after they're born.  It's because hearing another being call you Mom is terrifying when you have so little time to prepare for it!

But there I was - being a mom.  Cooking breakfast while cartoons were on TV.  Cleaning up spills at the table.  Doing laundry that now contained piles 4x bigger than what they were when I wasn't a mom (or so it seemed).  Hearing giggles.  Preparing snacks.  Having a "Mom" bag with books and card games and wet wipes and candy.  Playing the "Cars" soundtrack as we drove around town.  Meeting Little Turtle's sister and her sister's mom for weekend outings - art down town, the parade, Pizza Hut, and swimming. 

I saw those little feet on the pool steps in that picture, and it hit me like a ton of bricks that I'm no longer planning outings or get-togethers with her sister.  I'm no longer teaching Little Turtle things (or at least trying to).  There are no crafts.  I'm not tucking her in at night, reading her stories, or comforting her when she wakes up from a nightmare.  I'm not cooking her favorite foods.  I'm no longer making memories of much of anything with her.

There are also no tantrums, no screaming of obscenities, no broken nick-nacks, and no fingernail marks in my skin.  For that, I am thankful, but there are things I miss.  A lot of things I miss.  I miss being a mom.

Interesting coinky-dink today because the treatment center called to say that Little Turtle was in a 30 minute restraint after she attacked a peer who had "said something mean about her MOM." 

I guess I still am a mom, but I don't like this mom.  I don't like her at all.  She spends most of her time acting as if she's not a mom anymore, relishing in the tinges of her "old" life that she is getting back.  When she is being a mom, it's all the sucky parts and none of the good ones. 

So today I found myself longing for an afternoon at the Wingate with my girl and her sister and her sister's mom even if that winter Sunday afternoon ended with me dragging the kid out of the pool area (literally dragging) while she threw her coat in the pool, screamed things that nobody else's children needed to hear, before getting away from my grasp and eating chips out of another mother's "Mom" bag (a stranger mind you).  True story.  And then after I finally got her in the car, she screamed and kicked and spit and physically attacked me while I did my best to focus on getting us home. 

You see, I have photos of my girl and her sister at the pool that day too.  They look just as innocent, just as playful, just as cute.  There's so much more to the story, but I miss those moments.  I miss them a lot.  Another RAD mom blogger once wrote about the layers of loss that come from parenting deeply hurt children.  I feel like I did a belly flop into those layers today.  It stings, and I think I got water up my nose too.

Here's cheers to our snow day today because that doesn't make me miss being a mom in the least bit.  Those days were pure hell through and through!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Elf on the Shelf for RAD Moms

As you know, my kid's in treatment.  Now that there's less time devoted to, oh I don't know, my life revolving around her mood and rages paired with ever lasting hypervigilance, I'm awake at night and able to peruse Pinterest after the Golden Girl episodes end and I vow to refuse to watch yet another infomercial.  I mean, I'm tired.  I'm not going to clean the house.  I'm not going to read.  I'm sure as hell not going to do crafts; tried that a week or so ago, and after a $100 trip to Hobby Lobby, my homemade master-piece looked like a 6 year-old made it.  Yea, it's in the trash.  So why not get inspired right?!?!

Pinterest it is...

Don't get me wrong, I've found some pretty good ideas as have some of my fellow friends and educators.  My friend's Thanksgiving table centerpiece is the bomb this year thank you very much.  To give credit where it is due, however, we exhausted the Pinterest finds, and what we came up with is even better.  Perhaps, I should take a photo and add it to my blog so someone could come along and pin it!

How many of you have seen those classrooms that look like Pinterest threw up in there?!?!  More power to 'em.  Done are my days of cutting out chevron shit on weekends to make my room look cute.  One original bulletin board, over there on the right, (it's awesomely creative I think and had nothing to do with Pinterest), and it stays up all year baby.  I promise it would last even longer if my office wasn't about to be bulldozed.  I suppose the brand new digs I'll get next year will deserve an original bulletin board extraordinare!  Start thinking that up now friends.  We've only got 5 months to be inspired, and forget Pinterest, I've already looked.  I'm over cutsie so none of those are gonna do!

But back to my point, I've been wasting minutes of my life that I'll never get back on Pinterest late at night, and oh my god...  Between the homemade Thanksgiving trees that illustrate each and every thing we're thankful for this year paired with the "first day of anything" crafts or photos and more elf on the shelf ideas than you can imagine, really?  Really?

Elf taken hostage + lots of other elf on the shelf ideas #elfontheshelfI'm with the author over at "People I Want to Punch in the Throat" on that last one.  Take a look at what she has to say about the ol' "elf on the shelf" craze here.

All in all, she inspired me to think of some "elf on the shelf" ideas for RAD moms.  Get a clue, there won't be 101 of them.  Consider this the short list...

#10 Elf holding a list of "first of the year vacation ideas" like "A trip to Piney Ridge."

#9 Elf sitting at the computer with his own profile on an adult dating site.

#8 Elf in handcuffs along with a mug shot of said elf because somebody "put charges on him" for stealing.

#7 Elf having "thrown a fit" in the child's room with all items showcasing complete and utter disarray, along with a note that says, "You're the one who made me mad!"

#6 Elf with a note that says, "I know it was all your mother's fault so I've taken her away from you for the day.  She had laundry, dishes, cleaning bathrooms, and shoveling the driveway on her list so you'll need to do those today."

#5 Elf "fishing" in the toilet with "somebody's" tooth brush.

#4 Elf holding a note from Santa that says, "I heard you asked for a custom made 'Diamond Barbie' for Christmas, but I thought you were lying again so I brought you something I know you needed instead." - Deodorant.

#3 Elf having stomped on one (or more) of the kid's presents with a sign that says, "It wasn't me."

#2 Elf having removed all Christmas decorations (like you have any up anyway), put up freaky, morbid snowflakes everywhere like in the shape of knives and stuff, and taken "December" off every calendar so that January is now showing along with a note that says, "We know this time of year is hard for you, so we're moving on."

#1 Elf standing or squatting on the nightstand or windowsill, peeing on the kid's bed!

Now wouldn't those be some fun pictures on Pinterest!  All those over-achieving RAD mommies could pin away!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

That moment when you realize your home is the creepy house on the street that scares the children!

Boy do I have a story for you!  As I have said from day one of this blog, "I couldn't make this shit up if I tried!"  And what happened the other day is no exception...

When I opened the front door and let my dog out one morning this week, I noticed a piece of paper and a colored pencil on my front porch.  Here it is...


Fact:  The police have not been to my house for nearly a year.  In fact, the first time the police came to our house last fall (after not being there for months) was EXACTLY one year to the day when this letter was left on my doorstep.  Yea, that kinda creeped me out!

And then began the wonderings of...  Do I respond?  How do I respond?

What I really, really wanted to "right" back, but didn't, was...

Thanks for your concern kiddo, but if you think I'm a drug dealer, you really shouldn't be coming up to my door.  I'm not, in fact, a drug dealer, but you might want to know that the last kid who was here was taken away a year ago and has never returned.

Other creative responses to the "are you a drug dealer" note left on my stoop? 

And go...