Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why you don't ask Why

While I never recall having read this little nugget of information in a single adoption-related book, any seasoned therapeutic adoptive parent can tell you one of their top 3 mantras:

Don't Ask Why!

Fortunately for a newbie in this therapeutic parenting world, there is a large slew of experienced parents with awesome blogs who share this kind of stuff.

Why should you not ask why, you ask?

Here's a snippet:

Mom: Miles, I see you have a very unhappy face. What's going on?

Miles: I not happy.

Mom: I'm sorry to hear that. Any reason for being so unhappy?

Miles: Yes, because I have no fun.

Mom: Hmmmm. That's not cool. Why aren't you having fun?

Miles: Because I make bad choices and can't use credits.

Mom: Oooooh. I see. Well, do you know what you should do to be able to use your credits?

Miles: Yes. I need to make good choices.

Mom: Right. You need to make good choices. Are you ready to make some? Mom can help you, you know.

Miles: No.

Mom: Why don't you want to make good choices?

Miles: Because I have no fun.

The above conversation has been on auto-replay for the past 11 months. I spent MANY of those months pulling my hair out and banging my head against the wall.

It's like Groundhog Day.

But the good thing is that at least now I know that I shouldn't ask why. And typically I wouldn't have asked him at all, but today I wanted to see if just maybe we had made any advancements in this particular arena.


Here's why I also shouldn't ask why. Because beyond being an exercise of complete futility, I, as the parent, know the answer. And the answer is: trauma. Why doesn't Miles want to make good choices? Trauma. He's feeling bad and worthless and the negative self-dialogue that is at his very core clicked the auto-pilot switch to "on" which started today's bumpy ride.

There is no logic with trauma. When trauma is embedded in someone, no matter how little that someone is, the damage is always immense.

Before when I had these 'why' conversations, I would look at my son and just see an angry, oppositional kid who I know is a very bright kid so surely he was being a little snot and pretending that he didn't understand cause and effect consequences.

Now I'm growing. Little by little, day by day. Now I can look at him and I see the trauma. I see the hurt and anger and pain and the constant state of flight or fight that he is in. A state that doesn't allow him to process things the way a normal brain does. A state that doesn't allow him to make the logical connections that I would expect my other kids to make. Sure, he may be able to articulate that good choices = fun and bad choices = no fun, but it doesn't mean that he is actually able to do so on his own.

(Although the kid is bright, and many, many times I'm pretty sure that he does things just to drive me batty. But those I'm-trying-to-drive-Mom-batty times are when he is regulated. Here I'm specifically referring to those flight-or-fight moments)

I wish that I would have somehow innately known all of this 12 months ago when we brought him home. But I didn't. So I'm trying my best to do the best with my son, and day by day, maybe we can grow a little together.


Corey said...

You are a good mom. You are SUCH a good mom. A GREAT mom. Seeing you in action this weekend and just seeing you rise above the kids' pouty-ness and recognizing it for what it really is and being able to go that step beyond.. to say, "What color is my shirt?" "Yellow".. "GOOD JOB! You told the truth! You get credit for that!"

You're a total rock star.

Anonymous said...

I adopted my oldest (of four) at the age of seven and can't tell you how many times I wished I had known what I know now. But the truth is we just had to learn it all together. Eight years later, we are still learning together but now it is a joy instead of a moment-by-moment struggle. She is intelligent and beautiful and thoughtful. She understands cause and effect (which I thought she NEVER would), she is starting to correlate her current reactions to her past survival reactions and she is finally living in the present, not in her trauma. It is so beautiful to see, a gift from God. I tell you this so that you will know that there can be amazing healing from RAD and trauma and PTSD. Keep up the fantastic work and you won't even recognize your little man in a few years. He'll get there. What joy awaits you both.

bbbunch said...

You ARE a rock star ;)

Well said. I always want to kick myself when I ask my kids "why" about something. They are either going to say "I don't know" or they are going to lie. Either response just ends up making me more frustrated.


Salzwedel Family said...

Hoping and praying that one day "Groundhog Day" will cease to play at your house. Until then, keep on keepin' on and remember YOU ROCK!