Sunday, September 12, 2010

Feeling inept

While the weekend has been calm as a whole, it's been incredibly frustrating for me, and I've been walking around with a knot in my stomach, and hole in my heart, and a huge acid reflux problem that I think can directly be attributed to stress.

I used to think I had this parenting gig under control. I have 3 great homegrown kids. As a parent, I was described as patient, constructive, involved, and loving. I loved being a homeschool mom, enjoyed every single moment with my family, and thought, I would love to have more kids, and our family is blessed to have the resources to have more kids, and adoption is our best avenue. Sure things will be a challenge, but we're smart, tough, resilent, and educated.

But that was then, this is now. You can erase "smart, educated, and patient" from my pre-adoption resume.

Insert: "inept, clueless and frustrated."

As I've mentioned before, we take Miles to an excellent EMDR/play therapist for his RAD and PTSD (and seriously, just typing out the letters RAD, still makes me feel sick and breaks my heart because I still struggle grasping that this is our reality.) I really like the therapist and feel good about the whole thing.

Earlier this week, I was unable to make on of Miles' appointments, so the Mister took him (a parent is always present.) Uneventful.

Yesterday morning, I took Miles. At the beginning of each session, we chit chat with Mr. P and talk about what's new, school, etc. All kinds of "fun" things that Miles likes to share and talk about.

Yesterday, as he has done many times in the past, Mr. P. will ask Miles a question, and Miles will give a weak smile, open his eyes REALLY wide, and turn to look at me. Like he's either looking for approval or wanting me to give him the answer. As if he suddenly can't answer "What's your teacher's name, Miles?" without getting worked up and turning to me about it.

So Mr. P., comments, "Wow, after seeing Miles here with Cliff, and now with you, his body language is certainly very different with you than with Cliff."

Gee, ya think?

I'd be lying to say that this statement, which is on one hand a relief because someone else sees it, doesn't go straight to my heart. And I know that Mr. P. didn't say that to cut me down, or scold me, but merely offering an observation. But, ouch. Talk about feeling instantly inept.

I watched Miles in his "big eyes/hesitantly turn to mom/look at her questioningly" reaction and I try to always think of the "positive" trauma behavior/explanation to these moments. It's that instinctual fight/flight response, due to many years of living with unsafe adults in a precarious living environment, at best.

But sometimes, like yesterday, I see a glimpse of my boy and a very unsettling feeling comes over me that he is not in flight or fight, but instead, giving out a very calculated performance. From the "big eyes" to the "hesitation" to the "looking to me for approval."

Mainly because when he is in fight or flight, he can't remember anything from those moments. The time spent thinking in the rear part of the brain is almost a type of amnesia; once we can get our boys out of it, they most often are truly perplexed, can't recall details with any sort of accuracy, and seem just out of it.

And in those moments of fight or flight, they either act very violently, or they completely freeze and are unable to move. Keenan, for instance, will freeze with his hands balled up in fists, almost as if he is ready to throw down a series of hard blows. Yet, he couldn't if he tried, because the F/F reflex has him locked down in the "freeze" mode.

Yet in these moments, like at the therapist's office, Miles can freely move, control his breathing, and he can recall the entire conversation with perfect, hyper-vigilant accuracy.

Does the therapist catch any of this? Beats me. All I know is that these 'moments' are over questions that I can ask Miles at any time, and he can happily reply. Questions that the Mister or my mom or even our therapist can ask without me present, and he can answer with no problems. I just don't get the feeling that this child is in fight or flight at all. It is really, really difficult to think that a little 5 year old could be so manipulative, but that's what trauma does.

For an adoptive parent, these types of thoughts are the ones that keep you up at night and create PTSD in the parent.

And I'm finding it a horrible place to be in, as a mother and a person.

Was I prepared for these situations? Certainly not. I think as a whole, agencies and adoption communities tiptoe around these topics for people in process. You get your kids home, and a whole post-adoption "WTF did we get ourselves into?" community is suddenly magically there-- and thank God for that.

Would knowing these things have stopped me from adopting? I don't know. Probably not, but perhaps.

You know those programs where they send at-risk teenage girls along with a teen mother for a day or a week to help them "get a clue?" Or troubled young men go to a state pen for day to listen to those who are there? Reality shock therapy?

My family would probably be good testing waters for those who have their hearts set on adopting. We don't have outright severe behaviors here. But what we do have is consistent behaviors that wear you down. And what we have is a slow escalation of worsening behaviors as our child becomes more comfortable with our family and as we work through his trauma issues

Many things don't stun me any more. Urin8ing on floors, walls, beds used to send my blood pressure sky high. Now? it's more of a sigh, a Shit (or in this case, "P") Happens sort of moment. We just ripped carpet out of a second bedroom. Nice, expensive carpet. And this morning we woke up and found a big pool of urine soaking right into the subfloor, because I haven't been able to magically whip up 6 hours yet to throw down a layer of Kilz.

Oh well.

The things that do get me are twofold: 1) the fact that many behaviors, which have consequences that they don't like, are repeated over and over and over again. Nothing seems to be learned--ever and 2) despite the fact that we are consistent with our behavioral expectations and consequences in our home are clearly set out and labelled (the credit system), new destructive behaviors are always present. The ante is always being 'upped.'

I know there are trauma-based psychological reasons behind this for everything. I know that had my boys been born from my womb and grew up in our home, we likely would not be facing any of this.

This is trauma. And it is real. And awful. And I am SO MAD at how it has changed these little boys from what they should have been. SO. MAD.

But all that known, and said, this is still hard. It is still hard to have a child who will give out affection indiscriminately to everyone and their neighbor, but becomes angry when you try to love and protect them with boundaries. It is hard to have children who lie, are sneaky, are vindictive and destructive. It is hard to have children who push and push and push you away. It is hard to have children who make you feel like you are going crazy.

It is hard to have a therapist acknowledge how a child clearly treats you differently. It's hard to have friends comment on how your children bristle, pout, and otherwise reject you. It's hard to realize that some people are thinking that they are this way because somehow you as a parent are failing. Or that you aren't loving the child enough.

PTSD is to be blamed. RAD is to be blamed.

I love these two boys fiercely. I don't always like their behaviors. I actually abhor many of the behaviors. But their behaviors are different from them as people. And I love those two little people.

And maybe it doesn't look that way.

Maybe I don't look warm or affectionate enough when I am in public and setting clear, established boundaries to let them that I am Mom. I am Safe. And I will keep You Safe.

Maybe for our family, it is more comfortable for the boys to keep that love and fuzzy in the privacy of our own four walls, because anything more than that would stress the boys out.

But whatever. I am doing everything I can. I am giving them time and energy and doing work that many times I don't think I am capable of doing, yet I am somehow pulling it from somewhere deep to give it to them.

And if that isn't love, I'm not sure what is.


AML said...

I ran a half marathon this morning and thought of you a lot because I know next week is your first, and like many firsts - it is the BEST feeling and one you only get once. So, I got home and logged on the computer to check up on the blog and I read today's post. Two thoughts - 1. I am going to spoil you rotten with single lady self indulgent behavior when you come here in few weeks. You better be ready!! To do only what you want to do when you want to do it. I am glad we get to do that together because it does get lonely. You will be wishing to go back home. 2. It kills me when you doubt yourself. I know you. I know when you give 100% you give 150 that has how you have always been. You are doing a great job. Is it easy, no. But I shutter to think if these children hadn't ended up with you. God gave them to you because you are an EXCELLENT mother. I want you to repeat that "Sarah is an Excellent mother". You are loving, caring, and supportive and I truly believe that someday we will look back on this and say...really, it was really that hard...Keep the faith. Stay Strong and remember you are AWESOME!!
Miss you. AML

ManyBlessings said...

Good lord woman you are my hero.

Not because of anything spectacular, but because you closely resemble exactly how the Father loves us. You are a mirror. You are His hands and His feet.

I mean that.

You think about that.

Megan said...

Thank you for sharing. I see so many of these behaviors in my Miles, too. It really is enough to drive a gal insane. But YOU are doing a great job! Keep on keeping on!

geralyn said...

It never ceases to amaze me how my kids' rotten behavior can bring out the worst, most undesirable behavior in me. I hate admitting how incredibly insensitive I can be when i am just tired and beaten down beyond all belief. Then they are like sharks and feed on my feelings of inadequacies to make me feel worse. God my kids can manipulate.

I've got you in my heart and thoughts darlin'. Call me if the going gets rough(er). I'm always here for you! Love ya oodles!

bbbunch said...

I see you parenting, and I have never thought that you were inept or unloving in any way. You are one of the strongest women I have ever met, Sarah. I respect your honesty and your are a breath of fresh air.

Hang in there, girl! Always here for you,

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Here is how I felt after about a year:

Like I could go down to the prison and stand at the release door, throw a rock and anyone I hit would be a better parent to Genea than me. Sub in going to the line at the methadone clinic, or the illegal homeless shelter for folks kicked out of all social services.

Sawatzky family said...

You are amazing! Pure and simple God is in control and He gave you those boys. You will reap the harvest of all this hard work Sarah :) And what a harvest it will be!!!

Anonymous said...

Never doubt yourself for a minute. You can acknowledge the feeling as it passes through you, you can always give yourself constructive criticism, you can even admit when you make a mistake.

But never, ever doubt yourself. You are a wonderful mom. You have three kids that are a living testament to that fact and you have two more that are still learning what a mom is.

I never doubt you. Not for a moment. And there are an infinite reasons for that confidence in you.