On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I returned late yesterday afternoon from another TL with Sissy and I was tired, road weary, headachey, had horrible stomach pains and was rather PO'ed with Sissy to boot. Then we watched Facing the Giants. (see below for link) Not a good movie to watch when you're already feeling pretty down in the mouth about how life is going and what God is or is not doing about it. I've seen it several times before but last night it seemed particularly poignant to our family's current struggles. Lots of tears and sniffling and wiping our snot on sleeves. I think I'd have taken a fist to the TV if I didn't have more self-control.

The night before TL, I was up, tossing and turning, praying and pondering. Visits with Sissy feel pointless because it's not reciprocal. It becomes more of a chore each time I go and less of a personal desire. Yearning? Yeah, right. That hasn't happened since I was an infertile woman hoping God would bless me with children. Which makes it even worse because I feel like a jerk for finding it so hard to continue to invest in a child I begged God to send to me. I feel like a heel for admitting that loving Sissy is extremely hard to do on the good days, you know, when she's not even here! Instead of absence making my heart grow fonder, Sissy's absence is making my heart hardened to her. So the night before, as I tried to sleep, the red flags were going up, the alarms were sounding, the anxiety was bubbling and praying didn't seem to give me answers. All I could say was, Dear God, help me not HATE this child, help me love her, erase my anger and contempt for her and tell me what to do to help her change!

Such was my state when I showed up at 10 A.M. for her TL. I knew she wanted to go to the mall but I had a plan B in case she didn't present me with a good reason to brave the mall with her. Plan B was to run the errands I needed to run if I had been at home instead of 3 hours away, visiting Sissy. The staff brought her to me and right away I could tell we weren't going to the mall.

The new jacket Sissy got for Christmas, the jacket we gave her 6 days earlier, looked like it had been worn for 16 years. Her hair was a rat's nest. Her face, clothes and teeth were covered with her breakfast, her shoelaces were untied, her jacket was on lopsided and unzipped, no mittens, no scarf, OMG. She looked horrible. Personal Hygeine (PH) is one of Sissy's goals. Apparently, she doesn't care to master that goal. Like, ever. Then, instead of greeting me, she was staring at the wall while she spoke, "Can we go to the mall?"

"Nope." That answer was easy to come up with. I was mad. Sissy and I have had several conversations about her PH and the fact that I travel a very long way to see her only a few short hours but I am always clean. I've rehearsed the play[1] that Katharine Leslie talks about and explained to Sissy that one way to demonstrate love is to be clean when you plan to spend time with someone. I've rehearsed the scene where you greet someone you haven't seen for awhile. We've been over this. A Lot. She's not a stupid girl. She refused to do her PH and greet me properly to see how I would respond. I didn't let her see my anger. I just said, "Nope." and announced my plan B as I got up and walked toward the van, leaving Sissy to figure out that she needed to follow me. I didn't offer to hug her hello or greet her properly in an effort to correct her. I didn't see the point.

As I dragged her around to do my errands, I talked to her about her goals. I pointed out that the other residents have new goals every week but she has had the same goals for four weeks. I asked her why she thought that was happening. She lied. "I don't have new goals." I said, "try again." She said, "ok. I'm not doing my goals."


I asked her how she expected to earn a ticket back home. She said, "do my goals."


I asked her what she planned to do about it. "I'm going to do my goals." So I said, "Great plan! Let's practice them right now!" *enter big cheesy grin*

Of course, she suddenly acted distracted, clueless and then got a mysterious pain in her neck that became so horrible she couldn't do anything else. "Gosh Sissy, you're karate is weak!" That got her goat. She managed to squeak out one dear man [2] statement that was an exact copy of the one I gave her. "So weak, your karate is!" and I feigned indifference. She tried again. Same exact statement. I just ignored her. She tried a third time, parrotting again. "A broken record!" I called out nonchalantly. "This from someone who is so smart!" Finally, she came up with a statement of value and I rewarded her with lots of hugs and kisses and high-fives. Then back to the horrible, unexplained pain in her neck with lots of lying about how her screaming to the staff was what strained her neck. I looked her dead in the eye, "This is when you say, 'mom, i'm anxious about you leaving soon.'"

She tried it out. "Does that feel right to you?" She nodded yes. I hugged her again. "I'll see you on the computer on Monday morning." No dice. She tried to fake me out with a huge, trumped up crying jag right in front of the Staff desk. Tears, jumping up and down and all. I just smiled and said, "Bye" and pushed her through the resident's door, the one that locks behind her. *enter devilish grin* At which point one of the staff, hearing her tirade jumped up and said, "Hey, is she O.K? I've NEVER seen her like that before!"

I just grinned at the staff, glad, relieved actually that someone FINALLY saw Sissy's nonsense and said, "Nope. She's fine. It's all an act, just for me."

The staff said, "You OK mom?"

"Oh, I'm fine. This is how it goes."

"She's never done that before!"

"Not for you, anyway."

Because until that moment, 42 days in, Sissy had yet to show them her behaviors (well, PH and refusing to do her goals, notwithstanding) Her lying, manipulating, anger, hysteria, 4 consecutive hours of screaming at the top of her lungs, all of it has always been exclusivley for me. But as I hoped, I pushed just the right buttons at just the right time to get her to be her true self in front of Staff. Score for Mom!

Today, a day later and after reflection, I don't really feel better. She's refusing to change, refusing to acknowledge that she is responsible for herself and her placement at the RTC. Apologize for the harm she did to the rest of her family? Yeah, right. Contrition? Nope. Restitution? Dream on. She spent the entire TL lying about whatever it was she felt the need to lie about, she tuned me out ALOT, she was spacey, distracted, it wasn't fun, at least not for me, anyway. I asked her what she thought about her placement. "Oh, I'm going to be here for a year and then I'll go home." She didnt' like my answer - No, my dear, you've got 120 days from insurance and if you're not better, when you come home, I'm going to make sure the rules for you are EXACTLY like it is here. *enter her glare of death for me with full eye contact to boot* (Why do they only make eye contact when you DON'T want them to? lol)

Tomorrow morning's video conference I'm going to spell it out for Sissy and the therapist. I'm not a happy mom. 120 days per insurance or not, Sissy is not welcome home if she isn't willing to change. And this momma isn't willing to travel 6 hours to visit her if she's going to look like a pig, be selfish, lie and refuse to acknowledge me in any meaningful way. Sissy just met the end of her rope. I know that RADishes have bad brain wiring. I get it. But that doesn't excuse Sissy from feigning ignorance and stupidity. Cause she's neither.

I called my friend that has a 19 year old RADish. "Tell me it's OK to not want my kid back." She's always sympathetic. "I've been there," she tells me, "and yes, it's OK to feel that way."

If you're reading this and praying for our family, please pray this pray with us:
Dear God, Please, PLEASE help Sissy see the need for change. Help Sissy face her giants. Give me (the Smith's) the strength to praise you if she changes and praise you if she doesn't. Nothing is impossible for you, not even RADs.

[1]I kept thinking about Katharine Leslie's "play" scenario - RADishes don't know the script to the play but we expect them to be the star. We have to coach them with the script until they can learn to improvise successfully based on patterning and practice. Leslie also says that RADishes don't know what is expected to them to show love, that parents need to personally assess what makes them feel like a relationship with their child is reciprocal. For me, Sissy being clean and greeting me with enthusiasm after I travel 3 hours to see her is MY need in the relationship. I've made that VERY clear to Sissy complete with lots of practice. At least MOM is doing her part. *pat self on back*

[2] dear man statment - "dear ---, I feel ---, when you ---, I want ---. How do you like my idea?"

(ie) Dear Mom, I feel happy and loved when you come to see me. I want you to do it more often. How do you like my idea?

Sissy and I actually rehearsed this one a couple of times before I gave her one more example and then asked her to make one on her own.

Facing the Giants linkeroo: http://www.facingthegiants.com/home.php


waldenbunch said...

I have been there. I know how it feels. I understand the guilt and I am praying for you. It all sucks. I never knew the anger that was possible in me until our oldest RAD pushed us to that limit. And never worked hard enough to come home. And made false allegations against us. Do I like her? NO! Did she make my life a living hell? YES! But I still love her, still tell people I have 5 children and still pray that God gets ahold of her heart. But God has released me from the active job of being her mom, because, really, I was never her mom. She never accepted me. I was her caretaker. Hang in there. You are doing an awesome job. So much further along than I was.

Diana said...

I've had plenty of days myself where I don't particularly like my kids. In fact, I've had plenty of days where I could so easily have ended up as the lead story on the 10:00 news -- "Crazy adopted mom beats kid to death", "Psycho adoptive mom locks kid in cage"...

But like you, I keep praying and I ask others to pray with me to change my heart and help me love my kids. And, of course, I pray with other people, too. I still also have great faith that God will heal their hearts. Hold on to that faith and allow yourself to keep on feeling whatever feelings come your way - guilt, anger, joy, peace, etc.

J. said...

I to have been there, there are moments when I wonder why I made these choices, or perhaps why this choose me... regardless of that you can do this, she can do this it will just be a long road. We have been at it for 18 months and sometimes I feel as though we have only just begun.
Hang in there and be honest with her and the RTC.

Corey said...

Jennie, I just want you to know that you're not alone. I've felt it all. Prayed it all. The one I prayed the most often was "God, just tell me what you want me to do. If I *have* to do this, tell me, and tell me how, because I don't know how I can. And if I don't, tell me, because I don't know how to stop, either. Show me the way. Tell me what you want from me, God. Please."

Praying for you, my friend.

marythemom said...

An RTC staff person actually asked how you were doing?!!! That's miraculous in and of itself. My insurance wouldn't cover my daughter's RTC because she didn't show any of her "stuff" at the RTC. She was depressed and borderline suicidal, but that apparently wasn't enough for the insurance company.

Isn't Katharine Leslie great?! Sounds like you are taking her advice most of the time, but do remember it really is OK to not to want your kid back when she is not being reciprocal. Easier to say than do of course.

Hugs and prayers,
Mary in TX